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Joan Tower

Publisher: AMP

Purple Rhapsody (2005),
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Sub Category
Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
17 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Buy this work
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Programme Note
Joan Tower Purple Rhapsody (2005),
Composer Note:

PURPLE RHAPSODY was commissioned by the Omaha Symphony with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Virginia Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra with a grant from the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress. The work is dedicated with affection to the wonderful violist Paul Neubauer who made it all possible.

The sound of the viola has always reminded me of the color purple-a deep kind of luscious purple. In fact, the first solo viola piece I wrote for Paul is called "Wild Purple" (where the "wild" refers to the high energy and virtuosity of that work).

In the concerto, I try to make the solo viola "sing"-trying to take advantage on occasion (not always) of the viola's inherent melodic abilities. This is not an easy task since the viola is one of the tougher instruments to pit against an orchestra.

In fact, for my orchestration of this work, I left out several instruments (horns and oboes) to thin out the background to allow the viola to come forward (even in strong passages) with a little more "leverage". I am hoping that at the climaxes of some of these "rhapsodic" and energetic lines, the orchestra does not overwhelm the viola.

The work lasts 18 minutes and is in one movement.

—Joan Tower

Reduction 50486854 for viola and piano for sale.
Orchestra parts avaialble on rental.

  • Soloist(s)
    ProMusica Chamber Orchestra
[Purple Rhapsody] ... is, as the title suggests, rhapsodic in nature, but it also carries itself with all the muscle (and not a little of the menace) of a Bernard Herrmann film score, and calls to mind, not least in the seething, searing, slicing writing for the solo instrument, Bartók at his most dyspeptic. With orchestral forces thinned out – horns and oboes are noticeable by their absence – and Tower cleverly backfilling the space they leave with imaginatively vigorous writing for the viola, it forefronts Paul Neubauer’s by turns energetic, exercised and ecstatic playing to palpably dramatic effect. In all, it’s a satisfyingly intense and demanding listen, and one that soloist and orchestra negotiate with gladiatorial prowess.
Michael Quinn, The Classical Review,07/10/2011
Paul Neubauer, viola ProMusica Chamber Orchestra/Russell 12 February 2006; Columbus, OH It is an astonishing work — if you can just live through it. It assaults the senses and the emotions over and over, climbing scales in loud, jabbing, dissonant chords, ratcheting up intensity by layering agitated sounds on top of one another... [Neubauer] and Tower make quite a team. With Wild Purple, their first collaboration, and now Purple Rhapsody, they’ve made it impossible for the viola to ever again be dismissed as that nondescript entity somewhere between the violin and cello. Purple Rhapsody is extreme music for extreme times, and it achieves the impossible: It transforms the viola into an extreme, exciting instrument.
Barbara Zuck, The Columbus Dispatch,13/02/2006
Now here’s a lady who has something to say, and so does violist Paul Neubauer. In Joan Tower’s Purple Rhapsody, the atmosphere and definition is established right from the opening deep string basses and rustling bass drum, as they cast their aura around the lower strings of the solo viola! You know immediately that the work’s intensity will come from the orchestra building on motifs taken from the long lyrical lines created by the viola…this is an intense drama whose thrust generated gripping excitement.
Gil French, American Record Guide,01/01/0001
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