Dallas Symphony Orchestra to present World Premiere of work honoring the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

New Composition by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich will feature Mezzo-Soprano Denyce Graves and Pianist Jeffrey Biegel

DALLAS, TX (March 24, 2021) –  The Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) will present the world premiere of a new work by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich honoring the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on October 7, 2021, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center as a part of its 2021/2022 season. Zwilich’s music will include texts by Lauren K. Watel and will be performed by GRAMMY® Award-winning Mezzo-Soprano Denyce Graves and pianist Jeffrey Biegel.  Tickets will go on sale this summer at dallassymphony.org.

Zwilich’s new composition pays homage to and remembers Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the first anniversary of her passing in September 2020.  The work has been co-commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, with generous support of the Norma and Don Stone New Music Fund, the Billy Rose Foundation and donors through the American Composers Forum. The performance will mark the compositional debut for Zwilich with the DSO.

Project Coordinator and pianist Jeffrey Biegel explains the significance and importance of this new work: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life exemplified her legacy. Work hard for what you believe in, and in time, people will join with you. She loved music, opera in particular, and having Denyce Graves with us for this project will be a historic moment.”

“We are thrilled to present this important work here in Dallas to honor Justice Ginsburg,” said Kim Noltemy, Ross Perot President & CEO of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. “It is our honor to bring this piece to life at the Meyerson and remember the trailblazing legacy of this incredible woman.”

The work of both Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Denyce Graves was honored at the 2021 GRAMMY® Awards: Graves was in the cast of the winner of Best Opera Recording, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and Zwilich’s Quintet for Alto Saxophone and String Quartet was featured on the Pacifica Quartet’s disc Contemporary Voices, which won the award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

A prolific composer in virtually all media, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s works have been performed all over the globe. Her compositions include five symphonies and a string of concertos commissioned and performed over the past two decades by the nation’s top orchestras. Zwilich is the recipient of numerous prizes and honors, including being named the first woman ever to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1983 for her Symphony No. 1. This marks Zwilich’s third commissioned work for Biegel spanning two decades.

Her music first came to public attention when Pierre Boulez conducted her Symposium for Orchestra at Juilliard (1975), and after the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for the Symphony No. 1, commissions, major performances, and recordings soon followed: the Symphony No. 2 (Cello Symphony), premiered by Edo de Waart and the San Francisco Symphony; Symphony No. 3, written for the New York Philharmonic’s 150th anniversary; Symphony No. 4 “The Gardens” (with chorus), commissioned by Michigan State University and the subject of a PBS documentary seen nationally; and the Juilliard-commissioned Symphony No. 5 (Concerto for Orchestra) premiered at Carnegie Hall under James Conlon’s direction. Among her solo concertos are Peanuts® Gallery for piano and orchestra, a work based on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts® characters commissioned by Carnegie Hall; Millennium Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra premiered by Jeffrey Biegel and the Cincinnati Symphony under Jesús López-Cobos; Clarinet Concerto, written for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Buffalo Philharmonic, conducted by JoAnn Falletta with soloist David Shifrin; and Rituals for Five Percussionists and Orchestra, premiered by IRIS Orchestra under Michael Stern, featuring the Nexus percussion ensemble; Commedia dell’Arte for solo violin and string orchestra written for and commissioned by violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra of San Francisco; and Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, premiered in March 2020 by soloist Zuill Bailey and the South Florida Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sebrina Maria Alfonso.

Ms. Zwilich has been elected to the American Classical Music Hall of Fame, the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1995, she was named to the first Composer’s Chair in the history of Carnegie Hall, and she was designated Musical America’s Composer of the Year for 1999. Ms. Zwilich, who holds a doctorate from The Juilliard School, has received honorary doctorates from Oberlin College, Manhattanville College, Marymount Manhattan College, Mannes College/The New School, Converse College, and Michigan State University. She currently holds the Krafft Distinguished Professorship at Florida State University.

Recognized worldwide as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, Denyce Graves continues to gather unparalleled popular and critical acclaim in performances on four continents. USA Today identifies her as “an operatic superstar of the 21st century,” and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclaims, “If the human voice has the power to move you, you will be touched by Denyce Graves.”

Her career has taken her to the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. The combination of her expressive, rich vocalism, elegant stage presence, and exciting theatrical abilities allows her to pursue a wide breadth of operatic portrayals and to delight audiences in concert and recital appearances. Denyce Graves has become particularly well-known to operatic audiences for her portrayals of the title roles in Carmen and Samson et Dalila. These signature roles have brought Graves to the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opernhaus Zürich, Teatro Real in Madrid, Houston Grand Opera, The Dallas Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Los Angeles Opera and the Festival Maggio Musicale in Florence.

