Composers Datebook®

Zwilich celebrates

Composer's Datebook - October 12, 2023


As far as housewarming gifts go, a nice bottle of champagne is common, or maybe a bouquet of flowers. But if you’re a composer, and the occasion is the ceremonial opening performance at a new concert hall, you write a celebratory piece of music.

On today’s date in 1984, for the inaugural concert of the Indianapolis Symphony’s new home, the Circle Theater, American composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich wrote an orchestral work titled, appropriately enough, Celebration.

“In writing this work,” Zwilich said, “I was motivated by three complementary goals. First, I wanted to celebrate a joyous and historic occasion with all its inspiring symbolism of beginning and renewal. My second goal was to write a kind of ‘toccata’ or test piece for the new Circle Theater. Finally, I wanted to celebrate the orchestra itself, which is, after all, the centerpiece of the occasion. Thus, ‘Celebration’ is like a mini-concerto for orchestra.”

Zwilich’s housewarming gift was dedicated to the Indianapolis Symphony’s music director in 1984, conductor John Nelson. Despite its origins as an occasional piece for a particular event, Celebration has gone on to become one of Zwilich’s most popular and frequently performed orchestral works.

Music Played in Today's Program

Ellen Taafe Zwilich (b. 1939) Celebration - Indianapolis Symphony; John Nelson , cond. New World 336

On This Day


  • 1686 - German composer and lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss, in Breslau;

  • 1713 - Baptismal date of German composer Johann Ludwig Krebs, in Butterstedt, Weimar;

  • 1872 - English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire;

  • 1880 - English-born Canadian composer and organist Healey Willan, in London;


  • 1692 - Italian composer Giovanni Battista Vitali, in Bologna, age 60;


  • 1910 - Vaughan Williams: "A Sea Symphony" (after Walt Whitman) at the Leeds Festival;

  • 1924 - Mahler: Symphony No.10 (1st and 3rd movements only), arranged by Ernest Krenek (with additional retouching by Alexander von Zemlinksy and Franz Schalk), by Vienna Philharmonic, Franz Schalk conducting; The American premiere of these two movements was give on Dec. 6, 1949, by the Erie (Pa.) Philharmonic conducted by the composer's nephew, the Austro-American conductor Fritz Mahler (1901-1973); The English musicologist Deryck Cooke prepared the first performing edition of Mahler's entire Tenth Symphony which received its first performance on August 13, 1964, by the London Symphony conducted by Berthold Goldschmidt; Since then, Cooke has revised his arrangement, and several other musicologists have prepared their own rival performing editions of Mahler's surviving notation for this symphony;

  • 1931 - Rachmaninoff: “Variations on a Theme of Corelli (La Folia)” for solo piano, in Montréal (Canada), by the composer;

  • 1951 - Bizet: opera "Ivan le Terrible" (posthumously), in Bordeaux;

  • 1951 - Dessau: opera "Die Verurteilung des Lukullus" (The Trial of Lucullus) (2nd version), in East Berlin at the Deutsche Staatsoper;

  • 1961 - Douglas Moore: opera "The Wings of the Dove" (after the novel by Henry James), in New York;

  • 1971 - Andrew Lloyd Webber: rock musical "Jesus Christ Superstar," in New York City; A choral version of this musical was performed in Kansas City, Kan. On May 15, 1971, and a touring company was launched to present the musical on July 12, 1971; Prior to any staged presentations, the work was first released as a double LP record album in October of 1970;

  • 1984 - Olly Wilson: "Siinfonia," by the Boston Symphony, Seiji Ozawa conducting;

  • 1984 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: "Celebration" for orchestra, by the Indianapolis Symphony, John Nelson conducting;

  • 1997 - Sallinen: "Overture Solennel," in Monaco by the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, James DePreist conducting;

  • 1998 - Philip Glass: opera "The Voyage," at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Bruce Ferden conducting;

  • 2000 - Rautavaara: Harp Concerto, in Minneapolis with harpist Kathy Kienzle and the Minnesota Orchestra, Omso Vänskä conducting;


  • 1739 - Handel completes in London his Concerto Grosso in Bb, Op. 6, no. 7 (Gregorian date: Oct. 23).

Love the music?

Donate by phone

Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.

Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.

YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.

More Ways to Give

Your Donation


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


Latest Composers Datebook® Episodes


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®