The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music at the New York Philharmonic awarded to Per Nørgård
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
New York Philharmonic To Commission Work by Mr. Nørgård and To Perform U.S. Premiere of His Symphony No. 3 During NY PHIL BIENNIAL in 2016
The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music at the New York Philharmonic, which recognizes a composer for extraordinary artistic endeavor in the field of new music, has been awarded to the eminent Danish composer Per Nørgård. Mr. Nørgård was chosen to receive the Kravis Prize for his lasting contributions to the symphony orchestra repertoire by a Selection Committee of leading artists and administrators who have close ties to the New York Philharmonic and a demonstrated interest in fostering new music. The Prize consists of $200,000 and a commission to compose a work for the New York Philharmonic.
The Philharmonic will give the U.S. Premiere of Mr. Nørgård’s Symphony No. 3 as part of the second NY PHIL BIENNIAL in 2016. As previously announced, Philharmonic musicians will perform Mr. Nørgård’s music in the 2014–15 season of CONTACT!, the Philharmonic’s new-music series, conducted by Music Director Alan Gilbert in a program featuring contemporary Nordic composers at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
On behalf of the Selection Committee Alan Gilbert commented: “It has been a pleasure and an honor for us to bestow Per Nørgård with The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music at the New York Philharmonic, given to a composer for extraordinary artistic endeavor in the field of new music. Today there is a great variety of important compositional voices, and the committee enjoyed exploring the sounds and contributions of a wide range of creators. Nevertheless, our decision was unanimous.
Per Nørgård, one of the grand figures in Scandinavian music, stands out among the general field of international contemporary music. His compositions couple intellectual rigor with expressive urgency, and span a wide variety of genres, with eight symphonies, several concertos, six operas, and two ballets among his orchestra scores alone. The power of his expression has also crossed media, leading to the creation of evocative and masterful film scores. It has been fascinating to trace the unique path he has forged, which has included his invention of the Infinity Series — his own fresh approach to serialism.
Nørgård’s oeuvre embodies the curiosity, drive, and inspiration that we wanted to support through this prize, made possible by the generosity and commitment of Henry R. and Marie-Josée Kravis. We salute them for their vision, which has allowed us to shine a spotlight on today’s composers, celebrating their courage and imagination in establishing new sounds and vocabularies that enrich our lives.”
Mr. Nørgård said: “It is with great joy that I receive the Kravis Prize for New Music. To be the recipient of such an honorable and prestigious prize leaves me feeling profoundly grateful. Thank you to the administrators of The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music and to the New York Philharmonic.”
One of the world’s largest new-music prizes, the Kravis Prize for New Music is awarded every two seasons, and includes $200,000 and a commission to write a work for the New York Philharmonic. In alternating seasons, when no prize is given, the Orchestra names the Kravis Emerging Composer, who receives a $50,000 stipend and a commission. Funding for the Kravis Prize comes from a $10 million gift given to the New York Philharmonic in 2009 by Henry R. Kravis in honor of his wife, Marie-Josée, for whom the prize is named. The inaugural Kravis Prize was awarded in the 2011–12 season to Henri Dutilleux (1916–2013), who shared the proceeds of the Prize with three composers — Anthony Cheung, Franck Krawczyk, and Peter Eötvös — each of whom would write a work for the Orchestra to premiere. Sean Shepherd was named the 2012 Kravis Emerging Composer. The New York Philharmonic gives the World Premieres of Anthony Cheung’s Lyra and Sean Shepherd’s Songs June 11–21, 2014; Mr. Eötvös’s Senza sangue will receive its World Premiere in Cologne, Germany, on the Orchestra’s EUROPE / SPRING 2015 tour, and its U.S. Premiere in New York City May 8–9, 2015.
The Selection Committee for the Kravis Prize for New Music includes Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert; Christopher Rouse, The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, 2012–15; composer/conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen; Nicholas Kenyon, managing director, Barbican Centre, London; Ara Guzelimian, provost and dean of The Juilliard School; and Daniel Druckman, New York Philharmonic Associate Principal Percussion.
