Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The 2012 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition

Esa-Pekka Salonen
   The Grawemeyer Awards are five annual prizes given in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education and religion from the University of Louisville. The music award is one of the world's most prestigious music composition awards. On Monday, I went to the 2012 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition talk. This year's winner was Esa-Pekka Salonen, an accomplished composer and conductor from Finland who has worked extensively in the United States. His winning composition, Violin Concerto, was completed in 2009 at the end of Salonen's 17-year tenure as the music director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
   The program began with Salonen receiving the award. He then read some prepared remarks regarding inspiration and creativity through the example of music composition. He emphasized how music is something that is emotional, raw, and organic and cannot be based on music theory or mathematical formulas alone.

Leila Josefowicz
   Next, a film of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France performing Violin Concerto was shown in it's entirety. Salonen conducted the performance and it featured the soloist Leila Josefowicz, who was the original performer of the solo part and inspired and encouraged Salonen's composing of the piece. Her virtuosity and dedication (she memorized the entire solo part for her performances of the piece) are truly amazing. The solo part is extremely fast and complicated, utilizing the violin in ways that I had never seen before. The concerto is truly an intricate masterpiece and well deserved of the Grawemeyer Award.

   After the film, Salonen took several questions from the audience. One person asked him what it is like for him to conduct his own new compositions, and he responded by relating how difficult first rehearsals of any new works are for even experienced and renowned music groups. He then related some words of wisdom that a music teacher of his had told him regarding this subject, that a conductor should never go to the first rehearsal, but if he does, he should not go sober. In response to another question, he emphasized that music cannot be created in a vacuum but is inherently influenced by all the music that has come before it. In this way, 'old' music is very integral to the creation of new music. He concluded the talk by relating how commissioning is so essential for music composers in that such a great deal of time goes into the creation of a single piece of music that very little music can be created without it. It is essential to the continued creation of new music, and monetary awards like the Grawemeyer Award are also extremely important for the same reason.


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