Purple Rain was commissioned by the Boston Chamber Music Society and was premiered on February 13, 2022 in Boston.
When Marcus Thompson, artistic director of the BCMS and a violist, called me to talk about a commission, I immediately said that I would love to write a string quintet with two violas. I have gotten to know and love the viola after writing three solos and a concerto for the wonderful violist Paul Neubauer. Why not “enhance” the presence of the viola in a string quartet by adding another one, I thought.
The titles of my viola pieces have included the word “purple.” This is the color — in all its various hues — that most reminds me of the viola. In this quintet, “rain” symbolizes many things: a steady repetition of light and heavy rhythms, flows of “held” singing (particularly in the viola duets), and a kind of rapid “cascading/rolling” in rivulets of sixteenth notes.
— Joan Tower