Joan Tower: Made in Americaby Leonard Slatkin
This album exemplifies Joan Tower's far-reaching skills as a composer and her ability to successfully reach a wide audience. The story of the composition "Made in America" is almost as interesting as the work itself. Commissioned by a consortium of 65 orchestras (at least one from each of the 50 states), "Made in America" has reached a more widespread audience in a short span of time than many other modern compositions do in a decade. A sort of fantasia on "America, the Beautiful," "Made in America" was intentionally composed to appeal to a wise cross-section of the American population. Also on the album is "Tambor" -- an energetic and rousing tour-de-force for the orchestra's percussion section -- and Tower's two-part "Concerto for Orchestra" -- one of the few such compositions to live up to the level of Bartók's pinnacle work of the same name. Magnificent works deserve an equally stellar performance. Leonard Slatkin's leadership of the Nashville Orchestra rises to that expectation. The ensemble delivers a thoughtful and insightful performance of Tower's works. The percussion section in particular deserves kudos after meeting the Rouse-like demands made of it in "Tambor." Absolutely a worthwhile representation of the best that American art music has to offer.
- Release Date:
- Naxos American
- Made in America, for orchestra
- Tambor, for orchestra
- Concerto for orchestra
Performance CreditsLeonard Slatkin Primary Artist
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I enjoy most 20th century music, and I was excited by the opportunity to listen to a composer that was "new" to me. Typically I am not dissapointed in the selections for "Best Classical Album" - but this time I was. Not that the album itself is not good the sound is spectacular, and the playing of what is obviously very difficult music is outstanding. But maybe this is the problem. The whole time I was listening, the only thought I had was how difficult it must be to play - and NOT how much I was enjoying it. It's not 12-tone or atonal, it's not Glass-like minimalism, and it's not as "difficult" as later Ives can be. But it most assuredly IS noisy, and when all of the banging and pounding and blowing and scraping is done, I really am not sure what I've just listened to. The title composition is described as a fantasia on "America the Beautiful". Even knowing this from the start, I was hard pressed to isolate anything from the thickly dissonant harmonies and broken meters that even reminded me of that song. The second piece - "Tambor" - is a tour-de-force for the percussion section, but in sound is reminiscent of various "battle music" tracks from a Star Wars score - but without any recognizable melodies. The final "Concerto for Orchestra" (in two "parts" - whatever that means as the division seems to be completely arbitrary) sounds insanely difficult to play, but is harmonically, rhythmically, and melodically (if I can use that word) so disjointed that it often sounds like a collection of bits and pieces from various other works all strung together and/or superimposed over each other. The only people to whom I could recommend this album would be other performing instrumentalists who might marvel at the technical abilities of the performers. I give great kudos to Mr. Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony for an amazing performance, and the engineering team for a spectacular recording. I am anxiously waiting for a recording of music that is more worthy of their combined skills.