Jennifer Higdon Awarded 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music

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Jennifer Higdon

Jennifer Higdon has been awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, which received its premiere performance by Hilary Hahn and the Indianapolis Symphony conducted by Mario Venzago on February 6, 2009, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The citation describes the work as “a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity.” Also nominated as finalists in this category were: String Quartet No. 3, by Fred Lerdahl, premiered on December 8, 2009, in Cleveland, Ohio; and Steel Hammer, by Julia Wolfe (G. Schirmer, Inc./Red Poppy), premiered on November 13, 2009, in Gainesville, Florida. The jury for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music included: composer Joseph Schwantner (chair); Maria Schneider, composer and bandleader; John Rockwell, author and music critic; Delta David Gier, music director, South Dakota Symphony, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Chuck Owen, composer and professor of jazz studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.

“I gotta tell you, I’m over the moon,” exclaimed Jennifer Higdon in a telephone conversation this afternoon. (Click here to read more of Higdon’s thoughts about winning the Pulitzer.)

“I was overjoyed by this news,” said Hilary Hahn. “It was both artistically and intellectually rewarding to collaborate with Jennifer on this concerto, and she put so much energy into the work. She has been a wonderful colleague throughout the whole process, attending nearly every performance of the piece as well as the recording sessions in Liverpool last spring. From a performer’s perspective, there’s no substitute for that kind of support. Congratulations, Jennifer!”

Higdon’s Violin Concerto is the first orchestral score by a self-published composer to receive this accolade which also includes a cash prize of ten thousand dollars. The piece, recorded by Hahn and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko, is slated for a September 2010 release (September 21 in the United States) on the Deutsche Grammophon label paired with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.

In addition to honoring Higdon, the Pulitzer committee awarded a posthumous special citation to Hank Williams “for his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life.”—FJO

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Read and watch a conversation with Jennifer Higdon from our archives.

Hilary Hahn talks to Higdon about the composition process surrounding the Violin Concerto.