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British composer Julian Anderson is awarded the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for 2023.

British composer and composition teacher Julian Anderson (London, 1967) has been awarded the 2023 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his cello concerto Litanies. The prize is endowed with $100,000 in recognition of outstanding achievement by a living composer.

“The piece explores virtually every sound a cello and orchestra can make together,” said Marc Satterwhite, who directs 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.” The work, premiered on 12 February 2020 at the Auditorium de Radio France in Paris, pays tribute to his close friend Oliver Knussen, the late Scottish composer and conductor, in which capacity he had premiered and recorded several of Anderson’s major chamber and orchestral works, including Book of Hours, The Comedy of Change, Alhambra Fantasy, Heaven is Shy of Earth, Diptych and The Stations of the Sun.

Knussen died in July 2018 and in April 2019, while writing the play, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned down. “Notre Dame burned while I was writing the piece,” he said. “It was traumatizing to watch such an important icon of civilization go up in flames. The experience affected my writing. Litanies was inspired by the special qualities of cellist Alban Gerhardt, to whom it is dedicated. The ‘Litanies’ in the title allude both to the loss of a dear friend and to the destruction of a world monument. I am deeply grateful to the Grawemeyer Prize jury for their recognition of a work that is both an act of remembrance and a celebration of musical beauty.”

The Grawemeyer Music Prize was established in 1984 by American industrialist, entrepreneur and patron of the arts Henry Charles Grawemeyer (Louisville, 1912-1993). In 1988, new categories were added: Ideas Improving  World Order (1988), Education (1989), Religion (1990) and finally Psychology (in 2000). This year’s awards will be presented during Grawemeyer Week, 27-30 March 2023, at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

© Photograph by John Batten, dowloaded from Grawemeyer Awards’ website.