Composers Datebook®

Joan Tower's Angels

Composer's Datebook - Aug. 31, 2023


Angel Fire is a village in the New Mexico Rockies that hosts an annual chamber music festival.  To celebrate their 25th anniversary, Music from Angel Fire commissioned the American composer Joan Tower to write them a new work, which she titled Angels – a virtuosic String Quartet, her fourth, which received its premiere performance by the Miami String Quartet on today’s date in 2008.

“Having written three prior quartets and gotten to travel extensively around the world of quartets,” wrote Tower, “I have come to love the way [they] are so deeply creative and passionate about the music they play. They are really like four ‘composers’ at work.”

The title given the new piece is a nod to Angel Fire, New Mexico, of course, but Tower made it clear she had some other special angels in mind: six people who helped her younger brother George survive a major stroke. These were her sister, a former student named Erin, a doctor , a nurse, and a pair of real estate agents.

All six appear on the score’s front page beneath her dedication, “to the ‘Angels’ who took care of my brother.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Joan Tower (b. 1938) Angels (String Quartet No. 4) Miami String Quartet Naxos 8.559795

On This Day


  • 1834 - Italian opera composer Amilcare Ponchielli, in Paderno Fasolaro, Cremona;


  • 1928 - Kurt Weill: "Die Dreigroschenoper" (The Threepenny Opera) in Berlin at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, to a libretto by German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht

  • 1970 - Birtwistle: "Verses for Ensembles," in London;

  • 2000 - Philip Glass: opera "In the Penal Colony" (based on a story by Franz Kafka), by A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) in Seattle.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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