She has created a handful of exquisitely honed works in a variety of mediums from string trio to symphony. She writes in an idiosyncratic style that, without ostentation or gimmickry, is always recognizably hers.

-Tim Page


[Ellen Zwilich has] for some time been regarded by fellow professionals as an important contemporary composer. Now audiences are catching on too.

-Michael Walsh


The Ellen Zwilich piece was like a sip of water from a mountain stream, clear and refreshing… It has a kind of minimalist feel about it, without that school’s sometimes daunting austerity. I would truly like to hear it again, and again…

-Gerald Carpenter


A game involving lists of nine “desert island” symphonies has been making the rounds on Facebook this week….  Basically the challenge is to come up with a list of nine symphonies by nine different composers….  Since we’re New Music USA after all, I thought I’d further up the ante with a list devoted exclusively to works by American composers.

… I’m reserving this [No. 1] slot for Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s first symphony from 1982, which was the first composition by a female composer to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music (1983). The stickler’s may cry foul here since ETZ originally titled the work “Three Movements for Orchestra.” Well, tough…

 -Frank J. Oteri


Zwilich’s most striking gift – the ability to express lyrical enchantment without sounding at all glib or derivative or retrograde in the doing. It is music with a soundly argued quality, steeped in a craftsmanship one instinctively trusts.

-Richard Buel

music & letters

…her works have an immediate appeal and are intriguing, challenging and original.

-Rhian Samuel


[A] musical mind of originality, skill and versatility. The special rhythmic energy of her music combines with a concern for large-scale structure, pungent orchestral colors and a uniquely idiomatic flair for instrumental writing.


Zwilich’s music is distinctive not only for its superb craftsmanship, but also for its wit, lyricism and sheer beauty, making it immediately appealing to listeners.

-Janelle Gelfand