The Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation again awards €3.5 million.

The 2019 international Ernst von Siemens Music Prize will be awarded to the British composer Rebecca Saunders. The award, given for lifelong service to music, is accompanied by a prize of €250,000. The presentation ceremony will be held on 7 June 2019 at the Prinzregententheater in Munich. In 2019 the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation again awards over €3.5 million in prize money and subsidies.

The composer Rebecca Saunders, born in London in 1967, has described her work as an attempt to create and sculpt sounds drawn from beneath a surface of apparent silence. With over 60 remarkable works spanning almost all genres, an impressive list of international musicians and ensembles with whom she has collaborated, and the many prominent prizes and awards she has received, her success is evident. Since her first explorations with sound production, Saunders has with every piece further developed her own inimitable musical language. The Board of Trustees of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation awards the Music Prize to Rebecca Saunders for an oeuvre which leaves its visible and meaningful mark on contemporary music history through its productive contrariety, its astonishingly nuanced attention to timbre, and her distinctive and intensely striking sonic language.

Saunders grew up in a very musical family: her grandfather was an organist; her grandmother and parents were all pianists; and there were four pianos in the home on which both classical music and jazz were played. Saunders herself took up the violin, with a particular affinity for the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Of this time she has said, "Music was omnipresent and I composed a lot as a child." It was during a trip to the USA as a young composer that she heard the music of Morton Feldman for the first time, experiencing viscerally that music could enable an alternative interpretation of time and space. A performance of Wolfgang Rihm’s Chiffre cycle, which impressed Saunders with its deep sensuality and life-affirming power, led to her studying in Karlsruhe, where she began to cultivate her own musical language. Through Rihm, she also discovered the music of Galina Ustvolskaya, whose clarity and boldness, passion and obsessiveness, but also anger and aggression, electrified and fascinated Saunders immediately, and has since influenced her subsequent works. "Ustvolskaya’s ability to reduce her musical form of expression to such a bare and exposed structure; the essence, the purity, the absolute directness of her art – that is incredibly courageous. Nothing is superfluous, nothing trying to charm or please – just exactly said. Or not said." (Saunders)

Saunders has a near-obsession with the output of Samuel Beckett: "I find his works hypnotic and exceptionally inspiring – his word labyrinths returning to the same place, the multitudinous forms of silence, his semi-repetitions, his masterful ability to say nothing so exquisitely. And then there is another type of silence: the operational silence – the uncertainty, the waiting, not knowing what waiting is. That’s where the thrill happens. Beckett's notion of the unword, the thing between the words, the gap – the undisclosed, the hidden, under the surface, just out of reach.”

Saunders isn’t attempting to set his words to music, however, but rather to explore the framing and context, as well as the perception of its sounds and timbres. "Beckett weighs each and every word and its shadow, its echo. His writing has an intense lyricism, and his profoundly reduced, almost skeletal prose, is both merciless and almost brutal in its directness – and yet so fragile." (Saunders)

With a meticulous precision, an almost scientific approach to researching sound – a central aspect of her compositional process – as well as an incomparable sense of dynamism and immense energy, Saunders morphs her music of silence again and again into something new. “By the voice a faint light is shed. / Dark lightens while it sounds. / Deepens when it ebbs. / Is whole again when it ceases.” [Samuel Beckett: Company]

As a child, she enjoyed lying under the grand piano while her father played and bathing in the resonances. Listening's physical nature was, for Saunders, apparent at an early age. The intimate relationship between the musician and their instrument, sound and listener, proximity and distance, the spatial aspect of sound, are all of great importance to her. The performers' physicality often plays a significant role in her works, resulting in music that "sounds like how it is played" (Robert Adlington).

Indeed, it isn’t uncommon for her to structure a composition around the bodily movement that produces a specific sound, gesture, or sonic fragment. Prior to composing a piece, she frequently collaborates with performers in order to research sound material and to establish a close connection with the performer’s playing. But this is also an essential opportunity for Saunders to "experience the raw physicality of sound production" for the music she is creating. This intense correlation between a performer’s movements and the sound produced in Saunders’ music is clearly evident in her relationship with trumpeter Marco Blaauw, for whom she wrote the pieces Blaauw, Alba, White, and Neither. We are pleased that Mr Blaauw will be giving the laudation speech on Saunders’ oeuvre – the first time in the history of the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize that this will be given by an interpreter.

Award Ceremony on 7th June 2019 in the Prinzregententheater, Munich

The Ernst von Siemens Music Prize will be awarded to Rebecca Saunders on 7th June 2019 in the Prinzregententheater in Munich during a ceremonial concert. Peter Ruzicka, Chairman of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation Board, will present the prize. Ensemble Musikfabrik, with whom Saunders has worked closely for many years, will play Saunders’ piece Skin (2016) for soprano and 13 instruments under the direction of Enno Poppe. Additionally, the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation will award three Grants-In-Aid to young, promising composers. The prizes will be awarded by Thomas Angyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The names of the recipients will be revealed by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation at the end of February.

The Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation once again awards over €3.5 million

In total, the foundation has awarded over €3.5 million in prize money and subsidies in 2019. In 2019, around 120 worldwide projects in the contemporary music sector will likewise be awarded. The largest share of the funding is attributable to composition commissions, but festivals, concerts, children's and youth projects, academies and publications are also recipients. €250,000 has been assigned to the main prize, and €35,000 euros will be awarded to each of the composer prize-winners along with the production of a CD. In addition, the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation provides additional funding for the räsonanz – Stifterkonzerte series of concerts in cooperation with the LUCERNE FESTIVAL and musica viva (Bayerischer Rundfunk), which will take place on 2nd May 2019 in the Gasteig Concert Hall in Munich and on 9 th September 2019 at the KKL Lucerne.


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