Julian Anderson has been awarded the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his 2018-19 cello concerto Litanies. The award offers an international prize of USD100,000 in recognition of outstanding achievement by a living composer in a large musical genre: choral, orchestral, chamber, electronic, song-cycle, dance, opera, musical theatre, extended solo work and more. He is only the fourth British composer to receive the prize, and the first to do so in twnety years.
Litanies was first performed on 12 February 2020 in Paris at the Auditorium de Radio France. Alban Gerhardt was soloist, with the Orchestre National de France Pascal Rophé. Like all of Anderson’s works after 2014 it is published by Schott Music. Litanies was commissioned by Radio France, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, and the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne. Full details of the piece are available here.
The work’s central, lyrical slow section, exploiting the cello’s singing qualities, concludes with a chorale written in memory of Anderson’s dear friend Oliver Knussen. As conductor Knussen premiered and recorded several of Anderson’s major orchestral and ensemble works, including Book of Hours, The Comedy of Change, Alhambra Fantasy, Heaven is Shy of Earth, Diptych and The Stations of the Sun. The latter received its German premiere in November from the Basel Sinfonietta, who will tour the piece; its Belgian premiere took place in Antwerp on 30 November with a subsequent performance in Ghent (1 December), conducted by Baldur Brönnimann.
Julian Anderson notes: “I am overjoyed and deeply honored to be the recipient of the 2023 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. My concerto Litanies was inspired by the special qualities of cellist Alban Gerhardt, to whom it is dedicated. Two unrelated tragedies occurred while I was composing: the death of my dear colleague Oliver Knussen and the burning down of Notre Dame in Paris. The ‘Litanies’ of the title sing out both the loss of a dear friend and the destruction of a world monument. I am deeply grateful to the panel of the Grawemeyer Award for their recognition of a work which is both an act of commemoration and a celebration of musical beauty.”
Marc Satterwhite, Director of the Grawemeyer Music Award, says: “Litanies explores virtually every sound a cello and orchestra can make together. It spans a vast emotional range and is constantly inventive. It is always towards an expressive end, and never for the sake of novelty.”
Works composed by Julian Anderson from August 2014 onwards are published by Schott Music.