Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Thursday, February 7

Zwilich times Three

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1996, a trio of soloists joined forces with the Minnesota Orchestra for the premiere performance of a new concerto by the American composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. This was her “Triple Concerto,” a work commissioned by the soloists, namely pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson, and no less than five orchestras in addition to Minnesota’s.

Now, the most famous Concerto for Piano, Violin, Cello and Orchestra is by Beethoven, as Zwilich well knows. “My Triple Concerto is scored for exactly the same instrumentation as Beethoven’s,” she writes, “although Beethoven would certainly be startled by some of the American jazz techniques and the extraordinary facility the modern timpanist can be expected to have at his fingertips... My piece has other vague and hidden references to Beethoven, as a kind of homage to a composer who has deeply affected my life."

“As contemporary artists always have,” continues Zwilich, “today’s composers exist at a juncture between past and present. And all of us, whether we write, perform, or listen to music, face a similar challenge: how to relate meaningfully to the past without becoming imbedded in it; how to press toward the future without abandoning the richness of our heritage. It is often remarked that some audiences seem to fear the new. To this, I might add that some composers seem to fear the past. The rhetoric of ‘progress’ as well as the worship of a canon of ‘masterpieces’ can undermine the adventure of it all.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Ellen Taafe Zwilich (b. 1939) Triple Concerto Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio; Florida State University; Michael Stern, cond. Koch 7537

Additional Information

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