Commissioned Composer

Fantasy for Solo Violin

photo by Bill Keefry
Each Competition features a commissioned work that receives its world premiere during the Semi-Finals. The work has become a signature item of the 75-minute Semi-Finals recital program and is performed by 16 violinists. Renowned American composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich has written Fantasy for Solo Violin as the compulsory work for the 9th Quadrennial. The commission and a special prize given to the artist who gives the best performance of the work have been generously underwritten by the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation in honor of the children and families of Christel House. Associate Sponsorship support has been provided by Charles and Carol Ward.

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, whose unique musical “fingerprint” reflects an optimistic and humanistic spirit, is the first woman to receive the coveted Pulitzer Prize in Music. Other prizes and honors include the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Chamber Music Prize, the Arturo Toscanini Music Critics Award, the Ernst von Dohnányi Citation, four Grammy nominations, and the Medaglia d’Oro in the G. B. Viotti Competition.

Named to the first Composer’s Chair in the history of Carnegie Hall, Ms. Zwilich currently holds the Francis Eppes Distinguished Professorship at Florida State University.

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 music first came to public attention when Pierre Boulez conducted her Symposium for Orchestra at Juilliard (1975), but it was the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Symphony No. 1 that brought her instantly into international focus.

Commissions, major performances, and recordings soon followed, including the Symphony No. 2 (Cello Symphony) premiered by Edo de Waart and the San Francisco Symphony; Symphony No. 3 written for the New York Philharmonic’s 150th anniversary; and the Juilliard-commissioned Symphony No. 5 (Concerto for Orchestra) premiered at Carnegie Hall under James Conlon’s direction.

Among the multitude of compositions which Ms. Zwilich has written for a variety of instruments, a few of her notable string works and the artists who gave their premieres are her Violin Concerto (Pamela Frank and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s), the Triple Concerto for Piano, Violin, and Cello (Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and the Minnesota Orchestra), Concerto for Violin, Violoncello, and Orchestra (Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson, and the Louisville Orchestra), Commedia dell’Arte for Violin and String Orchestra (Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra), Double Quartet for Strings (Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center with the Emerson String Quartet), Septet for Piano Trio and String Quartet (Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and the Miami String Quartet), Romance for Violin and Piano (Ida Kavafian and Menahem Pressler), String Quartet No. 2 (Emerson String Quartet), and Episodes for Violin and Piano (Itzhak Perlman and Rohan DeSilva).

Former composers of the IVCI’s commissioned works include Richard Danielpour (2002), Leon Kirchner (1986), Ned Rorem (1998), Joonas Kokkonen (1982), Witold Lutoslawski (1994), George Rochberg (1990), Bright Sheng (2006), and Joan Tower (2010).