Contempo, the University's new music collective, announced June 19 that Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina is the recipient of a prestigious Koussevitzky Music Foundation commission award. As a result, Gubaidulina will compose a new work to be performed on an upcoming Contempo season. As with all commissioned works through the Foundation, Gubaidulina's composition will be preserved in the Library of Congress' Koussevitzky Collection.
Named for the esteemed former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924-45, The Koussevitzky Music Foundation continues the charge of commissioning new works from prominent composers around the world. The Foundation, established by Koussevitzky in 1942, annually awards commissions in cooperation with a hosting organization, who nominates a composer during the application process. Winners are chosen by the Foundation, and the works are then usually written and premiered by the nominating organization within a two-year period.
"The commissioning of a work by one of the world's most lauded living composers puts the Music Department and the University of Chicago at the forefront of innovative music patronage," said Martha Feldman, Professor in Music and the College. "With it, we resume a program of commissioning at a world-class level of artistic distinction, innovation and public visibility. Gubaidulina is regarded by many as the leading post-Soviet composer, so it is especially exciting to be able to reinitiate this University commissioning program with a new Gubaidulina work."
In previous decades, Contempo (then known as the Contemporary Chamber Players) enjoyed a long tradition of commissioning new works. Under the direction of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Shulamit Ran, Contempo set out to resurrect this program in recent years, selecting Gubaidulina as a composer whose works were especially meaningful to the organization.
Over the past decade, Contempo's repertoire has included the Chicago premieres of numerous works by Gubaidulina, including the oratorio-like song cycle Perception for two voices and instrumental ensemble, Meditation on the Bach Chorale "Vor deinem Thron tret ich hiermit," and most recently De Profundis for solo accordion, performed on the 2008 Double-Bill concert at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
"These have been deeply moving experiences, extremely well-received by the musicians and by our audiences, leaving a very special resonance with all of us," said Ran. "Ms. Gubaidulina is indisputably one of the leading composers of our time, and we are thrilled that the Koussevitzky Foundation has awarded this commission on behalf of Contempo."
Gubaidulina's work has often been prized for its imagination, intellect, dramatic qualities and deep inner spirituality. With her award, Gubaidulina joins an auspicious list of former Koussevitzky commission winners, including Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók, Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland, John Cage and John Adams.
On a larger scale, the Koussevitzky commission represents an important step in the University's growing arts presence. "The interest in synergies between the arts and disciplines has never been more intense at the University of Chicago," said Feldman. "With the imminent opening of the Reva and David Logan Arts Center for Creative and Performing Arts, now is a brilliant time in our institutional history to establish such a relationship. To await a work from Sofia Gubaidulina is to be in a very special position."