2005 – George Tsontakis

American composer George Tsontakis has been selected to receive the prestigious 2005 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his Violin Concerto No. 2.

Described by one music critic as “a work of gentle beauty and intriguing orchestral sounds,” Tsontakis’s 20-minute concerto received its world premiere April 19, 2003, by Steven Copes, violin, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya. The concerto was recorded in September as part of a KOCH disc of the composer’s works.

In this somewhat atypical concerto, the violin soloist acts as a sort of first among equals, rather than always as the star, with the accompanying chamber orchestra functioning in many places as a group of soloists itself. The composer states that “the concept of ‘orchestral’ is diminished in deference to the concept of ‘chamber.'”

Violin Concerto No. 2 was one of more than 160 entries from around the world. Tsontakis is the 19th winner of the Grawemeyer music prize. Previous winners include Gyorgy Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, John Adams, Thomas Ades, Tan Dun, John Corigliano and, in 2004, Unsuk Chin.

About George Tsontakis
George Tsontakis has gained acclaim as a prolific and award-winning composer whose works are being performed by many prominent orchestras and musicians.Tsontakis-large.jpg

In recent years, his works have been performed in at least a dozen European countries and in some of the world’s revered venues, including Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall and New York’s Carnegie Hall. He has been commissioned in recent years by the symphonies of Baltimore, Oregon, Dallas and Albany, the National Symphony, the Oxford Philomusica, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Athens State Orchestra.

He also has composed works for the American, Blair, Colorado and Emerson string quartets, Da Camera of Houston, the American Brass Quintet, the New York Virtuoso Singers, the Broyhill Chamber ensemble, the Aspen Wind Quintet, Aureole and several American orchestras and ensembles.

Born in Astoria, N.Y., Tsontakis received a doctoral degree from The Juilliard School, where he studied with Roger Sessions. He has directed the Riverside Orchestra and the Metropolitan Greek Chorale in New York.

He has been composer-in-residence at the Aspen Music School and Festival since 1976, where he also founded and directed the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble from 1991 to 1998. His music has been recorded on the Hyperion, New World, CRI, KOCH and Opus One labels and published exclusively by Theodore Presser. Three CDs of his piano chamber music were released in November, two on KOCH and one on INNOVA

Tsontakis has twice been a winner of Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards — in 1989 for String Quartet No. 4, and in 1992 for the orchestral work “Perpetual Angelus.”

Pianist Stephen Hough’s recording of Tsontakis’ “Ghost Variations” was nominated for a Grammy Award for best contemporary classical composition in 1998. The recording also was cited by Time magazine as the only classical recording in its 1998 Top Ten Recordings listing. He is currently composing a piano concerto for Hough to be premiered with the Dallas Symphony in September 2005, when it will be recorded for Hyperion Records.

His many awards and fellowships include a Fulbright to Italy, where he studied with Franco Donatoni; a Guggenheim Fellowship; the 2002 Alberto Vilar Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin; and Koussevitsky and Fromm Foundation commissions.

In 1995, he received the American Academy of Arts and Letters lifetime achievement award, its highest honor for music composition.