Composers Datebook®

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Quintet

Composer's Datebook - Aug. 7, 2023


Performers need composers and composers need performers. And some performers really like composers–and vice versa.  That seems to be the case with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, comprised of Joseph Kalichstein, piano; Jaime Laredo, violin; and Sharon Robinson, cello, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.

On today’s date in 2011, at a La Jolla Music Society concert in San Diego, California, the Trio premiered the fourth work they had commissioned from Zwilch.  She created a blues-y piano quintet, scored for the same ensemble as Schubert’s famous Trout Quintet, so for this “blue trout” Quintet, the Trio were joined by violist Michael Tree and double-bassist Harold Robinson.

In notes for her new piece, Zwilich wrote:

"My Quintet is in three movements, the second of which has the title ‘Die Launische Forelle' (roughly translated: ‘The Moody Trout'). I couldn't resist using a very small quote from the Schubert song on which his Quintet is based. I also took the liberty of allowing that movement to spin out musical images of a ‘moody' trout. In all three movements the weight and character of the contrabass is an important element in the overall design.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939) Piano Quintet The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio; Michael Tree, vla; Harold Robinson, db. Azica 71292

On This Day


  • 1818 - English-born French composer, pianist and music publisher Charles Henry Litolff, in London;

  • 1868 - British composer Sir Granville Bantock, in London;

  • 1896 - Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, in Havana; He composed a number of popular Latin pop melodies, including his famous "Malagueña";

  • 1921 - Czech-born, American composer and conductor Karel Husa, in Prague; He became an American citizen in 1959; In 1969 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his String Quartet No. 3;

  • 1925 - Spanish-born American composer Julián Orbón, in Aviles;


  • 1893 - Italian opera composer Alfred Caatalani, age 39, in Milan;

  • 1913 - Czech composer and cellist David Popper, age 69, in Baden (near Vienna);

  • 1970 - German-born American composer Ingolf Dahl, age 58, in Bernem Switzerland;


  • 1912 - Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 1, in Moscow, with the composer (age 21) as soloist (Julian date: July 26);

  • 1977 - Hanson: Symphony No. 7 ("A Sea Symphony") at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan;

  • 1981 - Cerha: opera "Baal," at the Salzburg Festival in Austria;

  • 1981 - John Harbison: Piano Quintet, at the Sante Fe Chamber Music Festival in New Mexico, with Edward Auer (piano), Ani Kavafian (violin), Walter Trampler (viola), Timothy Eddy (cello);

  • 1991 - David Del Tredici: "An Alice Symphony" (first complete performance), during the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, Mass.;

  • 2001 - Augusta Read Thomas: "Murmurs in the Mist of Memory," at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, by the International Sejong Soloists;


  • 1829 - Mendelssohn visits Fingal's Cave in the Hebrides Islands west of Scotland coast and starts composing the 'Hebrides' Overture.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®