1986 – Gyorgy Ligeti

A 62-year-old composer who lives in Austria has won the second University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

Gyorgy Ligeti, who was born in Hungary and now makes his home in Vienna, received the prize for his “Etudes for Piano,” a set of six short works. None of the pieces are longer than 3 and one-half minutes, but they are “major, major music,” said Nelson Keyes, executive secretary of the Grawemeyer Award.

The works had their European premiere last year; their American premiere will come at a concert this fall in Louisville, when Ligeti comes to receive the prize. No date has been set.

Ligeti said he plans to use the $150,000 prize, which is paid in five annual installments of $30,000 each, to establish a foundation for young artists.

Ligeti’s works were among 125 compositions from 25 countries that were submitted for the 1985 Grawemeyer competition. The entries were screened by U of L faculty members. About 30 scores were submitted to an international jury composed of “Chicago Tribune” music critic John von Rhein, Louisville Orchestra conductor Lawrence Leighton Smith and 1985 Grawemeyer winner Witold Lutoslawski. The jury then submitted three finalists to a six-member committee headed by U of L School of Music Dean Jerry Ball.

Ligeti has been considered a major influence on 20th century music since the 1960 premiere of his “Apparitions” at an International Society of Contemporary Music concert in Cologne. Earlier, he had taught at the Budapest Academy of Music; he left that institution in 1956 and moved to Vienna in search of artistic freedom.

Much of Ligeti’s work has been in the area of electronic techniques. However, in recent years his work has reflected an interest in Central African tribal music and the works of Conlon Nancarrow, who lives in Mexico.

(Some information was taken from The Courier-Journal, 3/25/86)