Tower

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tower
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Tower
WORKS: Stroke; Violin Concerto; Chamber Dance
PERFORMER: Cho-Liang Lin (violin); Nashville Symphony/Giancarlo Guerrero
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559775

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A performer herself (as an ensemble pianist), the American composer Joan Tower understands what’s needed for a concerto. The solo part of her 1991 Violin Concerto effectively combines singing melodic lines and virtuoso challenges. The progress of the work isn’t easy to follow, because Tower eschews traditional forms based on repetition and contrast in favour of a continuous opening-out from a generating cell. But the ear is caught by the constantly changing colours of the soloist’s interaction with different orchestral players – and in particular by two cadenzas in which he duets on equal terms with the orchestra’s leader (uncredited anywhere in the booklet).

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Violinist Cho-Liang Lin is lyrical and muscular as required, and his slender tone is well balanced with the excellent Nashville Symphony. The orchestra impresses also in two more recent pieces by Tower, both single-movement structures. Stroke, evoking the emotions experienced by a stroke victim, makes painful listening at times but ends with a ray of hope. Chamber Dance is so named because it was written for the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and, even if conducted (as here), requires a chamber-music-like responsiveness among the players. It bears further witness to Tower’s imaginative handling of instrumental colouring. Anthony Burton