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Joan Tower

Publisher: AMP

Still/Rapids (1996)
Work Notes
Revised 2013. Formerly known as 'Rapids.'
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
18 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Programme Note
Joan Tower Still/Rapids (1996)

Composer Note:
This piano concerto comes in two parts: Still, written in 2013, and Rapids, in 1996.

Rapids was commissioned by the University of Wisconsin to help celebrate their 100th Anniversary. That section, which lasts about thirteen minutes, is designed to be almost entirely fast. Except for one short passage for two flutes and a violin, the notes are moving rapidly either in soft or loud passages — particularly in the piano part which is an instrument that has that kind of ability for speed. There is also a sense of water "rapids" in how the notes "cascade" over and around each other. This section is dedicated to pianist Ursula Oppens who premiered it.

Last year, I added Still as an introduction to Rapids because I felt that the addition of a section at slow speed would contextually enhance the excitement of the fast paced Rapids. This slow section, which lasts about six minutes, is the complete opposite of the second section on every level — a very "held" and mostly quiet space for meditation — with a possible image of sitting in a boat on a beautiful day with a clear sky on a lake that is completely still.

This movement is dedicated to my friend and colleague Blair McMillen, who will record the whole concerto Still/Rapids with the Albany Symphony led by David Alan Miller after giving its premiere performances in March 2014.

— Joan Tower

  • 11 APR 2018
    SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras
    Kennedy Center, Washington, DC
    Albany Symphony
    Joyce Yang, piano; David Alan Miller, conductor
  • 10 MAR 2018
    Palace Theater, Albany, NY
    Albany Symphony
    Joyce Yang; David Alan Miller, conductor
  • 01 MAR 2014
    Still/Rapids World Premiere
    Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY
    Albany Symphony
    Blair McMillen; David Alan Miller, conductor

    Other Dates:
    2 March - Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY
  • 01 MAY 2011
    Annandale On Hudson, NY
    Bard College
    Leon Botstein, conductor

    Other Dates:
    5 May - Annandale On Hudson, NY
  • 27 SEP 2008
    Houston, TX
    University of Houston
    Franz Anton Krager, conductor
  • 25 FEB 1999
    New Orleans, LA
    Louisiana Philharmonic
    Ursula Oppens, piano; Uriel Segal, conductor

    Other Dates:
    27 February - New Orleans, LA
  • 14 NOV 1998
    San Francisco, CA
    Women's Philharmonic
    Angela Chang, piano; Apo Hsu, conductor

Tower’s music has gotten louder and gnarlier over the years, so the new stuff, “Still,” was a surprise. Over a slow, soft pulse from the strings, pianist Blair McMillen played fluid, cascading lines. While never static, the writing was gentle and restrained, tender even. Immediately came the launch of “Rapids,” which was written in 1996. The water image was appropriate for the music’s bumpy and unpredictable course. Despite their difference in age and character, the two movements were cohesive and very satisfying.
Joseph Dalton, Times Union,01/03/2014
The third piece was Rapids, composed by Joan Tower, professor of music at Bard, in response to a request by Ursula Oppens for a technically challenging piece. The pianist was another undergraduate — Shun-Yang Lee, who played with great virtuosity. The excellent program notes — written by another undergraduate, David Bloom — claim the intense forward motion of the piece comes from the soloist. But in this case the unstoppable beat that powers the piece came from Botstein. The piece was short, powerful, and fun.
David Griesinger, The Boston Musical Intelligencer,06/05/2011
Ursula Oppens, piano soloist, was a powerhouse, bringing explosive sound to this colorful and very dramatic work… Cascading sound, rippling up the piano and down the strings, flew off into the other sections with musical material that grabbed this listener’s ear and didn’t let go. The piece was driven as much by linear movement as by the powerful rhythmic figures.
Howard Vogel, Woodstock Times,11/09/1997
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