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On February 2, 1989, Sir Georg Solti led the world premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich‘s Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra, which had been commissoned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal trombone, Jay Friedman.

Friedman, Zwilich, and Solti following the world premiere

Zwilich—the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for music— contributed the program note:

“When I was approached by the Chicago Symphony in 1986 with the novel idea of commissioning a work for tenor trombone and a second work for bass trombone and orchestra, I was thrilled because I have long wanted to write something substantial for the trombone. Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (1988) for Jay Friedman, is the first of two projects, to be followed by a bass trombone work for Charles Vernon. [Zwilich's Concerto for Bass Trombone, Strings, Timpani, and Cymbals received its world premiere on April 30, 1991, with Vernon as soloist and Daniel Barenboim conducting.]

“Although it has been neglected as such, I think the trombone is a wonderful solo instrument. In addition to sharing the same range, the tenor trombone possesses all the color and drama of the entire spectrum of male voices, from counter-tenor to bass-baritone. Continuing the vocal analogy, the trombone can be both lyric and dramatic. Add to these noble singing qualities the great instrumental flexibility and agility of our modern artist-performers and you have an instrument which commands the stage as a soloist. Thus, one of my aims in the Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra was to cast the trombone as protagonist in a role that ranges from the dramatic and lyrical to bold virtuosic display. . . .

“Throughout the [concerto], the relationship of the solo trombone to the orchestra is one of equal partnership and mutual exploration. The work is dedicated to Sir Georg Solti, Jay Friedman, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.”

Press reviews (concentrating also on Solti’s account of Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony) are here.

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