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Joan Tower

Publisher: AMP

Duets (1994)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Sub Category
Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
19 Minutes
Programme Note
Joan Tower Duets (1994)
Composer Note:

Duets was commissioned by and is dedicated to the wonderful Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

In three of my concertos for flute, clarinet and violin, I explored the idea of pairing the soloist with the corresponding first chair player in featured cadenzas (an idea I got from Schuman's Cello Concerto). In Duets, I developed that idea within the orchestra, concentrating on pairs of cellos, flutes, horns, trumpets, and to a lesser degree violins, oboes, clarinets and percussion, creating an overall concerto grosso-like effect.

Duets is divided into four sections (slow-fast-slow-fast) within one continuous movement and lasts about 19 minutes.

—Joan Tower

  • 29 SEP 2013
    Annandale on Hudson, NY
    Bard College
    Joan Tower, conductor
  • 08 OCT 2011
    Columbus, OH
    ProMusica Chamber Orchestra
    Timothy Russell, conductor

Duets is [an] essay in tone, utilizing a number of duo-combinations in its eventful progress through a number of climactic points surrounded by dynamic recessions. It is busy and attractive and seems to be seeking, through an unexpressed musical narrative, a point of rest it never attains.
Daniel Cariaga, Los Angeles Times,01/01/0001
The evening opened with [a] contemporary piece — Joan Tower's Duets, scored for big orchestra, yet often reduced to solo pairs (as the title suggests). Duets grew in scope with dramatic sweep, fell back into lyrical repose (with a thoughtful segment scored for cellos), and then exploded again in the full power of Tower.
Marc Steingold, Rocky Mountain News,01/01/0001
Duets...offers the listener a dissonant platform, upon which various instrument pairs strut and fret through their moments in the spotlight.

Tower's prodigious array of textures, her thematic inventiveness, her pristine orchestration and command of materials combined to give this most discordant work an impressive grandeur.

Peter Lefevre, Orange County Register,01/01/0001
Duets is a stunning work, pairing cellos, flutes, horns, percussion, et al in duet configurations, at times soli, and at other times accompanied by the orchestra...

The musical ideas, both melodic and rhythmic, grow organically out of themselves and give Duets a logic that enables the ear to focus on the unfolding musical drama. There is a rise and fall of dissonant density, and with dynamic levels that similarly move, not by contrivance, but by music's natural flow from tension to release.

Howard Vogel, Woodstock [NY] Times,01/01/0001
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