Today, I bring glad tidings of an American composer named Ellen Taaffe Zwillich. She is widely celebrated – the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize – but I’d never heard of her until I saw her name mentioned a little while ago on a weird and sometimes wonderful blog called Classical Music is Boring. (See here.)
Personally, I think that such speculations about composers’ convictions and motives often stand on thin ice. Who is to say whether or not she is disillusioned with modernism, or anything else? And in any case, what difference does it make? Whatever the reasons, Zwillich has embraced a post-modern sensibility that acknowledges the complexities of the gulf between the world today and the “good old days” of classical music.
Here’s a short piece by Zwillich that I found on YouTube. It’s called Lament, and was written in 2000, in memory of Judith Arron, who was artistic director at Carnegie Hall. A phrase that sounds like a quotation from Schubert’s “Standchen” adds to the reflective and introspective mood of the piece.
It’s nicely played by the cellist Lachezar Kostov – and a pianist whose name I don’t know.
© Colin Eatock 2015