Ellen Taaffee Zwilich has had many firsts in her life. She was the first woman to receive a Doctor of Musical Arts (in composition) from the Julliard School of music and was one of the first women to serve in a major symphony orchestra.She was the first woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize in Music (in 1983) and she was named to the first Composer’s Chair in the history of Carnegie Hall. Her work in composition has led her to receive a number of other high honors and distinctions throughout her career.
Recently, she added yet another first to her illustrious career: a world premiere of “Shadows for Piano and Orchestra,” a work commissioned by pianist Jeffrey Biegel and performed in consort with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of maestro Carlos Miguel Prietto.
The 20-minute piece can be described as a marvelous musical journey to the past, its orchestral voices evoking various cultural and ancestral markings of different cultures. Aside from Biegel’s piano, “Shadows” also features solo passages for oboe, bassoon, trombone and percussion.
Zwilich was in the audience as Biegel performed the piece with the LPO on Sat., Oct. 28 at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts. The work closed out the first half of a program that also contained Olivier Messien’s “Les Offerandes Oubilées (The Forgotten Offerings).” Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 5 comprised the second half of the evening.