Article: Where Awards Still Mean Something
By: Pia Catton
When it comes to classical music, the difference between what’s new and what’s “new to you” can leave an otherwise well-rounded person feeling culturally clueless while sipping bubbly at highbrow pool parties. The good news is, there’s a shortcut through the information pipeline: awards.
Awards are often derided in the “popular arts”—most rock stars would rather fall off the stage than win a Grammy—but in classical music, many awards boost the visibility of artists who deserve wider recognition among fans of the form. Honors in the field can develop an audience and, to some degree, the presenting institutions as well.
This week, two concerts connected to classical-music awards will perform this double duty, giving you enough to be in-the-know wherever you are.
On Tuesday, the New York Philharmonic will give a special concert, featuring the ubiquitous Yo-Yo Ma, to celebrate the inaugural Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music, a biennial honor recognizing “extraordinary artistic endeavor in the field of new music.” Mr. Ma is not the recipient—I was just shamelessly name dropping there. The Kravis prize, which was announced in December, is going to the nonagenarian French composer Henri Dutilleux for his contributions to the modern repertoire.
Not familiar with Monsieur Dutilleux? Don’t go hide in the cabana. Though widely admired among musicians, “to the general public, he is not as well known,” said pianist and selection-committee member Emanuel Ax (who, if you’re title-dropping, is also the orchestra’s artist-in-residence). “This is a wonderful chance to have his music played.”
Said cellist Joshua Gindele of the Miró Quartet, which will perform at Tuesday’s concert, “He stands to be remembered as one of the great French composers in Western classical music. Dutilleux is in the line of Debussy and Ravel.”
The Miró Quartet, based in Austin, Texas, will perform Mr. Dutilleux’s string quartet, which is part of the group’s standard repertory. “There were a handful of pieces that the Quartet felt were important in the last 40 years, and we set out to understand and learn them,” Mr. Gindele said. “We felt they were going to be around for a long time.”
Mr. Dutilleux, who was born in the small Western city of Angers in 1916, will be represented by two additional works: “Metaboles,” for orchestra, and the cello concerto “Tout un monde lointain (A Whole Distant World).” Of the latter, Mr. Ax said: “Every cellist I know plays that piece. It has really taken hold in terms of repertoire.”
Mr. Dutilleux has won numerous awards in Europe, but this honor aims to raise his profile in America. And, by asking that the $200,000 prize be shared with three other composers, each of whom will compose a new work for the Philharmonic, he’ll be sharing the award in a way that extends its significance to the next generation of composers. One of the three, the Hungarian Peter Eötvös, has already been announced; on Tuesday, the Philharmonic’s music director, Alan Gilbert, will announce the others.
Agence France-Presse/Getty ImagesFrench composer Henri Dutilleux
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