In 2001 Graves gave a series of appearances in response to the tragic events in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. She was invited by President Bush to participate in the National Prayer Service in Washington’s National Cathedral in which she sang “America, the Beautiful” and “The Lord’s Prayer.” This event was televised worldwide and was followed by Graves’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in a live musical program of “Healing through Gospel Music.” She appears regularly on radio and television as a musical performer, celebrity guest and as the subject of documentaries and other special programming. In 1997 PBS Productions released a video and audio recording titled Denyce Graves: A Cathedral Christmas, featuring her in a program of Christmas music from Washington’s National Cathedral. This celebration of music including chorus and orchestra is shown each year on PBS during the Christmas season. Graves was seen on the Emmy-award winning BBC special “The Royal Opera House,” highlighting her debut performances there and she has been a frequent guest on television shows including Sesame StreetThe Charlie Rose Show, and Larry King Live. In 1996 she was the subject of an Emmy-award winning profile on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

Since 1999, Jeffrey Biegel created commissions for more than ten composers to bring new music for piano and orchestra, and piano, orchestra and chorus to the repertoire. On February 10, 2019, Kenneth Fuchs’s “Piano Concerto: ‘Spiritualist'” with the London Symphony Orchestra led by JoAnn Falletta garnered a GRAMMY® win in the Best Classical Compendium category, featuring Mr. Biegel as its soloist. Considered the most prolific artist of his generation, Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA, conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters upon Biegel, for his achievements in performance, recordings, chamber music, champion of new music, composer, arranger and educator. Among his recent recordings and performances, he has performed the World Premiere of Giovanni Allevi’s ‘Concerto for Piano and Orchestra’ with Orchestra Kentucky and in Milan’s Teatro dal Vermes, recording with Orchestra Sinfonica Italiana. He performed the World Premiere of Christopher Theofanidis’s Concerto no. 2 for Piano and Orchestra with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, with Stuart Malina conducting. In 2019, GRAMMY® winning composer, Dick Tunney unveiled the new Peanuts Concerto for piano and orchestra based on music by Vince Guaraldi for its World Premiere with Orchestra Kentucky and Biegel. Equally championing pop music icons, Biegel has brought Jimmy Webb’s Nocturne for Piano and Orchestra to the public and, PDQ Bach’s Concerto for Simply Grand Piano and Orchestra by Peter Schickele with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. The first solo digital recordings on Biegel’s Naturally Sharp label were released and, upcoming plans include world premiere performances of Daniel Perttu’s A Planets Odyssey, Jim Stephenson’s first piano concerto, and Farhad Poupel’s Legend of Bijan and Manijeh for piano, orchestra and chorus. In tribute to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Biegel also composed Reflection of Justice: An Ode to Ruth Bader Ginsburg for solo piano in 2020. Planning into future seasons, Biegel is currently organizing the Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue project, with Peter Boyer as composer, for a planned 50-state and perhaps global project. This will coincide with centennial celebrations for George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

A leading pioneer of concerto projects joining multiple orchestras as a model for commissioning new music in the 21st century, Biegel created the first largest consortium of orchestras in 1998 for Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Millennium Fantasy premiered with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 2000, followed in 2002 with Tony Award winning composer Charles Strouse’s Concerto America with the Boston Pops, Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto no. 3, Opus 95, premiered with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (2006), William Bolcom’s Prometheus for piano, orchestra and chorus, with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and Pacific Chorale (2010), Richard Danielpour’s Mirrors with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra (2010), Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Shadows (2011) with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Jake Runestad’s Dreams of the Fallen (2013) with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and Symphony Chorus of New Orleans, Lucas Richman’s Piano Concerto: In Truth (2013) with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, recorded in 2014 with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for the Albany label and Kenneth Fuchs’s Piano Concerto: Spiritualist with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MA) in 2016. An avid composer, Biegel’s choral music is published by the Hal Leonard Corporation, Carl Fischer, Porfiri & Horvath and The LeDor Group. Leonard Bernstein said of pianist Jeffrey Biegel: “He played fantastic Liszt. He is a splendid musician and a brilliant performer.” These comments launched Biegel’s 1986 New York recital debut, as the third recipient of the Juilliard William Petschek Piano Debut Award in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. He studied at The Juilliard School with Adele Marcus, herself a pupil of Josef Lhevinne and Artur Schnabel, and is currently on faculty at the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College, a City University of New York (CUNY).


The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of Music Director Fabio Luisi, presents world-class orchestral music at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, regarded as one of the top-ten rated concert halls. As the largest performing arts organization in the Southwest, the DSO is committed to inspiring the broadest possible audience with distinctive classical programs, inventive pops concerts and innovative multi-media presentations. In fulfilling its commitment to the community, the orchestra reaches more than 243,000 adults and children through performances, educational programs and community outreach initiatives annually. The DSO’s involvement with the City of Dallas and the surrounding region includes an award-winning multi-faceted educational program, community projects, popular parks concerts and youth programming.

During the pandemic, the Dallas Symphony was the first major U.S. orchestra safely to present socially distanced concerts with live audiences during the 2020/21 Season. Furthermore, the orchestra has offered more than 100 outdoor chamber concerts in neighborhoods throughout the Metroplex since the summer. The DSO continued online music lessons to more than 200 students as part of its Young Strings and Young Musicians programs. The DSO continued online music lessons to more than 200 students as part of its Young Strings and Young Musicians programs and increased its online dissemination of concerts through a newly designed website and on social media.

The DSO has a tradition dating back to 1900 and is a cornerstone of the unique, 118-acre Arts District in Downtown Dallas that is home to multiple performing arts venues, museums and parks; the largest district of its kind in the nation. The DSO is supported, in part, by funds from the Office of Arts & Culture, City of Dallas.

Media Contacts:

Denise McGovern | Vice President of Communications, DSO  d.mcgovern@dalsym.com | 214.871.4024

Kristen Turner | Communications Manager, DSO
k.turner@dalsym.com |214.871.4063