On Tuesday, November 29, Carnegie Hall will present the New York premiere of a new Quintet by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, a composer whose music is among the most-performed of that of any of her American colleagues, and who was the first person named to the Carnegie Hall Composer's Chair in 1995. The new work, which was written for and will be performed by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio (Joseph Kalichstein, piano; Jaime Laredo, violin; and Sharon Robinson, cello); Michael Tree, viola; and Harold Robinson, double bass, has the same instrumentation as, and thematic echoes from, Schubert's great "Trout" Quintet. Also on the program are piano trios by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.
Carnegie Hall co-commissioned the Quintet with nine other U.S. presenting organizations, almost all of which will present the work in performance in the course of this season.
The Quintet had its world premiere on August 7, presented by the La Jolla Music Society, and was called "a jazzy delight" by the San Diego Union Tribune. And of an October 19 performance, David PatRick Stearns said in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "New companion pieces to long-established masterworks are arriving with increasing frequency, often with an inhibiting effect on the most strong-minded composer. But not Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. [The composer] was commissioned, partly by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, to write for the instrumentation of Schubert's Trout Quintet, and if anything, found an even more defined voice."
The Quintet is the fourth work that Zwilich has written for the K-L-R Trio. The work is one of three major new works by Zwilich to be premiered in 2011-2012; the others are Shadows for Piano and Orchestra, a work commissioned by pianist Jeffrey Biegel - who will perform the work - and an international consortium of orchestras; and Commedia dell'Arte, a work for solo violin and string orchestra written for and commissioned by violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra of San Francisco (of which Salerno-Sonnenberg is Music Director).
Quintet - Echoes of Another Bass Quintet
Of her new Quintet, Zwilich says, "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. I'm especially interested in the possibilities offered by the contemporary contrabass player's virtuosity and artistry which allows the composer to reach for that chamber music ideal of equal partners."
The creation of the Quintet for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, Michael Tree, viola and Harold Robinson, double-bass was made possible with the support of the La Jolla Music Society (world premiere), Chamber Music Society of Detroit (made possible by a gift from Cecilia Benner); Carnegie Hall Corporation; Emilio Gravagno; Linton Chamber Music Series (made possible with a gift from Ann and Harry Santen); The John F. Kennedy Center Abe Fortas Memorial Fund; Arizona Friends of Chamber Music (made possible with a gift from Jean-Paul Bierny and Chris Tanz); Philharmonic Society of Orange County; Seven Days of Opening Nights Festival; Regional Arts at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts; and Hudson Valley Chamber Music Circle; through the International Arts Foundation, Inc.
Recent Praise for the Septet and More
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's 2009 Septet for Piano Trio and String Quartet, which had a dozen performances (including five in 2010-2011) since its April 2009 premiere, has garnered a chorus of critical praise, Gil French of the American Record Guide calling it "magnificent," and John Fleming in the St. Petersburg Times describing it as "a modern masterpiece." Donald Rosenberg called it "a finely wrought, organic and rich tapestry of ideas" in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Ken Keaton in the Palm Beach Daily News said, "Zwilich's Septet is a powerful, moving work, surely destined to become a part of the canon."
Works from every part of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's oeuvre are performed constantly, and continue to attract notice: of a 2010 performance of her 1983 Divertimento for flute, clarinet, violin and cello, Allan Kozinn said in The New York Times, "the music is vital and inventive. ... Ms. Zwilich's work presented an updated, freewheeling look at Neo-Classicism." Janelle Gelfand said recently in the Cincinnati Enquirer, "Zwilich's Symphony No. 4 ...is a stunning find. From the first note, one was struck by the bold, colorful and communicative writing." And George Grella of TheBigCityblog.com called the Lament for Cello and Piano (2000), heard in a performance last year, "a simple, expressive and very beautiful piece."
Upcoming Commissioned Works
The family of the original Galimir String Quartet of Vienna - which featured the famed musician and pedagogue Felix Galimir and his three sisters (Felix later re-formed the quartet with the same name, but different members, in the U.S.) - has commissioned a work for string quartet to celebrate the centennials of the founding members of the Galimir String Quartet, to be performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, with the premiere to take place in fall 2012 at South Mountain Concerts in Pittsfield, MA (a co-commissioner of the work).
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich has written more than 55 works since 1971, almost half of which have been recorded; has received more than 35 awards and distinctions, including a Pulitzer Prize, the first Carnegie Hall Composer's Chair, and Musical America's 1999 Composer of the Year; and has been commissioned by artists and ensembles including the New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago and Boston symphony orchestras and Itzhak Perlman. Her 70th birthday season, in 2008-2009, launched with the world premiere performance of her Symphony No. 5 at Carnegie Hall conducted by James Conlon, and concluded with the unveiling of her Septet for Piano Trio and String Quartet, which has since had a dozen performances and garnered a chorus of critical praise, Gil French of the American Record Guide calling it "magnificent," and John Fleming in the St. Petersburg Times describing it as "a modern masterpiece."
Her most recent CD recording, released by Naxos in fall 2010, features Millennium Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra (2000), Images for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1986), and Peanuts® Gallery (1996) for Piano and Orchestra performed by the Florida State University Symphony, Alexander Jiménez, conducting, the first audio CD recording of these three works.
For more information, including a full list of works and recordings, visit Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's pages on the Theodore Presser Company web site.
Read/watch a profile of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich on NewMusicBox, the web site of the American Music Center.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011, at 8:00 PM
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall Presents:
The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio
Joseph Kalichstein, piano
Jaime Laredo, violin
Sharon Robinson, cello
Michael Tree, viola
Harold Robinson, bass
BEETHOVEN Piano Trio No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op. 11
ELLEN TAAFFE ZWILICH Quintet for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass (2011, New York Premiere)
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 50