Symphony No. 3

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

Performing Ensemble: Orchestra
Duration: 22:00
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

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Symphony No 3
New York Philharmonic Jahja Ling

Quick Overview

My Symphony No. 3 is cast in three movements: I. "Maestoso e cantabile-Allegro giocoso"; II. "Molto vivace"; and III. "Largo". In essence, though, the piece is in two movements, the "Molto vivace" and "Largo" being played attacca (without pause), and together forming a structural unit that balances the first movement in weight and proportion.

Each late-twentieth-century composer will give a highly personal response to the question of what is meant by using the word, "Symphony." I chose the term for this work for several reasons. First, the symphonic tradition holds great meaning for me, going back to the revelations the Beethoven symphonies offered me as a child, and the many years I participated as a performer in orchestras.

Second, I am continually fascinated with the evolution of musical materials. I am moved by the "symphonic" notion of a non-narrative drama, because I regard each piece as an exploration and believe that there is a parallel spiritual journey along with the musical evolution of a work. Like many spiritual quests, one may come to the end of the journey only to find oneself back at the beginning, but with a new understanding that transforms the point of departure. In my "Symphony No. 3", you may hear many moods, and you may experience the music as sometimes visceral, sometimes transcendent. Although the composition is for large orchestra and designed to be played in a large hall, I think it is really an intimate piece, and certainly a very personal one.

Third, I think of a symphony as an homage to the artists who keep musical tradition alive. While, of course, a huge cast of characters participates in this conservation, it is the performers whose dedication, craft and artistry make it vital. And in the 150 years of the New York Philharmonic's existence, the orchestra has evolved to the point that every person on the stage is a first-class virtuoso performer. So I take a particular pleasure in calling on their considerable technical and artistic abilities. You will hear extended solos and demanding ensemble passages. I have especially enjoyed shining the spotlight on the New York Philharmonic's state-of-the-art viola section, which emerges from the opening unison strings to utter a highly virtuosic elaboration, and which plays a role throughout the work equal to the first violins.

Finally, my "Symphony No. 3" is dedicated, with love and admiration, to Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic. It has been one of my great joys to have these artists breathe life into my music.

Scores & Parts

Symphony No. 3 - Full Score - Study

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York for its 150th anniversary.
Composition Date 1992
Orchestration 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2-3Perc. Str.
Premiere 25th, 26th February, 1993. New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jahja Ling.


I. Maestoso e cantabile - Allegro giocoso
II. Molto vivace
III. Largo

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