American Classics - Tower: Instrumental Music

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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 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


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: 8559215


  • UPC: 636943921524


  • Label: Naxos


  • Composer: Joan Tower


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Tokyo String Quartet


  • Performer: André Emelianoff, Chee-Yun, Joan Tower, Melvin Chen, Paul Neubauer, Richard Woodhams, Ursula Oppens



Works:


  1. Island Prelude for Oboe and Strings

    Composer: Joan Tower

    Ensemble: Tokyo String Quartet

    Performer: Richard Woodhams (Oboe)


  2. No Longer Very Clear: Holding a Daisy

    Composer: Joan Tower

    Performer: Ursula Oppens (Piano)


  3. In Memory

    Composer: Joan Tower

    Ensemble: Tokyo String Quartet


  4. Big Sky

    Composer: Joan Tower

    Performer: Chee-Yun (Violin), André Emelianoff (Cello), Joan Tower (Piano)


  5. Wild Purple

    Composer: Joan Tower

    Performer: Paul Neubauer (Viola)


  6. No Longer Very Clear: Or Like a...an Engine

    Composer: Joan Tower

    Performer: Ursula Oppens (Piano)


  7. No Longer Very Clear: Vast Antique Cubes

    Composer: Joan Tower

    Performer: Melvin Chen (Piano)


  8. No Longer Very Clear: Throbbing Still

    Composer: Joan Tower

    Performer: Melvin Chen (Piano)


  9. No Longer Very Clear

    Composer: Joan Tower