Tsontakis’ Violin Concerto No. 2 Wins $200,000 Grawemeyer Prize

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George Tsontakis

Listen to an excerpt from George Tsontakis’s Violin Concerto No. 2


The 2005 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition has been awarded to George Tsontakis’s Violin Concerto No. 2.

Violinist Steven Copes premiered the work with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya in April 2003. A recording of the 20-minute concerto will be released on KOCH next year as part of a disc devoted to the composer’s works.

Tsontakis’s award-winning violin concerto capitalizes on the fact that it is scored for soloist with chamber orchestra (as opposed full symphony accompaniment). Though the soloist does take star turns, the composer doesn’t relegate the ensemble to a mere supporting role.

Tsontakis studied composition with Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School. A faculty member of the Aspen Music School since 1976, he was the founding director of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble from 1991 until 1998.


Previous Winners

  • 2004: Unsuk Chin—Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
  • 2003: Kaija Saariaho—L`amour de loin
  • 2002: Aaron Jay Kernis—Colored Field
  • 2001: Pierre Boulez—Sur Incises
  • 2000: Thomas Ades—Asyla
  • 1999: Not Awarded
  • 1998: Tan Dun—Marco Polo
  • 1997: Simon Bainbridge—Ad Ora Incerta—Four Orchestral Songs from Primo Levi
  • 1996: Ivan Tcherepnin—Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra
  • 1995: John Adams—Violin Concerto
  • 1994: Toru Takemitsu—Fantasma/Cantos for Clarinet and Orchestra
  • 1993: Karel Husa—Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra
  • 1992: Krzysztof Penderecki—Adagio for Large Orchestra
  • 1991: John Corigliano—Symphony No. 1
  • 1990: Joan Tower—Silver Ladders
  • 1989: Chinary Ung—Inner Voices
  • 1988: Not Awarded
  • 1987: Harrison Birtwistle—The Mask of Orpheus
  • 1986: Gyorgy Ligeti—Etudes for Piano
  • 1985: Witold Lutoslawski—Symphony No. 3

Tsontakis has twice received Kennedy Center awards, in 1989 for String Quartet No. 4 and in 1992 for his orchestral work Perpetual Angelus. Pianist Stephen Hough’s recording of Ghost Variations was nominated for a Grammy Award for best contemporary classical composition. He received a lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995 and was the Vilar Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in 2002.

Tsontakis is the 19th winner of the Grawemeyer music prize and the third to win for a violin concerto. The Grawemeyer Foundation at the University of Louisville annually awards $1 million—$200,000 each for works in music composition, education, ideas improving world order, religion, and psychology.

The Grawemeyer Music Award Committee invites the submission of scores premiered between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2004. To be considered for the 2006 award, completed entries must be received by Jan. 24, 2005. See the website for details and instructions.