“It is an honor to announce Per Nørgård, an intrepid composer, as the recipient of The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music while experiencing the first manifestations of the inaugural award through the premieres of works composed by its initial beneficiaries,” said New York Philharmonic Executive Director Matthew VanBesien. “The Kravises’ remarkable generosity endorses our conviction that composers’ work is vital and has empowered the Philharmonic to fulfill our role as a resource by supporting the creation of new musical works.”
Mrs. Kravis thanked the committee members and congratulated them on their choice, saying: “The announcement of Per Nørgård as the second recipient of the prize gives me great pleasure. That such an expert panel of musical performers and administrators selected Mr. Nørgård speaks to the significance of his body of work. By choosing a composer with such stature but whose music has not yet been performed extensively in New York, the New York Philharmonic is making the most of this opportunity to give him a new platform so that we can all learn about and enjoy his music.”
Per Nørgård is considered by many to be the most prominent Danish composer after Carl Nielsen. At the age of 17 he began studying composition with Vagn Holmboe, and from 1952 through 1957 he studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and with Nadia Boulanger. In the 1960s Per Nørgård developed the Infinity Series, a principle in which new intervals are created ad infinitum, which he used in his 1968 composition Voyage into the Golden Screen for chamber orchestra; his use of this system culminated in his Symphony No. 3 (1972). Mr. Nørgård’s subsequent encounter with the work of Swiss artist and schizophrenic Adolf Wölfli is evident in his Symphony No. 4, Indian Rose Garden and Chinese Witch Sea (1981), and his opera The Divine Circus (1982). In his Viola Concerto Remembering Child (l986) — commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, which premiered it with Pinchas Zukerman, its dedicatee, as soloist — and Violin Concerto Helle Nacht (1988), Mr. Nørgård continued his exploration of the stratification of time in a tempo-scanning of the melodies where accentuation, meter, and beat reveal new melodies within melodies. His later works border on the surrealistic, notably his Piano Concerto Concerto in Due Tempi (1995), which was premiered in 1996 at the ceremony awarding Mr. Nørgård the Léonie Sonning Music Prize. His Symphony No. 8 was commissioned and premiered by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in 2012. Per Nørgård has also composed scores for several films, including Babette’s Feast (1987). He collaborated with Ane Dorthe Roel on the 2006 book Nye aspekter i uendelighedsrækken (New Aspects of the Infinity Series) on her discoveries in the Infinity Series. In June 2014 Dacapo Records released a recording of Per Nørgård’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 8 with the Vienna Philharmonic led by Sakari Oramo. Today, he is travelling with a select group of collaborators and composing for harp, percussion, violin, cello, and piano; his catalog now surpasses 400 works in total. Per Nørgård taught at the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, from 1965 through 1995, becoming a professor in 1987. In 2009 he was portrayed in Martin Verdet’s music documentary Timeless Harvest. He was awarded the Carl Nielsen Prize in 1969 and 2002, and The Nordic Council Music Prize in 1974. From 1975 until 1982 he served as chairman of the Danish Composers’ Society.
Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis have long been generous supporters of new music at the New York Philharmonic. In 2009 they made a gift of $10 million to the Orchestra, endowing both The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music at the New York Philharmonic and the Composer-in-Residence position. Throughout their decade-long relationship with the Philharmonic, they have commissioned 17 new compositions including a new work by Franck Krawczyk (to be premiered at a later date); Peter Eötvös’s Senza sangue (May 2015); Christopher Rouse’s Thunderstuck (October 2014); Sean Shepherd’s Songs (June 2014); Anthony Cheung’s Lyra (June 2014); Christopher Rouse’s Symphony No. 4 (June 2014) and Prospero’s Rooms (April 2013); Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2, written for Yefim Bronfman (May 2012), Al Largo (June 2010), Souvenir (in memorium Gérard Grisey) (November 2010), and EXPO (September 2009); Peter Lieberson’s The World in Flower (May 2009); Marc Neikrug’s Quintessence (March 2008); Bernard Rands Chains Like the Sea (October 2008); Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Piano Concerto (February 2007); Augusta Read Thomas’s Gathering Paradise, Emily Dickinson Settings for Soprano and Orchestra (September 2004); and Stephen Hartke’s Symphony No. 3 (September 2003).