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2 December 2008

Brett Dean wins Grawemeyer Award

Brett Dean Image: Brett Dean  

Brett Dean has won the 2009 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing. The Grawemeyer Award, granted annually by the University of Louisville (USA), is the world's most prestigious composition prize, worth USD 200,000 (appr. AUD 313,400). Previous winners of the prize include Pierre Boulez, Gy├Ârgy Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, John Adams and Kaija Saariaho. Brett Dean is the first Australian winner.

Brett Dean writes of his reaction on winning the award:

'The writing of music is a solitary process, and one spends a lot of time immersed in one's own internal sound world. A prize is an acknowledgement that one's work is not only being heard, but appreciated in the big, wide world outside of one's own studio. But I can think of no prize which represents a more significant acknowledgement of this kind than the Grawemeyer Award. To read the names of the award's previous winners, and to know that my own work will stand alongside the work of these legendary musicians that I admire so greatly, is a humbling and moving experience.'

The Lost Art of Letter Writing was commissioned by the Cologne Philharmonie and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra for violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann. Brett Dean conducted the premiere in 2007 at the Philharmonie in Cologne with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Zimmermann has played the concerto twelve times to date, including performances in Amsterdam, Munich, Berlin, Stockholm and Boston. The work has not yet been performed in Australia.

Each movement in the half-hour concerto begins with an excerpt from a 19th-century letter, with a violin evoking the mood of each letter as it plays the alternate roles of writer and recipient. Authors of the letters include composers Johannes Brahms and Hugo Wolf, Vincent Van Gogh and Ned Kelly.

The Grawemeyer Foundation annually awards $1 million (USD) for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education and religion. The winner in music composition was selected from 145 entries from all over the world.

Further links

Brett Dean - AMC (www.amcoz.com.au/composers/composer.asp?id=3317)
Grawemeyer Award (http://grawemeyer.org/news-updates/music2009.html)
Songs of Joy by Dean in Liverpool - article on resonate (www.resonatemagazine.com.au/article/em-songs-of-joy-em-by-dean-in-liverpool.html)
ANAM Update - article about the debate regarding the future of Australian National Academy of Music (www.resonatemagazine.com.au/article/update-on-anam.html)

Subjects discussed by this article:

As a national service organisation, the Australian Music Centre is dedicated to increasing the profile and sustainability of Australian composers and other creative artists. The AMC facilitates the performance, awareness and appreciation of music by these artists through: composer and other creative artist representation and assistance; resonate – its online magazine; library and retail services; sheet music publishing; and the management, administration and publication of project-based initiatives. Its library collection holds over 30,000 items by more than 500 artists.


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