When Maestro Stephen Simon of the Simon Sinfonietta was in his prior post as Director of the Kennedy Center’s Washington (D.C.) Chamber Symphony, he commissioned an important work for the Handel tri-centennial celebrations at the Kennedy Center. The commissioned work, Concerto Grosso 1985, will be performed on Saturday, March 31, by the Simon Sinfonietta in its customary venue at Falmouth Academy in Falmouth, MA. (For tickets and other information, please visit The Simon Sinfonietta)
The composer of Concerto Grosso 1985, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, took for inspiration the first movement of Handel’s Violin Sonata in D major. In this brilliant work, Zwilich, who is regarded as one of the most popular classical composers in America today, transforms an opening thematic gambit from Handel’s sonata into a creative force for the entire five-movement work. In contrast with Zwilich’s earlier atonal compositions, Concerto Grosso 1985 is more neo-Romantic in style. In Zwilich's own words,
"When I was commissioned to write a work in commemoration of the three-hundredth anniversary of Handel’s birth, I almost immediately thought to base the new work on that composer’s D-major Violin Sonata. I performed the work many years ago, and I especially love the opening theme of the first movement—the striking head motive and the beauty of the generative tension between the theme and the elegant bass line. My concerto is both inspired by Handel's sonata and, I hope, imbued with his spirit."
Following is more about Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Our source is, primarily, Music Associates of America:
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 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. Like the great masters of bygone times, Zwilich produces music "with fingerprints," music that is immediately recognized as the product of a particular composer who combines craft and inspiration in reflecting her optimistic and humanistic spirit.
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 the Symphony No. 1 that brought her instantly into international focus. Concerto Grosso 1985 was first performed, at the Kennedy Center, just two years later.
Zwilich's chamber and recital works have been commissioned by many consortiums and presenters and performed under the auspices of leading chamber music societies, festivals, and concert series by such artists as Itzhak Perlman and others. (Click here to see her Listing of Works)
The upcoming Simon Sinfonietta Concert will also include works by (Joseph) Haydn, Boyce, and Weber.