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British composer Rebecca Saunders has been awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale.

The Berlin-based British composer Rebecca Saunders (London, 1967) has been awarded the Golden Lion at the 68th Venice Biennale, the event’s organisers announced on Tuesday. The decision was made by the Board of Directors of La Biennale di Venezia upon recommendation by Lucia Ronchetti, director of the Music Department. The award ceremony will take place on 27 September in the Colonnade Hall of the Palazzo Ca’ Giustinian. The Ensemble Modern, which has been awarded the Silver Lion, will premiere two of Saunders’ compositions during the 2024 edition of the Venice Biennale, which will take place from 26 September to 11 October.

Saunders, 56, has been honoured for “the refined sophistication of her research and compositional intentions, for the attention she devotes to sonic microcosm, for her ability to create a private listening space within the listener”. The Frankfurt-based Ensemble Modern received the award “for its fearless and courageous creation of musical projects in collaboration with the most interesting and renowned composers and performers”.

Saunders was, in 2019, the first woman to be awarded the Ernst-von-Siemens Prize, and has been featured at events such as the Lucerne Festival and Berlin’s Musikfest.

Rebecca Saunders has explained her research as follows: “Surface, weight and feel are part of the reality of musical performance: the weight of the bow on the string; the differentiation of touch of the finger on the piano key; the expansion of the muscles between the shoulder blades drawing sound out of the accordion; the in-breath preceding the ‘heard’ tone. Being aware of the grit and noise of an instrument, or a voice, reminds us of the presence of a fallible physical body behind the sound. This physical presence of the musician and his acoustic instrument, and of sound itself, are important sources of inspiration”.

Photograph of Rebecca Saunders (© Astrid Ackermann), downloaded from the composer’s website.