BMOP Begins 2018 With Joan Tower Concert Celebration
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation's premier orchestra dedicated exclusively to commissioning, performing, and recording new orchestral music, honors trailblazing American composer Joan Tower in a one-night only concert championing five of her orchestral works. In collaboration with the New England Conservatory, the program celebrates the end of her NEC residency as well as her milestone 80th birthday (b. 09.06.38).
"It's no secret that American music has been strongly shaped by the influence of prominent female composers. One of the most significant is Joan Tower," says Gil Rose, Artistic Director and Conductor of BMOP. "This diverse program exemplifies her far-reaching skills as a composer and her ability to successfully reach a wide audience." According to The New York Times, Tower's "music demands a stealthy virtuosity." Tower's musical language is noted for its colorful orchestrations, approachability for listeners and players alike, and driving rhythms shaped by her childhood spent in Bolivia. She is "a composer whose directness and eclecticism make her music instantly accessible, and whose imaginative sense of development - often by way of insistent but evolving rhythms and surprising juxtapositions - gives it an original, distinctive personality (The New York Times)."
The evening begins with Chamber Dance (2006), a pure crowd-pleaser that lives up to its name with energetic tutti-solo alternations. Inspired by the notion of musicians as dancers, the piece maximizes the chamber orchestra's textural and timbral palette by weaving through a rich and colorful tapestry of solos, duets, small ensembles, and full ensemble-each instrument serving as just one small part of the larger dance. "The ensemble writing is fairly vertical and rhythmic in its profile, thereby creating an ensemble that has to 'dance' well together," explains Tower.
"I don't do movements." This blunt statement by Tower belies the expansive 17 minutes of Red Maple (2013) scored for solo bassoon and orchestral strings. Featuring guest bassoonist Adrian Morejon, the piece allows the bassoon to "shine," as Tower puts it, which is her primary concern. According to I Care If You Listen, Red Maple "eschews splashy colors, heavy-handed percussion, and fanfarish settings, favoring an understated, perhaps restrained, accompaniment in order to let the soloist soar."
BMOP is thrilled to welcome guest flutist Carol Wincenc in two works for flute and orchestra written specifically for her. Offering a brilliant display of virtuosity, Rising (2009) centers on ascending motion using different kinds of scales-mostly octatonic and chromatic-and occasionally arpeggios. "I have always been interested," Tower writes, "in how music can 'go up.' One can't, however, just go up. There should be a counteracting action which is either going down or staying the same to provide a tension within the piece." The 15-minute Concerto for Flute (1989) provides competitive tension between the chamber-size orchestra and flute ending in a finale where the "music blows wide open".
The program culminates with the glorious Made in America (2004), a sort of fantasia on "America, the Beautiful". Commissioned by a consortium of 65 orchestras (at least one from each of the 50 states), Made in America was intentionally composed to appeal to a wise cross-section of the American population.
Joan Tower is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. During a career spanning more than 50 years, she has made lasting contributions to musical life in the United States as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her works have been commissioned by major ensembles, soloists, and orchestras, including the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir quartets; soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC, among others. Tower was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of 65 orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded Made in America in 2008 (along with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra). The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. Nashville's latest all-Tower recording includes Stroke, which received a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. In 1990 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony where she was Composer-in-Residence from 1985-88. Other residencies with orchestras include a 10-year residency with the Orchestra of St. Luke's (1997-2007) and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2010-2011). She was the Albany Symphony's Mentor Composer partner in the 2013-14 season. Tower was cofounder and pianist for the Naumburg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players from 1970-1985. Tower studied piano and composition at Bennington College and Columbia University. She is currently Asher Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College, where she has taught since 1972.
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) is the premier orchestra in the United States dedicated exclusively to commissioning, performing, and recording music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A unique institution of crucial artistic importance to today's musical world, BMOP exists to disseminate exceptional orchestral music of the present and recent past via performances and recordings of the highest caliber. Founded by Artistic Director Gil Rose in 1996, BMOP has championed composers whose careers span nine decades. Each season, Rose brings BMOP's award-winning orchestra, renowned soloists, and influential composers to the stage of New England Conservatory's historic Jordan Hall in a series that offers orchestral programming of unmatched diversity. Named Musical America's 2016 Ensemble of the Year, the musicians of BMOP are consistently lauded for the energy, imagination, and passion with which they infuse the music of the present era. For more information, please visit BMOP.org.