Joan Tower, the first woman ever to receive the Grawemeyer Award in music, is the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Composer of the Year during the 2010-11 season.
The orchestra salutes Tower with works both familiar and new to
Pittsburgh audiences during five subscription series. She says, "Working
with the PSO is a dream come true. I don't know of any orchestra that
plays FIVE pieces of a living composer in one season! That is a
commitment that is truly exciting in the world of major orchestras and
shows a unique vision towards the living composer. They have already
tackled some very challenging pieces of mine with hard work, and a
sophisticated and passionate playing. I am indeed blessed."
|Joan Tower. © Bernard Mindich. |
Slatkin, a champion of Tower's work since he named her
composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony in the early 1980's,
led off her Composer of the Year celebration with Made in America and For the Uncommon Woman
in October, two of Tower's most well-loved works. "Joan's music goes
exactly with her," says Slatkin. "She is a terrific personality, great
with people." Andrew Druckenbrod of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
(2/4/2010) makes the same point: "Rarely do the music of a composer and
her personality match as well as those of Joan Tower. After only a few
minutes into a conversation with the gregarious, thoughtful and intense
woman, her inviting and energetic music makes even more sense. Hardly a
point is made without a hearty, easygoing laugh — the sort of warm color
that streams through her rhythmically charged music."
As the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission, Tower composed Made in America,
a fantasy on "America the Beautiful," in 2004 as a commission for 65
orchestras from 50 states. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony
recorded the piece in 2008 (along with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra).
The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Classical Contemporary
Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance.
Also this fall, Ludovic Morlot made his Pittsburgh Symphony debut conducting Tower's Sequoia on October 29th and 30th. In November, the orchestra's principal clarinetist Michael Rusinek performed her Concerto for Clarinet
about which Druckenbrod wrote "the real fireworks Friday night came
inside Heinz Hall when principal clarinetist Michael Rusinek stepped in
front of the PSO to solo in Joan Tower's Clarinet Concerto." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/20/10)
Coming up in March 2011, Yan Pascal Tortelier will lead the Pittsburgh Symphony in Tambor, which the orchestra commissioned and premiered in 1998 with conductor Mariss Jansons. Tambor,
Spanish for drum, is a fifteen minute percussion showcase described by
Donald Rosenberg as "a colorful score full of zesty percussive effects
inspired by South American sources." (Cleveland Plain Dealer,
6/20/2004). The work is dedicated to Robert Moir, the Pittsburgh
Symphony's artistic director. Concluding Tower's residency will be the
premiere of Stroke, her second commission from the orchestra, in May under the baton of Music Director Manfred Honeck
its tenth year, the Pittsburgh Symphony's Composer of the Year program
provides audiences with many opportunities to experience living
composers and their music each season, not only at orchestral concerts
but in discussions, chamber music performances, and student coaching in
the metropolitan area. Past Composers of the Year have included John Corigliano, Richard Danielpour, and John Adams.
May 5, 2011 Columbia University's Miller Theatre will feature Joan
Tower on its Composer Portraits series. Performers from the esteemed
Curtis Institute bring an incredibly wide-ranging chamber music program.
For tickets and more information, visit the Miller Theatre website.