The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, Inc. have awarded commissions for new musical works to eight composers. Jointly granting the commissions are the foundations and the performing organizations that will present the newly composed works.
Award winners and the groups co-sponsoring their commissions are John Aylward and the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society; Anthony Cheung and the Talea Ensemble; Jason Eckardt and the NOVA Chamber Music Series; Agustín Fernández and the Momenta Quartet; Jennifer Higdon and the Cypress String Quartet; Laura Kaminsky and the St. Petersburg (Russia) Chamber Philharmonic; Harold Meltzer and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra; and Benoît Mernier and the Pro Arte Quartet.
John Aylward is commissioned to write a work for chamber ensemble for the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society. Alyward’s work as a composer has been recognized through numerous awards, including the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Fulbright grant, and First Prize from the International Society for Contemporary Music. As a performer, author and researcher, he established the Etchings Festival, held in Auvillar, France, and has written about the music of Elliott Carter. Alyward is on the faculty of music composition and theory at Clark University in Massachusetts.
The Talea Ensemble of New York joins the foundations in commissioning composer and pianist Anthony Cheung, who is co-founder and artistic director of the group. A native of San Francisco, Cheung was educated at Harvard and Columbia universities and is currently a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. His works have been programmed internationally by numerous ensembles and at contemporary music festivals across Europe. Cheung was awarded First Prize and Public Prize at the 6th International Dutilleux Competition, and he has received honors from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
This marks Jason Eckardt’s second Koussevitzky commission. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Eckardt received a doctorate in composition as a Presidential Fellow at Columbia University. He serves on the faculties of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Active as a promoter of new music, he is co-founder and executive director of Ensemble 21, a contemporary performance group in New York. Eckardt will write a new chamber music work featuring a piano solo with strings for the NOVA Chamber Music Series of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Agustín Fernández was a child performer playing the charango at folk clubs in his native Bolivia before undertaking formal music studies. He then trained in Japan prior to settling in the United Kingdom. Fernández was composer-in-residence at Queen’s University, Belfast, and served on the faculties of the Dartington College of Arts and, since 1995, Newcastle University, where he is chairman of the music composition department. His works have been commissioned for the Royal Opera House’s Garden Venture and the London International Opera Festival. Fernández will write a new work for the New York-based Momenta Quartet.
Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award that same year, composer Jennifer Higdon has been commissioned by a broad list of ensembles, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Tokyo String Quartet and the United States Marine Band. Her works are widely performed each year, with her orchestral work blue cathedral having been programmed by more than 250 orchestras since its premiere in 2000. Higdon’s new Koussevitzky commission will be written for the Cypress String Quartet.
Laura Kaminsky is artistic director of Symphony Space in New York City and is professor of music at Purchase College, State University of New York. A graduate of Oberlin and the City College of New York, she has received commissions, fellowships and awards as both a composer and presenter. She co-founded Musicians’ Accord in 1980 – an ensemble devoted to the promotion of new music – was on the board of the American Music Center, and currently serves as a director of Chamber Music America. Her new work is written for the St. Petersburg (Russia) Chamber Philharmonic.
Harold Meltzer is a director of Sequitur Ensemble in New York, a new music group he also co-founded. Educated at Amherst College, King’s College, Cambridge, and Yale universities, as well as Columbia Law School, Meltzer’s work as a composer has been recognized by numerous commissions and other honors, including a recent commission from the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group. He was named a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Meltzer teaches composition at Vassar College. His Koussevitzky commission will be written for the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra.
The Pro Arte Quartet joins with the Koussevitzky foundations in commissioning Belgian composer Benoît Mernier to write a new string quartet. Winner of composition prizes from UNESCO and the Royal Academy of Belgium, among others, Mernier’s first opera was commissioned by the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie (Brussels). His compositions have been featured at leading arts festivals in Europe. Mernier, who is a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium, is also active as a concert organist and teacher of performance and improvisation; he serves as organist at Notre Dame au Sablon in Brussels.
Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949, was a champion of contemporary music. Throughout his distinguished career, he played a vital role in the creation of new works by commissioning composers such as Béla Bartók, Leonard Bernstein and Igor Stravinsky. He established the Koussevitzky foundations to continue his lifelong commitment to composers and new music. Applications for commissions are accepted annually.