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Ellen Taaffe Zwilich "Lament" and Elliot Carter " Second Diversion."

Ursula Oppens

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich "Lament" and Elliot Carter " Second Diversion."

Ursula Oppens performs and discusses Ellen Taaffe Zwilich "Lament" and Elliot Carter " Second Diversion."

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is one of the most prominent American composers and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. In 1999, with the millennium approaching, Ellen was hired by Judith Aaron, the Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall, as the first composer-in- residence. So many of the most important American composers had written fabulous pieces, but Ellen was worried that neither amateurs nor even music majors in college were daring to play them. So she decided on a commissioning program to ask composers to write pieces suitable for students at Brooklyn College. This resulted in The Carnegie Hall Millennium Piano Book from which Ursula played two pieces. The first piece was Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's “Lament” in honor of Judith Aaron.

The second piece, Elliot Carter's “Two Diversions,” is more complicated. He liked to play games. In the first “Diversion,” In the second “Diversion,” one hand has music that goes faster and faster, the other hand has music that goes slower and slower. Years ago Carter said, “Normally people pay attention to the faster-moving melody.” He requested that we pay more attention to the music which goes slower, which is usually in the left hand, and hear it as a melody. This is one of Carter's most successful pieces because it is a bit simpler. Carter said: “It takes a long time to learn to write simply.”