January 23, 1997

Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
Public Contact: Kevin LaVine (202) 707-3686

Koussevitzky Commissions Announced

The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation Inc. have awarded commissions for new musical works to 11 composers. The commissions are being granted jointly by the foundations and the performing organizations that will present the newly composed works.

Award winners and the groups co-sponsoring their commissions are: Franco Donatoni and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Robert Helps and the Dunsmuir String Quartet; Donald Martino and the Parnassus Contemporary Music Ensemble; David Rakowski and Ensemble 21; Steve Reich and cellist Maya Beiser; Morris Rosenzweig and the Abramyan String Quartet; Christopher Rouse and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Bright Sheng and the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra; Richard Wernick and the Mohawk Trail Concerts; Richard Wilson and the American Symphony Orchestra; and Charles Wuorinen and the Milwaukee and Berkeley symphony orchestras.

The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation of New York, founded in 1950 and 1942, respectively, perpetuate Koussevitzky's lifelong efforts to encourage contemporary composers.

Serge Koussevitzky was appointed conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1924 and served in that post for 25 years. He died in 1951. Works commissioned by him and the two foundations include established masterpieces such as Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes and Bela Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.

Commissions are awarded annually and on a competitive basis, and are open to performing organizations or individuals and to composers without regard to national origin or affiliation. Groups must submit the name of a composer whose work they would like to commission jointly with the foundations, and they must undertake to perform the work within two years of its completion. Manuscripts of commissioned works are deposited in the Music Division of the Library of Congress.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic joins the foundations in commissioning a new work from composer Franco Donatoni. Born in 1927 in Verona, Italy, Mr. Donatoni studied in Milan and Bologna before enrolling at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he was a pupil of Ildebrando Pizzetti. He has received numerous honors, awards and commissions, including the Lieges, Radio Luxembourg and ISCM prizes, and in 1968 he received a Koussevitzky foundations commission for his Orts, for chamber ensemble. Mr. Donatoni presently is a professor of composition at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, as well as at professional academies in Milan, Biella and Brescia.

A native of Passaic, N.J., composer Robert Helps was born in 1928. He studied at the Juilliard School of Music and was a student of Roger Sessions. A pianist as well as a composer, Mr. Helps is very active as both a soloist and chamber music pianist, and he has been featured in recitals throughout the United States. He is noted particularly for his interpretations of 20th century piano repertoire, of which he has made several recordings. Currently on the music faculty at the University of South Florida, Mr. Helps is a recipient of awards in composition from the National Endowment for the Arts, and from the Guggenheim, Ford and Froom foundations, among many others. The California-based Dunsmuir Piano Quartet join the Koussevitzky Foundations in sponsoring Mr. Helps's new chamber work.

This marks the second Koussevitzky commission for composer Donald Martino, whose Fantasies and Impromptus for piano solo was completed in 1981. Mr. Martino was born in Plainfield, N.J. in 1931. He attended Syracuse and Princeton Universities and studied composition with Ernst Bacon, Roger Sessions, Milton Babbitt and Luigi Dallapiccola. Mr. Martino has served on the music faculties of several institutions, including Princeton, Yale, Brandeis and Harvard Universities. His many awards include two Fulbright grants, three Guggenheim fellowships, the 1985 Kennedy Center Friedheim Competition, and a Naumburg Award, which resulted in the composition of his Notturno (1973) and for which he was awarded the 1974 Pulitzer Prize in music. Mr. Martino's commission is awarded jointly by the foundations and the Parnassus Contemporary Music Ensemble of New York.

The contemporary music group Ensemble 21 commissions with the foundations a new chamber work from American composer David Rakowski. Born in St. Albans, Vt., in 1958, Mr. Rakowski holds degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music and Princeton University; he has studied with Milton Babbitt and Luciano Berio. He is the recipient of several awards and fellowships, including those from the Guggenheim, Fromm and Rockefeller Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and from the American Academy in Rome. Mr. Rakowski is currently a professor of music at Columbia University. He is also a well-known creator of digital typefaces for IBM and Macintosh computers, and he has written software for computer-assisted ear training.

