Island Prelude (Joan Tower) - Background

Background

Joan Tower says that she found her inspiration for Island Prelude in oboist Peter Bowman's "exceptionally lyrical playing and also Samuel Barber's wonderfully controlled Adagio for Strings". The piece premiered May 4, 1989, in a performance by Peter Bowman and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin. Island Prelude is also scored for oboe and string quartet, and for woodwind quintet. As part of a National Endowment for the Arts Consortium Commissioning Grant, the wind ensembles Quintessence, the Dorian Quintet, and the Dakota Quintet commissioned the woodwind quintet version for a series of premieres. The first performance of this arrangement was given by Nancy Clauter and Quintessence at Arizona State University on April 9, 1989. The string quartet version was premiered on August 23, 1989 by Joan Tower at the Teton Festival in Wyoming. In the woodwind quintet, the Horn takes the role of the bass, the bassoon and clarinet cover the cello and viola, and the flute substitutes for the violin. Tower says that the woodwind quintet version is "heavier" due to the "weight" of the different timbres of the instruments that define the counterpoint and make it "more easily heard." Island Prelude is also a rare example of a woodwind quintet that features one instrument as the soloist throughout the piece. Each version of this piece is about 10 minutes in duration. It is dedicated "with love to Jeff Litfin".

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