Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, April 24

Tower's Violin Concerto

Synopsis

“In an ideal musical world,” says Joan Tower, “a composer should have a friendly, creative, and ongoing working relationship with performers for whom she writes.”

For Tower, who has emerged as one of the most successful American composers of her generation, a friendly, creative, and ongoing relationship with chamber ensembles, symphony orchestras, and soloists has resulted in a number of musical works.

Tower’s Violin Concerto, for example, was written for the American violin virtuoso Elmar Oliveira, who gave its premiere performance on today’s date in 1992, at a Utah Symphony concert.

Tower wrote the piece with Oliveria in mind: “A lot of violinists are speed freaks,” she wrote, “but Elmar can play both virtuosically and with an innate singing ability.” The more lyrical and emotional heart of the work was written as memorial to Olivera’s older brother, also a violinist, who died of cancer during work on the new concerto. That’s not to say Tower didn’t supply some flashy, pyrotechnical passages for her star soloist, however.

As Oliviera put it: “It’s the kind of flashiness an audience can relate to. Joan doesn’t need avant-garde gimmicks, because now she’s completely comfortable speaking her own language, one that is expressive and natural to her.”

Or, as Tower herself put it: “Sometimes it’s a struggle to find out what you’re good at. It took me a number of years to decide how I wanted to write with my own voice.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Joan Tower (b. 1938) Violin Concerto Elmar Oliveira, violin; Louisville Orchestra; Joseph Silverstein, cond. D'Note 1016

Additional Information

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