The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation Inc. have awarded commissions for new musical works to five 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: Brian Current and the Symphony Nova Scotia; John Harbison and the New York New Music Ensemble; Donald Harris and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra; Oliver Knussen and the Philadelphia Orchestra along with the Pittsburgh Symphony; David Rakowski and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.
The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation of New York, established in 1950 and 1942, respectively, perpetuate Koussevitzky’s lifelong efforts to encourage contemporary composers. Commissions are awarded annually.
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 on a competitive basis and are open to performing organizations or individuals and to composers regardless of national origin or affiliation. Performing groups must submit an application for a composer whose work they would like to commission jointly with the foundations, and they must perform the work within two years of its completion. Manuscripts of commissioned works are deposited in the Music Division of the Library of Congress. More information can be found on the Web at www.koussevitzky.org.
The Foundations and the Symphony Nova Scotia commission Brian Current to compose a new orchestral work. Current studied with Bengt Hambreaus and John Rea at McGill University, and received his Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Berkeley. His music is widely performed, and has been broadcast in over 35 countries. Current’s awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Barlow Prize, for which he was commissioned to write a work for the Indianapolis Symphony and the American Composers Orchestra. His work For the Time Being opened the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 2002. Current teaches conducting at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Glenn Gould School, where he was recently appointed conductor and artistic director of its New Music Ensemble.
This marks the second Koussevitzky commission for composer John Harbison, whose orchestral work Diôtima was written for the foundation in 1976. He will compose a chamber work for the New York New Music Ensemble. Harbison received degrees from Harvard and Princeton Universities, studying with Walter Piston and Roger Sessions. His long list of distinguished commissions includes those from The Metropolitan Opera, where The Great Gatsby was premiered in 1999, the New York Philharmonic, and from Pope John Paul II for the Papal Concert of Reconciliation. Harbison received the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for The Flight into Egypt, and he was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship in 1989. He is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Columbus Symphony Orchestra joins with the Foundations in commissioning an orchestral work from Donald Harris. His Prelude to a Concert in Connecticut, for orchestra, was completed in 1981 on a commission from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation. The composer studied under Ross Lee Finney at the University of Michigan, and continued working under Lukas Foss, Boris Blacher, Nadia Boulanger, and Max Deutsch. He has been commissioned by the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation in the Library of Congress, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Radio France, and the Cleveland Orchestra, among others. Harris also received Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships, and the 1989 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. He served as a music consultant to the United States Information Service in Paris from 1954-1968 and produced the first post-war Festival of Contemporary American Music. Harris is the Emeritus Dean of the College of the Arts and a professor of music composition in the School of Music at Ohio State University.
The Koussevitzky Music Foundation presents its second commission to British composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, whose Ophelia Dances I, for chamber orchestra, was written for the Foundations in 1975. He will compose a new orchestral work for the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony. Knussen was a pupil of John Lambert, and then studied with Gunther Schuller at the Tanglewood Music Center, where he later headed the Contemporary Music Activities from 1986-1998. Knussen has appeared world-wide as conductor, and records exclusively with Deutsche Grammophon. Among his many notable honors are the 2006 Nemmers Composition Prize, an honorary doctorate from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and the Association of British Orchestras’ Award. Notable among his commissions, the opera Where the Wild Things Are was written in collaboration with Maurice Sendak for the Glyndebourne Festival. Knussen serves as Music Director for the London Sinfonietta.
David Rakowski will be composing an orchestral work for the Foundations and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. His first Koussevitzky commission was awarded in 1996 for Sesso e Violenza, a work for chamber ensemble. Rakowski received degrees from the New England Conservatory and Princeton University, studying under Robert Ceely, Milton Babbitt, Peter Westergaard, Paul Lansky, and Luciano Berio. Rakowski founded the Griffin Music Ensemble of Boston. Commissions have come from Boston Musica Viva, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Cambridge University, the United States Marine Band, and other leading ensembles. Among Rakowski’s honors are the Rome Prize, the Barlow Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is professor of composition at Brandeis University.