Australian composer, violist, and conductor Brett Dean has won the 2009 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing (2006) [audio sample]. The Grawemeyer, granted annually by the University of Louisville, is worth $200,000. Dean is the first composer from Australia to win the award.
The Lost Art of Letter Writing was commissioned by the Cologne Philharmonie and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra for violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann. Brett Dean conducted the premiere in 2007 at the Philharmonie in Cologne with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Each movement in the half-hour concerto begins with an excerpt from a 19th-century letter, with a violin evoking the mood of each letter as it plays the alternate roles of writer and recipient. Authors of the letters include composers Johannes Brahms and Hugo Wolf, artist Vincent Van Gogh, and Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.