Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Composer
“There are not many composers in the modern world who possess the lucky combination of writing music of substance and at the same time exercising an immediate appeal to mixed audiences. Zwilich offers this happy combination of purely technical excellence and a distinct power of communication.” -Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (8th edition)
At a time when the musical offerings of the world are more varied than ever before, few composers have emerged with the unique personality of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Her music is widely known because it is performed, recorded, broadcast, and – above all – listened to and liked by all sorts of audiences the world over.
A prolific composer in virtually all media, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s works have been performed by most of the leading American orchestras and by major ensembles abroad. Her works include five symphonies, a string of concertos commissioned and performed over the past two decades by the nation’s top orchestras, and a wealth of chamber music.
Zwilich is the recipient of numerous prizes and honors, including the 1983 Pulitzer Prize in Music (the first woman ever to receive this coveted award), the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Chamber Music Prize, the Arturo Toscanini Music Critics Award, the Ernst von Dohnányi Citation, an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, four Grammy nominations, the Alfred I. Dupont Award, Miami Performing Arts Center Award, the Medaglia d’oro in the G.B. Viotti Competition, and the NPR and WNYC Gotham Award for her contributions to the musical life of New York City. Among other distinctions, Ms. Zwilich has been elected to the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1995, she was named to the first Composer’s Chair in the history of Carnegie Hall, and she was designated Musical America’s Composer of the Year for 1999. Ms. Zwilich, who holds a doctorate from The Juilliard School, currently holds the Francis Eppes Distinguished Professorship at Florida State University.
- Claudia Schreier & Company premiered a new work, “Wordplay,” a pas de deux set to the first movement of Ellen’s Quintet for Violin, Viola, Cello, Contrabass & Piano (2011), at an engagement at the Joyce Theater’s 2017 Ballet Festival. The New York Times, praising the work’s “playful, on-the-nose musicality,” said, “‘Wordplay’ was performed by Unity Phelan and Jared Angle of City Ballet, and it closely resembled something you might see them dance with their home company: a sleek duet to a spiky, rhythmic modernist score (a quintet by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich).” Watch a video of the seven-minute “Wordplay.”
- Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is Chair of the BMI Student Composer Awards: “5 Female Composers Among 9 Winners in 2017,” NewMusicBox Reports – May 16, 2017
- The Tallahassee Democrat reports on the world premiere of Ballet 2017: Celestial Dance for the Tallahassee Youth Orchestra and Tallahassee Ballet – April 28, 2017, and May 4, 2017.
- Acclaim for Pas de Trois in The Washington Post, Palm Beach Daily News, Palm Beach Arts Paper, South Florida Classical Review
- “A Jazzy, Joyful Premiere” for Zwilich’s Pas de Trois from the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio – Janelle Gelfand’s janellesnotes, September 20, 2016
- Ellen Taaffe Zwilich Works In Performance Around the Globe – Press release
- “Imagining the Sound: Ellen Taaffe Zwilich” – Interview in Ireland’s Final Note Magazine, July 6, 2015
- “Kane and Sleeper provide outstanding advocacy in Zwilich world premiere” – South Florida Classical Review, April 19, 2015
- Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is interviewed in Robert Raines’s Composition in the Digital World – Conversations with 21st Century American Composers, just published by Oxford University Press.
- LA Opus interview: Composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich Has Found Her Bliss, February 23, 2015
- Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Symphony No. 1 is No. 1 on Frank J. Oteri’s list of the top American symphonies on NewMusicBox, February 4, 2015.
- Sounds Heard–On Shattering, Burning, and Diverting with Passion – NewMusicBox recording review, July 29, 2014
- Visit Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s pages on the Theodore Presser Company site for lists of works and awards, recordings, and reviews.
Click here for past news about Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
Top Photo by Florida State University Photo Lab
Headshot Photos by Bill Keefrey