Boston has been the site of numerous important events for composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. It was here that her First String Quartet had a strong success during the International Society for Contemporary Music’s World Music Days festival in 1976. In the audience at that performance was Richard Pittman, music director of Boston Musica Viva, who would become a longtime friend. He would commission Zwilich’s Chamber Symphony, another milestone in her output.
And her flute concerto, composed in 1989 for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and soloist Doriot Anthony Dwyer, led to Zwilich becoming perhaps the only contemporary composer to be featured in a “Peanuts” comic strip. In the cartoon, Peppermint Patty sits sullenly at a concert until her friend Marcie tells her that the next piece is by Ellen Zwilich, “who just happens to be a woman.” The final frame shows Patty standing on her chair hollering “GOOD GOING, ELLEN.” (Her status as pop-culture icon was cemented when, at a performance of her Third Symphony by the Philadelphia Orchestra at its summer home in Saratoga, a car full of musicians drove by shouting, “Good going, Ellen!”)