HEAR: Tower

Sunday, November 14, 2010 
7:00 pm

At the door: $15 General Admission, $10 Students/Seniors.

JOAN TOWER  Petroushskates
JOAN TOWER  For Daniel
JOAN TOWER  Clocks (arr. for marimba solo)
IGOR STRAVINSKY  L’Histoire du Soldat (trio version)
IGOR STRAVINSKY Dance Suite (arr. Rob Frankenberry)


IonSound worked with the art departments from three Pittsburgh Schools, The Waldorf School of Pittsburgh, the Faulk School, and the Environmental Charter School to help the students create art in various mediums guided by the idea of synesthesia.  

JOAN TOWER Petroushskates

The title Petroushskates combines two ideas that are related to this piece. One refers to Stravinsky’s Petroushka and the opening Shrovetide Fair scene which is very similar to the opening of my piece. The celebratory character and the busy colorful atmosphere of this fair provides one of the images for this piece. The other is associated with ice skating and the basic kind of flowing motion that is inherent to that sport. While watching the figure skating event at the recent winter Olympics, I became fascinated with the way the curving, twirling, and jumping figure are woven around a singular continuous flowing action. Combining these two ideas creates a kind of carnival on ice – a possible subtitle for this piece.

JOAN TOWER  For Daniel
(from the Schirmer website)

For Daniel was written for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio with a commission sponsored by John and Helen Schaefer of the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music. It is dedicated to Joan Tower’s nephew, Daniel MacArthur, who passed away in 2003 after a long illness.

Composer Note:

The 17-minute work tries to convey the imagined struggles associated with someone who is facing a long-term terminal illness. The hopes, joys, depression, anger, deep turmoil and occasional serenity are in constant juxtaposition in this work, as they were throughout the last years of Daniel’s life. As the end approaches, so does the intensity. In my work, the intensity is loud and fast. Maybe Daniel’s approach was more accepting. May he now rest in peace.

—Joan Tower
(from a review in the Boston Globe)

For Daniel was composed as a memorial to a beloved nephew who died too young in 2003. The piece depicts the nephew’s complex of emotions as Tower experienced them during his long illness and its terminal stages on a lung machine; naturally it embodies the composer’s emotions too.

The rhythms of the piece are governed by the efforts of breathing. The music begins with violin and cello alone, together, then parting ways. The anguish is unremitting, but so is the vitality and the rush of raw emotions, often in conflict — there is acceptance as well as anger and grieving, as in a ravishing splash of water music that recalls Liszt or Ravel. The piano trio is an ideal medium for expressing the simultaneous presence of complementary or contradictory feelings.

JOAN TOWER  Pastorale

JOAN TOWER  Clocks (arr. for marimba solo)
"Joan Tower's second work for guitar, explores musical expressions of the concept of time.  A group of repeated notes which "tick" like a swinging pendulum opens the work; this gesture resounds throughout the virtuosic nine-minute piece in the repetition of various motives, chords, and musical figurations.  Clocks also deals with "historical time" by drawing inspiration from Tower's own past.  The work's Spanish overtones derive from the flamenco and Latin American dance music she heard while growing up in South America, while a chord progression borrowed from the last movement of Haydn's Piano Sonata in E flat, opus 82 - one whose relative time values Tower has distorted through elongation - pays homage to the years she spent as a concert pianist.

Joan Tower has dedicated Clocks to Sharon Isbin, who commissioned the work and premiered it at the Ordway Music Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota on August 3, 1985."

IGOR STRAVINSKY  L’Histoire du Soldat (trio version)

IGOR STRAVINSKY Dance Suite (arr. Rob Frankenberry)
Stravinsky composed a set of 3 Easy Pieces for piano 4-hands between 1914 and 1915, followed by a set of 5 Easy Pieces in 1916.  Although intended as pieces to be performed by children together or with a teacher, they have found a place in the repertoire of even the most virtuoso of piano duos.  The music is brilliant, characterful, and fun, making references to both folk and popular music styles.  Stravinsky's unmistakable musical personality and compositional discipline are as apparent in these brief sketches as in his largest orchestral works. The composer clearly felt the music of these little pieces worthy of wider hearing, as he chose to orchestrate all eight of them himself, some of them more than once.  

Joan Tower's music is noted by a number of defining qualities: driving rhythms and colorful orchestrations influenced by the sounds and sensations of a childhood spent in South America; approachability for listeners and players alike, resulting from her engagement with the performers of her music (often written with specific musicians in mind) and her own performances as a pianist. Early works were serial in conception. In the 1970s she moved toward more tonal, Messiaen-like sonorities. She has written a number of works paying homage to composers such as Beethoven (Concerto for Piano), Stravinsky (Petroushskates), and Copland (Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman). She was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission, Made in America. Its top-selling recording won three 2008 Grammy awards, including Best Classical Contemporary Composition.

Hailed as "one of the most successful woman composers of all time" in The New Yorker magazine, Joan Tower was the first woman to receive the Grawemeyer Award in Composition in 1990. She was inducted into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998, and into the Academy of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in the fall of 2004. She was the first composer chosen for the ambitious new Ford Made in America commissioning program, a collaboration of the League of American Orchestras (at that time, the American Symphony Orchestra League) and Meet the Composer. In October 2005, the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of Tower's 15-minute orchestral piece Made in America. The work went on to performances in every state in the Union during the 2005-07 seasons.

Since 1972, Tower has taught at Bard College, where she is Asher Edelman Professor of Music. She recently concluded her ten-year tenure as composer-in-residence with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, a title she hasheld at the Deer Valley Music Festival in Utah since 1998 as well as at the Yale/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival for eight years. Other accolades include the 1998 Delaware Symphony's Alfred I. DuPont Award for Distinguished American Composer, the 2002 Annual Composer's Award from the Lancaster (PA) Symphony, and an Honorary Degree from the New England Conservatory (2006). "Tower has truly earned a place among the most original and forceful voices in modern American music" (The Detroit News).

Joan Tower's bold and energetic music, with its striking imagery and novel structural forms, has won large, enthusiastic audiences. From 1969 to 1984, she was pianist and founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players, which commissioned and premiered many of her most popular works. Her first orchestral work, Sequoia, quickly entered the repertory, with performances by orchestras including St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, Minnesota, Tokyo NHK, Toronto, the National Symphony and London Philharmonia. A choreographed version by The Royal Winnipeg Ballet toured throughout Canada, Europe, and Russia. Tower's tremendously popular five Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman have been played by over 500 different ensembles.



Thank you (SCHOOLS) for joining us on this latest venture. We greatly appreciate your hardwork and commitment towards this collaboration between music and art.

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