Rhinegold Photo credit: Lars Skaaning

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Bent Sørensen wins 2018 Grawemeyer Award

9:46, 28th November 2017

Danish composer Bent Sørensen has won the 2018 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for a triple concerto.

The $100,000 prize was awarded by the University of Louisville for Sørensen’s piece L’isola della Città (The Island in the City), a five-movement work for violin, cello and piano with orchestra. Composed for Trio con Brio and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, the work received its premiere in Copenhagen in January 2016.

According to Sørensen: ‘In all five movements the “island” (the trio) tries to escape the shadows of the orchestra. This is most evident in the last movement, in which the trio ever so silently and without attracting any attention, simply glides away from the orchestra’s noisy shadows.’

On receiving the award, the composer said: ‘I am proud – I allow myself to be that, and I am incredibly grateful for the recognition that is inherent in receiving such a grand award as this. With the recognition comes a responsibility – in the best possible way – and even more: it becomes a wonderful inspiration for my work as a composer in the future.’

Marc Satterwhite, award director and faculty member at the University of Louisville School of Music, said of L’isola della Città: ‘It is not a virtuoso showcase, but rather integrates the soloists smoothly into an ever-evolving orchestral texture. Often they feel more like “first among equals” rather than traditional soloists, but at other times really come to the fore. Although it has its larger moments, on the whole it is one of the gentler, more introspective, winners of this award.’

Sørensen, 59, studied composition with Ib Nørholm and Per Nørgård in his native Denmark. His music is widely performed around the globe, with major works including his trombone concerto Birds and Bells and Echoing Garden, for orchestra and choir. He received the Nordic Council Music Prize in 1996 for the violin concerto Sterbende Gärten and in 1999 won the Wilhelm Hansen Composer Prize. In 2014, Sørensen was appointed as chair of the Danish Composers Society and was awarded the Wilhelm Hansen Prize of Honor.

Previous recipients of the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition include Michel van der Aa (2013), Kaija Saariaho (2003), Thomas Adès (2000), Tan Dun (1998) and Harrison Birtwistle (1987).

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