Composer Steve Reich is commissioned by the foundations and cellist Maya Beiser, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to create a work for cello soloist and pre-recorded tape. Born in New York in 1936, Mr. Reich graduated with honors in philosophy from Cornell University. He subsequently studied composition with Hall Overton, with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti at the Juilliard School of Music, and with Darius Milhaud and Luciano Berio at Mills College. Mr. Reich has also studied African drumming, Balinese gamelan music, and the traditional chant of the Hebrew scriptures. The composer has received numerous honors, such as a Fromm Foundation commission, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, a Guggenheim fellowship, and a previous commission from the Koussevitzky Foundations for his Three Movements for Orchestra, completed in 1986.

The Abramyan String Quartet joins the foundations in commissioning a new work from composer Morris Rosenzweig, a faculty member at the University of Utah. Mr. Rosenzweig studied at the Eastman School of Music, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Composers Conference, as well as the McCurdy, Nietche, Rappoport and International Horn Society awards in composition. Mr. Rosenzweig conducts the Chamber Players of the League - ISCM in New York and serves as guest conductor with many other ensembles.

Christopher Rouse's commission is awarded jointly by the foundations and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for the composition of a septet for winds and strings. Currently a professor of composition at the Eastman School of Music, Mr. Rouse's many honors include awards from the League of Composers - ISCM, the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim fellowship, the 1988 Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, and the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for music for his Trombone Concerto (1991). Born in Baltimore in 1949, Mr. Rouse has received degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Cornell University, and he has studied primarily with George Crumb, Karel Husa, Richard Hoffman and Robert Palmer.

The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra co-sponsors a new work from composer Bright Sheng. Born in Shanghai in 1955, Mr. Sheng spent seven years in Chinghai province, located near the Tibetan border, performing and studying folk music of the region. He moved to the United States in 1982 and subsequently attended Queens College, the City University of New York, and Columbia University. Among his teachers were Leonard Bernstein, Jack Beeson, Chou Wen-Chung, George Perle and Hugo Weisgall. Mr. Sheng has received honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Naumburg and Jerome foundations, among others. Mr. Sheng has also served as composer-in-residence at institutions such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. In addition to composition, Mr. Sheng is active as a pianist, lecturer and conductor throughout the United States and abroad.

Richard Wernick, born in Boston in 1934, studied composition with Irving Fine, Harold Shapero and Arthur Berger at Brandeis University, and with Leon Kirchner at Mills College. He pursued further study in composition with Boris Blacher and Aaron Copland, and in conducting with Leonard Bernstein and Seymour Lipkin. At the beginning of his career as a composer, Mr. Wernick was very active in writing for theater, film and television productions. Since that time, he has been a member of the music faculties of the State University of New York at Buffalo and the University of Chicago, and he presently teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Wernick has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1977 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Visions of Terror and Wonder (1976), for mezzo-soprano and orchestra. The Mohawk Trail Concerts, based in Shelburne Falls, Mass., co-commissions Mr. Wernick for the composition of an original work for violin, viola and cello.

The American Symphony Orchestra joins the foundations in sponsoring a new orchestral work from its composer-in-residence, Richard Wilson. A native of Cleveland, Mr. Wilson attended Harvard and Rutgers universities. Since 1966 he has been on the music faculty of Vassar College. Mr. Wilson has received numerous commissions and awards, including those from the Naumburg Foundation, the Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His works are written for a wide range of musical genres, from chamber works to opera, and they have been performed by musical ensembles throughout the world. Mr. Wilson is also very active as a lecturer and piano soloist.

In conjunction with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, the Koussevitzky Foundations have awarded a third commission to Charles Wuorinen to compose a large work for guitar and orchestra. Mr. Wuorinen was born in New York in 1938, and studied composition with Otto Luening, Jack Beeson and Vladimir Ussachevsky at Columbia University. He has served as faculty member and visiting lecturer at institutions such as the Manhattan School of Music, Columbia University, Princeton University, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Berkshire Music Center, and the universities of Iowa, South Florida, and California. Mr. Wuorinen's many honors and grants include two Guggenheim fellowships, four BMI awards, two Rockefeller Foundation fellowships, and a Pulitzer Prize for his Time's Encomium (1970), for orchestra and pre-recorded tape. Mr. Wuorinen is also noted for his virtuosity as a pianist and conductor. As a writer and lecturer, he is regarded as an eloquent proponent of contemporary music. He has been actively involved in the establishment of several musical organizations such as the influential Group for Contemporary Music and the American Composers Orchestra.

# # #

PR 97-8
1/23/97
ISSN 0731-3527

Back to top