American composer Pierre Jalbert has been named the winner in the second Masterprize composer competition. He picked up a cash award of £30,000 given by the BBC and EMI during an awards ceremony presided over by the Duchess of Kent.
The 33-year old composer’s piece, In Aeternam, was up against the work of four other composers, including two Americans. Details of the competition and in-depth interviews with each of the three American Masterprize finalists are included in a news item from the August issue of NewMusicBox.
As part of the final round of the competition, all five works were performed during a gala concert by the London Symphony at the Barbican Centre in mid-October. The concert and award ceremony were broadcast globally to an estimated audience of 100 million.
Jalbert is currently an assistant professor of music at Rice University and serves as the California Symphony‘s Young American Composer-in-Residence. Back in the States after the Masterprize competition, he said that “the performance with the London Symphony was wonderful. This young conductor, Daniel Harding, did all the pieces and was incredible. He was so responsive to what the composers wanted and extremely flexible.”
Jalbert was also impressed by the genial atmosphere among the composers in London. “I think what I’ll remember most is actually attending the rehearsals, hearing the other composers’ works in rehearsal and in performance, and hanging out with the other composers. It was amazing how well we all hit it off together.” Contrary to the tension one might imagine would go along with a contest of this sort, Jalbert found that “there was none of this cut-throat competitive spirit. We’d go out to lunch and talk about the current state of new music.”
Jalbert won’t have much time to revel in his accomplishment. He’s already at work on a new piece for Barry Jekowsky and the California Symphony, which they will premiere next May during his final season as the orchestra’s Young American Composer-in-Residence. After that, Jalbert has plans to write a new work for Kevin Noe and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.
As for that substantial cash prize, Jalbert, the father of two small children, very pragmatically acknowledges that the prize money will be put towards the family bills.
Now that he’s been through the process, Jalbert feels that Masterprize’s mission to advance new music is being successfully realized through this competition. “Whatever one may think of competitions, Masterprize enabled all the music of the 12 semi-finalists and 5 finalists to reach millions of people through the BBC’s numerous broadcasts of the music worldwide, through the distribution of a CD in the BBC magazine, through Masterprize’s internet site which contained recordings of all the finalists’ works, and through the broadcast of the final concert with the London Symphony. This is what a composer wants — to reach listeners.
“Hopefully, all of this will produce a few new listeners.”