Steve Reich is the first American composer to be awarded the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Contemporary Music category. The award, which comes with a cash prize of €400,000 (approx. $570,000), is the highest prize for a composer and is given along with comparable prizes recognizing achievements in seven other categories: Basic Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics); Biomedicine; Ecology and Conservation Biology; Information and Communication Technologies; Economics, Finance and Management; Climate Change; and Development Cooperation. The previous recipients in the Contemporary Music category are Pierre Boulez, Salvatore Sciarrino, Helmut Lachenmann, and Cristóbal Halffter. The BBVA Foundation is the charitable arm of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, a multi-national banking organization based in Spain. The Foundation established these awards in 2008.
Each of the Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge awards is adjudicated in two stages: the first involves technical evaluation committees and the second involves juries made up of internationally reputed experts. Responsibility for determining the composition of the technical evaluation committees is shared between the BBVA Foundation and the Spanish National Research Council, which also proposes the chair of each prize jury. The BBVA Foundation confers with the CSIC on the appointment of remaining jury members. The jury for the 2013 Contemporary Music category was chaired by Philippe Albèra, Director of Éditions Contrechamps (France), with Ranko Markovic, Artistic Director of the Konservatorium Wien Privatuniversität (Austria) acting as secretary. Remaining members were Edith Canat de Chizy, composer and member of the Académie de Beaux-Arts, Institute de France (France); composer Cristóbal Halffter, member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando; Winrich Hopp, Artistic Director of Musikfest Berlin (Berliner Festspiele) and the Musica Viva concert series (Germany); Johannes Kalitzke, composer and conductor with the Komische Oper Berlin (Germany); Martin Kaltenecker, Associate Professor of Musicology at Université Paris Diderot (France); and Dimitri Vassilakis, pianist and member of Ensemble Intercontemporain (France).
The jury for the award noted how Reich “has carved out new paths, fostering a dialogue between popular and high culture and between western modernity and non-European traditions, and achieving a rich combination of complexity and transparency.” They also singled out his ability to attract the widest, most varied audiences “by engaging frontally with world issues, from the Israeli-Palestine conflict to the 9/11 attacks, as well as contemporary problems like the relations between faith and science and technology.”
(–from press releases issued by the BBVA Foundation and Boosey & Hawkes)