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American Classics - Tower: Instrumental Music


Release Date: 08/16/2005 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559215   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Joan Tower
Performer:  Richard WoodhamsUrsula OppensAndré EmelianoffJoan Tower,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Joan Tower's chamber music has much the same emotional intensity and gestural ferocity as her orchestral works. Her primarily angular harmonic language, with its predominantly dissonant cast, evokes a sense of agitation bordering on rage--something most apparent in Wild Purple for solo viola (played with conviction and arresting virtuosity by Paul Neubauer). Like many Tower works, In Memory (in a stunning rendition by the Tokyo String Quartet) begins quietly--the violin's first notes are almost imperceptible--then builds to a gripping climax. The music's emotions are particularly raw and acute, as the composer was inspired by the death of a close friend, and then the 9/11 attacks that occurred
Read more shortly after.


Big Sky for piano trio (persuasively performed by Tower, along with Chee-Yun and Andre Emelianoff) has somewhat softer contours. It begins and ends in a subdued, melancholy atmosphere, while the climactic central section jars with its abrupt syncopations fleshed out in robust, quasi-romantic piano writing.


Island Prelude is the most surprising piece in this collection, as it features passages of genuine consonance and even lyricism, as well as some characterful writing for solo oboe (featuring the expert Richard Woodhams with the Tokyo String Quartet). Of course, all of this is woven into Tower's free-flowing, volatile musical style, which quite often catches you off-guard--the very thing that makes her music compelling.


No Longer Very Clear is a set of four piano pieces, the titles of which are lines taken from the John Ashbery poem of the same name. This very intimate encounter with Tower's art reveals a composer of imagination and ingenuity, and one who possesses a profound emotional sensitivity. The piano writing is brilliant and ranges from Scriabinesque passion to the mystery and exotic beauty found in Messiaen. Ursula Oppens (in the first two pieces) and Melvin Chen (in the remainder) both offer powerfully evocative performances. The recordings are uniformly excellent in both the chamber and solo settings. This release marks an important document of the composer, and a fine addition to Naxos' American Classics series. [9/16/2005]
--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Island Prelude for Oboe and Strings by Joan Tower
Performer:  Richard Woodhams (Oboe)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; USA 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 11 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Notes: American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC (01/17/2004 - 01/18/2004) 
2.
No Longer Very Clear: Holding a Daisy by Joan Tower
Performer:  Ursula Oppens (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994; New York 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 3 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Notes: American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC (01/17/2004 - 01/18/2004) 
3.
In Memory by Joan Tower
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001; USA 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 14 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Notes: American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC (01/17/2004 - 01/18/2004) 
4.
Big Sky by Joan Tower
Performer:  André Emelianoff (Cello), Joan Tower (Piano), Chee-Yun (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2000; USA 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 7 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Notes: American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC (01/17/2004 - 01/18/2004) 
5.
Wild Purple by Joan Tower
Performer:  Paul Neubauer (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998; USA 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 7 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC (01/17/2004 - 01/18/2004) 
6.
No Longer Very Clear: Or Like a...an Engine by Joan Tower
Performer:  Ursula Oppens (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994; New York 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 3 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Notes: American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC (01/17/2004 - 01/18/2004) 
7.
No Longer Very Clear: Vast Antique Cubes by Joan Tower
Performer:  Melvin Chen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 2 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Notes: American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC (01/17/2004 - 01/18/2004) 
8.
No Longer Very Clear: Throbbing Still by Joan Tower
Performer:  Melvin Chen (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC 
Length: 7 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: American Academy of Arts & Letters, NYC (01/17/2004 - 01/18/2004) 
9.
No Longer Very Clear by Joan Tower
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 

Sound Samples

In Memory
Big Sky
Wild Purple
No Longer Very Clear: I. Holding A Daisy
No Longer Very Clear: II. Or Like a...an Engine
No Longer Very Clear: III. Vast Antique Cubes
No Longer Very Clear: IV. Throbbing Still
Island Prelude

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