Grawemeyer Composition Award Announces 2023 Winner
British composer Julian Anderson won the prestigious award and $100,000 for his work “Litanies” for cello and orchestra
Named for entrepreneur and philanthropist H. Charles Grawemeyer, the annual Grawemeyer Awards was founded in 1984 at the University of Louisville to honor achievements in five categories — including music composition, education, religion, psychology, and ideas improving world order.
As winner of the 2023 Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition, 55-year-old composer Julian Anderson will visit Louisville alongside other category winners in the spring, where he will speak about his work and be presented the award and $100,000 cash prize.
Written in 2019, Anderson’s winning piece, Litanies, was completed several months after Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral fire and a year after the death of esteemed composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, who was a close friend.
“Notre Dame burned while I was writing the piece,” Anderson said. “It was traumatizing to watch such an important icon of civilization go up in flames. The experience affected my writing.”
The slow movement of Litanies is written in memory of Knussen, whose death also impacted the composition. “There is a sense of time running out,” he explained in The New York Times about the piece’s cadenza that gradually dissipates.
The 25-minute concerto premiered in February 2020 in Paris at the Auditorium de Radio France with cellist and dedicatee of the work, Alban Gerhardt, and French conductor Pascal Rophé. Litanies was commissioned by Radio France, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, and Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne.
“I am overjoyed and deeply honored to [receive this award]. My concerto Litanies was inspired by the special qualities of cellist Alban Gerhardt, to whom it is dedicated,” Anderson said. “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.”
“Litanies explores virtually every sound a cello and orchestra can make together,” added Marc Satterwhite, director of the Grawemeyer music award. “It spans a vast emotional range and is constantly inventive, but always toward an expressive end, never for the sake of novelty.”
A short excerpt of Litanies with Gerhardt playing with Swedish Chamber Orchestra and conductor John Storgards can be viewed below.
Early in his career, Anderson studied with John Lambert, Alexander Goehr, and Tristan Murail. His work has been commissioned by the Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and Cleveland Orchestra, plus ensembles across Europe.
Additionally, he is a professor of composition and composer-in-residence at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama since 2007 and has taught music composition at Harvard University and the Royal College of Music. In 2021, he received the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his outstanding service to music.
Nominations for the 2024 Grawemeyer Awards are now open and will close on January 17, 2023. For more information, click here.