Zivkovic wins Grawemeyer music prize

“On the Guarding of the Heart,” a piece for chamber orchestra by Serbian-born composer Djuro Zivkovic, has won the 2014 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

The 20-minute work “makes a huge emotional journey in a relatively short period of time, moving through many landscapes between the mysterious, moody opening and the ecstatic conclusion,” said award director Marc Satterwhite.

“The composer also makes wonderful use of the colors of the 14-piece ensemble. The instruments are used in fascinating ways, both traditional and otherwise … that shape the sound of unnatural, echoing beauty,” he said.

Zivkovic, 38, describes the piece as an “instrumental cantata” inspired by the religious music of Bach. Its main theme is the need to return to oneself.

“It is about hard-achieved detachment, stillness and watchfulness, it’s about solitude and exile,” the composer said.

Born in Belgrade in 1975, Zivkovic has lived in Stockholm, Sweden, since 2000. He is active as a violinist and violist—with a special interest in improvisation—and teaches at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.

Austrian ensemble Klangforum Wien gave the first performance of “On the Guarding of the Heart” in November 2011 in Belgrade. The piece also has been performed in Vienna and Bergen.

UofL presents four Grawemeyer Awards each year for outstanding works in music composition, world order, psychology and education. The university and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give a fifth award in religion. This year’s awards are $100,000 each.

About Djuro Zivkovic

Djuro Zivkovic has said he believes art should be viewed not just as an aesthetic object but an ethical entity that is central and essential to the world, and that music should offer the possibility to change humankind and the world’s destiny for the better.

As a performer, he plays the violin and viola. He performs a standard repertoire as well as 20th century music, including pieces written for him.

As a composer, his music has been commissioned, performed, recorded and broadcast across Europe and North America by ensembles such as Sonanza, Klangforum Wien, Trio Fibonacci, Musica Vitae Chamber Orchestra, BIT20 and Stockholm Symphonic Wind Orchestra and people such as conductors Emilio Pomarico and Baldur Brönnimann and Swedish contralto Anna Larsson.

He holds a Swedish Grammy Award 2010 (Grammis) with Sonanza for his piece “Le Cimetière Marin” for mezzo-soprano and ensemble.
Influenced at an early age by folklore and Byzantine music, he has developed a wide range of composing techniques such as polyrhythms, improvisation, harmony-based scales and microtones. Over the past decade, he has become particularly interested in harmonic organization, an area he has identified as crucial in modern compositions.

Zivkovic has said he prefers to build chords in his pieces based on how they relate to each other rather than how they exist separately. His “harmonic field” technique is now a topic of academic research at Graz University in Austria and can be found in several of his works, including “Le Cimetière Marin” and “The White Angel.”

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