(November 30, 2004) - Yaddo composer George Tsontakis has won the 2005 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his Violin Concerto No. 2, a piece he worked on at Yaddo.
Described by one music critic as “a work of gentle beauty and intriguing orchestral sounds,” Tsontakis’ 20-minute concerto received its world premiere April 19, 2003, with violinist Steven Copes and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya. In the piece, the violin soloist acts as a sort of first among equals, rather than always as a star, with the accompanying chamber orchestra functioning in many places as a group of soloists itself. The concerto was recorded in September as part of a yet to be released Koch International Classics disc of the composer’s works.
One of the most prestigious prizes in classical music composition, the $200,000 Grawemeyer Award has achieved international recognition and annually attracts up to 200 entries from around the world. Three other Yaddo composers have received the award – Chinary Ung in 1989 for Inner Voices, Karel Husa in 1993 for Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra, and Aaron Jay Kernis in 2002 for Colored Field.
A faculty member of the Aspen Music School in Aspen, Colorado, since 1976, the 53-year-old Tsontakis was the founding director of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble from 1991 to 1998 and has directed the Riverside Orchestra and the Metropolitan Greek Chorale in New York City. He has twice received Kennedy Center Awards and was the Vilar Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in 2002. In 1995, Tsontakis received the coveted award for lifetime achievement from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Pianist Stephen Hough’s recording of Tsontakis’ Ghost Variations (listen to a short clip) – primarily written at Yaddo – was nominated for a Grammy Award for best contemporary classical composition and was cited by Time magazine as the only classical recording among its 1998 “Top Ten Recordings.” Tsontakis has been a guest artist at Yaddo several times, most recently earlier this year, and is a Director of The Corporation of Yaddo.
An April, 2005, ceremony is scheduled for formal presentation of the award.