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Joan Tower

Publisher: AMP

Concerto for Violin (1991)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
19 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
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Programme Note
Joan Tower Concerto for Violin (1991)
First performance:
April 24, 1992
Elmar Oliveira, violin
Utah Symphony
Joseph Silverstein, conductor
Salt Lake City, UT

Composer note:

The Violin Concerto was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University and the Snowbird Institute, Snowbird , Utah. The commissioning of the Concerto was made possible by a grant from the Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest Commissioning Program, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund.

The Concerto is dedicated to Elmar Oliveira with admiration and affection.

The score, composed between January and December 1991, calls for woodwinds in pairs plus piccolo, two horns, two trumpets, bass trombone, timpani, percussion, strings and solo violin. The Concerto is in one movement and lasts about eighteen minutes. It is really a fantasy for violin and orchestra exploring different kinds of feelings that range from a robust Romantic tune for orchestra to sharply etched rhythmic punctuations to a very soft passage that descends from the highest celestial reaches of the violin. There are two violin duets for soloist and concertmaster that were written as a tribute to Elmar’s brother (also a violinist and one of Elmar’s teachers), who passed away in the fall of 1991. The last section is fast, and takes as its thematic basis a motive from Bartók’s Contrasts for clarinet, violin and piano, an idea that has frequently appeared in other of my works.

—Joan Tower

  • Ensemble
    Louisville Orchestra
    Elmar Oliveira, violin
    Joseph Silverstein
    D'note Classics:
  • Ensemble
    Nashville Symphony
    Giancarlo Guerrero
  • Ensemble
    Nashville Symphony Orchestra
    Giancarlo Guerrero
Even on a single hearing, [the Violin Concerto] impressed as an inspired and finely crafted work—and one dramatic, passionate, and thrilling. Of the recent compositions programmed by the Symphony in the last few seasons, this may be the best.
Scott Cantrell, The Kansas City Star,20/11/1993
Commissioned by the Snowbird Institute and Brigham Young University’s Barlow Endowment, it not only gives us a piece by one of this country’s foremost composers—it also represents her at her best. From the slashing two-note violin figure that launches it, and out of which the ensuing themes and rhythms are developed, this 18-minute opus strikes me as prime Tower, typically colorful and energetic yet with a pronounced lyrical streak and an unexpectedly strong formal design.
William S. Goodfellow, Deseret News,26/04/1992
Joan Tower has a name that invites superlatives, and the world premiere of the composer’s Violin Concerto Friday night by the Utah Symphony and soloist Elmar Oliviera lived up to that expectation. Ms. Tower has managed to pack a lot into this one-movement, 18-minute work. Like her “Silver Ladders,” which helped establish her in the upper echelon of contemporary composers when it won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in 1989, it offers a wide range of moods and colors. But the dominant quality is a dynamic athleticism that characterizes much of Tower’s orchestral work. There is a constant forward-moving energy at work, with plenty of ascending scales; and, as those familiar with her style might suspect, the composer has been generous to the percussion and brass sections.
Catherine Reese, Salt Lake Tribune,05/04/1992
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