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Joan TOWER (b. 1938)
Made in America (2005) [31:12]
Tambor (1998) [14:03]
Concerto for Orchestra (1991) [28:42] (Part One [15:41], Part Two [13:01])
Nashville Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
Laura Turner Concert Hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, 29-30 June 2006. DDD
NAXOS 8.559328 [55:56]

This is another instalment from the very impressive 'American Classics' series from Naxos, who are to be commended on this achievement. It is the third recording of American music I have reviewed this month, and has easily the greatest popular appeal of these.
Joan Tower has come to some attention in the UK recently for her 'Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman' dedicated to the conductor Marin Alsop - who undoubtedly deserves that accolade - who has performed it with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. It is regrettable that a woman conductor premiering the work of a woman composer remains an unusual combination, yet Joan Tower also thoroughly deserves recognition in her own right as a composer.  Her work is distinctive but not obscure; it is exuberant and likeable with a strong egalitarian slant.
The opening work is a fantasy on the tune, 'America the Beautiful' (an unofficial national anthem), commissioned with the generous assistance of the Ford Motor Company. It has the distinction of having been performed in all fifty States of the USA, an unprecedented achievement for a new composition.
The concluding work on the disc, 'Concerto for Orchestra' showcases individual instruments from the orchestra in turn, creating a balance between soloists and ensemble playing and demonstrating the range of  instrumental voices which are available within the symphony orchestra. It is both educational and of fundamental interest, as well as being an enjoyable rather than a purely didactic work.
In between is a percussion-focussed piece, 'Tambor', influenced by Tower's youthful years in South America, where she grew up . The title is the Spanish word for 'drum' and the main action of the work is concerned with rhythm and colour rather than motive or melody.
The music is all vibrant, energetic, clean-sounding and quintessentially American. The recording quality, which is very good, is particularly commendable from a budget label. It is an interesting and well-produced disc which would broaden the musical horizons of many listeners.
Julie Williams

Naxos American Classics page

Audio clips from this release and an interview with Joan Tower  



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