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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Friday, June 26

Zwilich's Piano Concerto

Synopsis

It was Mozart who wrote the first great piano concertos, with Beethoven, Brahms and others following suit in the 19th century. Closer to our own time, the tradition continues, with new contributions appearing each year.

On today's date in 1986, it was the turn of American composer, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, when her new piano concerto received its premiere by the Detroit Symphony under Guenter Herbig, with Marc-Andre Hamelin the soloist.

"My piano concerto does not cast the pianist as the prototypical 19th-century hero battling the orchestral forces and triumphing through overwhelming virtuosity," said Zwilich at the time. "My concerto calls for a blending of forces—a joint exploration of the piano soloist and orchestra. The pianist is even asked to merge with various sections of the rather large orchestra at times."

"To me," continued Zwilich, "a part of the nobility of the piano is that it can change its color, chameleon-like without losing its special identity. Of all the instruments, the piano is perhaps the most able to be whatever it is asked to be… One composer treats the piano as a percussion instrument, another as a singer… Certainly the vast and wonderful piano repertoire explores this remarkable range. And the world of composer-pianists is large enough to embrace Serge Rachmaninoff and Art Tatum."

Music Played in Today's Program

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939) Piano Concerto Joseph Kalichstein, piano; Florida State Orchestra; Michael Stern, Koch 7537

Additional Information

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