Finnish Composer Salonen’s Violin Concerto Wins Grawemeyer Award

The 2012 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition will go to Esa-Pekka Salonen’s “Violin Concerto.”

The 30-minute piece debuted in 2009. It is at times somber and at times raucous and discordant. Salonen also believes it is the first time a modern drum set has been incorporated into a violin concerto. Award director Marc Satterwhite makes special note of the piece’s closing chord, which does not reflect any of the previous music. Salonen says the departure was intentional.

“When I thought about what was going on in my life at the moment, it became clear there was a symbolic meaning in this. I was just finishing my 17-year tenure with the L.A. Philharmonic. I was starting the next chapter in my life,” he says.

Previous Grawemeyer winners have included Salonen’s influences and respected contemporaries. He didn’t expect to join them when he finished the piece, though he knew he had written a meaningful composition.

“The process of writing this piece felt organic and it was not a big struggle. It seemed to kind of flow, not easily, but in a sort of organic, natural way,” he says.

The University of Louisville presents the Grawemeyer Awards and recipients receive $100,000. Salonen says he doesn’t yet have plans for the money, but he wants to encourage young people to compose music.

Listen to Salonen give a tour of parts of the piece:

Audio MP3

And you can see the piece performed here: