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April 12, 2010

Pulitzers for Jennifer Higdon's Violin Concerto and the musical 'Next to Normal'

Jennifer Higdon's Violin Concerto, written for Baltimore's own Hilary Hahn and given its East Coast premiere last June by the Baltimore Symphony (Hahn was the soloist, Marin Alsop the conductor), won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for music on Monday. If you'll pardon the self-quotation, I wrote this about the BSO performance:

"...the half-hour concerto makes a grand statement, packed with thematic material and expansive development, all of it delivered with extraordinarily prismatic colors. The opening of the score, plaintive musings from the violin against delicate wisps of percussion, is quite the ear-grabber, a wonderful way to begin what amounts to a journey through moods and events, through light and shade ... Higdon's fundamentally tonal, yet imaginatively spiced, style communicates with a refreshing directness. The violin part encompasses an enormous range, technically and expressively, and the orchestral writing is no less substantial ..."

My colleague Mary Carole McCauley has filed this report on another of today's big Pulitzer winners (and note that the Pulizter board moved the winning work into contention for this prize, essentially overruling the jury):

“Next to Normal,” the little musical about manic-depressive illness that was developed at Arena Stage in Washington, might not have pulled in last year’s Tony Award for best musical. But on Monday, creators Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey won the Pulitzer for Drama, which is not a bad consolation prize.

“Next to Normal” took its final shape during a pre-Broadway tryout in Washington in 2008 before moving to the Big Apple. The critics loved the show, but the plot line, about the effect of one woman’s bipolar disorder on her family, was decidedly offbeat. <i>UPDATE: Incorrect info about the 2009 Tonys contained in this contribution when it was posted Monday.</i> When it came time for the Tonys, the musical lost out to "Billy Elliot." 

The national tour of "Next to Normal" will include a stop at the Kennedy Center in June, 2011.


Posted by Tim Smith at 3:24 PM | | Comments (1)


Regarding the Tony Awards: "Billy Elliot" received the Best Musical award in 2009, when "Next to Normal" was also nominated. "In the Heights" received the Tony Award in 2008.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I spotted one mistake before running the story that was handed to me, but I forgot to verify the Tony award information. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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