Leonard Slatkin, TOWER: Made in America

Vivien Schweitzer

By Vivien Schweitzer

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

New pieces of classical music often suffer a predictable fate: after being trotted out with much fanfare for a premiere they proceed to languish unheard for years afterwards. Not “Made in America,” though: leading US composer Joan Tower's orchestral work has received over 80 performances recently (with at least one in every state) thanks to the Ford Made in America program, a collaboration between dozens of American orchestras, the American Symphony Orchestra League, Meet the Composer and the Ford Motor Company Fund.

This outstanding contemporary classical piece is surely coming to a theatre near you.

“Made in America” receives its premiere recording on a vibrant Naxos release featuring the Nashville Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin. Tower's stirring, energetically colorful, tonal work incorporates the theme of “America the Beautiful” as a recurring motif, with darker moments of rhythmic urgency tempering the more optimistic passages.

The disc also features the premiere recording of Tower's propulsive, rhythmically driven “Tambor,” a lively percussion extravaganza interwoven with melancholy string melodies.

The riotous, richly-textured “Concerto for Orchestra” (which concludes the disc) is a workout for all members of the ensemble, who are spotlighted in solos, pairs and sections, including a free cadenza for French horn, tuba and violin solos, fiery percussion interludes, a snazzy trumpet duo and a lyrical, plaintive cello ensemble.

Leonard Slatkin clearly believes in Tower's music and he transmits his enthusiasm to the Nashville musicians, who deliver bristling, energetic and nuanced performances.