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Joan Tower

Publisher: AMP

White Granite (2010)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
Piano Quartet
Year Composed
17 Minutes
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Programme Note
Joan Tower White Granite (2010)
July 11 2010
Peter Zazofsky, violin
William Fekenheuer, viola
Michael Reynolds, cello
Michelle Levin, piano
St. Timothy's Summer Music Festival
Georgetown Lake, MT

Composer Note:

White Granite (Piano Quartet) was commissioned by St. Timothy's Festival Summer Music Festival (in Montana), Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival (in Colorado) and LaJolla Music Society for SummerFest (in California) and was given its world premiere in Georgetown Lake, Montana, on July 11th, 2010 by violinist Peter Zazofsky, violist William Fekenheuer, cellist Michael Reynolds, and pianist Michele Levin.

The 17-minute work is a piece that I enjoyed writing. As a pianist, having the piano present always gives me comfort. The piano, in fact, probably generates most of the background action in the piece — starting with the harmony in the first few measures and continuing with the different motoric ideas that are introduced gradually throughout the piece. In between, there are solos for the other instruments that involve either a falling line (which eventually becomes a rising line) or a "held in place" idea.

Sometimes, all three string instruments are working together to enhance the two kinds of different "actions." Register and color are also being either generated or enhanced by the presence of the piano. It provides a wonderful environment to the three strings in its ability to provide an "orchestral" type of amplified sound.

— Joan Tower

Sample Pages

  • 19 AUG 2011
    White Granite, for Piano Quartet
    La Jolla, CA
    Co-Commissioner performance
  • 20 JUL 2010
    Vail, CO
    Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival
  • 11 JUL 2010
    Anaconda, MT
    St. Timothy's Summer Music Festival

Tower’s White Granite lasted 17 minutes but seemed to go by in a flash. She has a gift for keeping listeners on the edge of their seat. Her engrossing dramatic gestures are like small adventures around every corner. The piano part, played by André-Michel Schub, is brilliant. The others in the ensemble were violinist Margaret Batjer, violist Paul Neubauer and Roman.
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times,21/08/2011
Tower’s White Granite, however, made the strongest impression, exploiting elements that could be described as simply as melodies going up and going down, and passages of unrelenting harshness juxtaposed with those of aching softness.
James Chute, San Diego Union-Tribune,19/08/2011
For her new Piano Quartet, Joan Tower chose the name White Granite, an apt description of the dense, chordal structures that majestically move through the 17-minute work, as well as a fitting tribute to her influential, minerologist father. Tower may have four decades of experience over young Shepherd — and the intricacy of her tightly layered instrumental lines demonstrated that proficiency — but her sound is every bit as fresh and invigorating. I liked the way Tower used trills in the piano and violin — typically flashy, decorative melodic elements — as solid building blocks by sustaining them in long passages at high volume. Instead of using the four instruments to cover the widest possible span of pitch levels, she tended to compress them into a single, dense level, moving up or down together in parallel motion: solid and granite-like, but never plodding or impassive. Like her fellow American composer John Adams, Tower works with constantly shifting tonal and modal centers, a trait that avoids the predictability of traditional tonality as well as the unsettling quality of atonality. Trained as a pianist, it is not surprising that she gave the keyboard the integrating and grounding role in the ensemble, executed Friday by André-Michel Schub with depth and authoirity. Cellist Joshua Roman gave his solos improvisational flare and a suitably warm color, while violinist Margaret Batjer and violist Paul Neubauer added a shimmer that suggested light glinting on the granite surface. White Granite received its world premiere last summer at St. Timothy’s Summer Music Festival in rural Montana, one of the three festivals including La Jolla SummerFest that commissioned this work.
Kenneth Herman,,19/08/2011
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