Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Concerto Grosso/Trumpet Cto/Symbolon/Double Quartet
Liner Notes   Cat. No. 80372     Release Date: 1989-01-01

New York Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta; New York Philharmonic Ensembles; Philip Smith, trumpet

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b 1939) began her studies at Florida State University, where her mentors included the composer and piano virtuoso Ernst von Dohnányi. She moved to New York City and became a student at Juilliard, studying composition with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions.

The Concerto for Trumpet and Five Players (1984) is a work of boundless, infectious charm, put together in a way that reveals Zwilich's remarkable skill at unifying a variegated work through the fine classic device of working a multitude of changes on simple material. The "hero" of this otherwise unprogrammatic three-movement work is the solo trumpet, which scampers ingratiatingly onto the scene with a mocking rising-arpeggio figure that will remain its musical motto.

The Double Quartet for strings explores more serious musical terrain. Again we have a striking demonstration of Zwilich's superb organizational skill. The unifying elements of this four-movement work are more difficult to detect, but they are inescapable. The powerful opening theme with its striding intervallic structure may remind some of the young Shostakovich, as might also the throbbing, intense, declamatory chords of the slow movement.

In the Concerto Grosso 1985 (subtitled "to Handel's Sonata in D for violin and continuo, first movement"), we encounter again the creative use of constructive devices that gives Zwilich's music its consistency and emotional drive. As the subtitle suggests, an opening thematic gambit from a Handel violin sonata becomes the generative force of the entire five-movement work.

Symbolon is one of the most widely traveled of Zwilich's works to date. "The word, symbolon, comes from the Greek and refers to the ancient custom whereby two parties broke a piece of pottery (or a stone, or a coin) in two, each party retaining half." Symbolon begins with an open, wide-reaching melodic line that leads to a fierce orchestral buildup. A more lightly scored middle section doesn't relax the tension: groans from basses and percussion create notes of unrest that continue almost to the end.

New York Philharmonic

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Concerto Grosso/Trumpet Cto/Symbolon/Double Quartet

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Track Listing

Concerto Grosso 1985: I. Maestoso
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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Concerto Grosso 1985: II. Presto
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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Concerto Grosso 1985: III. Largo
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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Concerto Grosso 1985: IV. Presto
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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Concerto Grosso 1985: V. Maestoso
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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Symbolon
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
Buy
Concerto for Trumpet and Five Players: I. Marziale
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
Buy
Concerto for Trumpet and Five Players: II. Lento con moto
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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Concerto for Trumpet and Five Players: III. Allegro energico
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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Double Quartet for Strings: I. Allegro moderato
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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Double Quartet for Strings: II. Lento
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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Double Quartet for Strings: III. Allegro vivo
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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Double Quartet for Strings: IV. Adagio
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
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