Composers Datebook®

Chamber works by Zwilich and Paulus

Composers Datebook - July 5, 2024


Chamber music is defined as “music written for and performed by a small ensemble, with one performer on a part.” The website of a Portland, Oregon, organization called Chamber Music Northwest, once added this description: “Music that is inspiring, stimulating and intensely personal.”

On today’s date in 1990, Chamber Music Northwest premiered a quintet for clarinet and strings by the American composer Ellen Taaffe Zwillich, who commented, “In writing chamber music, I am inspired by the electricity of a dialogue among equals. When a performer can be asked to be a brilliant soloist one moment and a responsive partner the next, the possibilities for musical discourse are seemingly endless.”

Today’s date also marks the debut of another chamber work given in the Great Northwest: Partita Appassionata, by American composer Stephen Paulus, a work given its premiere by violinist William Preucil and pianist Arthur Rowe at the 1996 Seattle Chamber Music Festival.

“One of the joys of writing chamber music is that often the composer also knows the performers. So, not only are you writing a work for an intimate gathering of musicians, but for your friends — and that often encourages a deeper and more meaningful musical dimension,” said Paulus.

Music Played in Today's Program

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939): Clarinet Quintet David Shifrin, clarinet; Ida and Ani Kavafian, violin; Paul Neubauer, viola; Fred Sherry, cello; Delos 3183

Stephen Paulus (1949-2014): Partita Appassionata Troy Gardner, violin; Jill Dawe, piano; innova 539

On This Day


  • 1878 - English composer and pianist Josef Holbrooke, in Croydon

  • 1895 - English composer Gordon Jacob, in London

  • 1897 - German-born Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim (originally Frankenburger), in Munich

  • 1918 - American composer George Rochberg, in Paterson, New Jersey

  • 1926 - American composer and teacher Kenneth Gaburo, in Somerville, New Jersey


  • 1992 - Argentinian composer and bandonion virtuoso Astor Piazolla, 71, in Buenos Aires


  • 1931 - R. Vaughan Williams: ballet, Job (A Masque for Dancing), in London

  • 1990 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Clarinet Quintet, at a Chamber Music Northwest concert in Portland, Oregon featuring clarinetist David Shifrin

  • 1996 - Stephen Paulus: Partita Appassionata, for violin and piano, by William Preucil and Arthur Rowe, at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival

  • 2000 - Leslie Bassett: Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, during a World Saxophone Congress at Pierre Mercure Hall, Montreal, with soloist Clifford Leaman, and the Orchestre Symphonique de Laval, Louis Lavigueur, conducting


  • 1877 - Polish harpsichordist Wanda Landowska is born in Warsaw

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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.

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