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])
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
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.
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