Toru Takemitsu Composition Award[Results]


Heinz Holliger

Heinz Holliger (Switzerland)


[Final Concert]
Sunday 28 May 2017 | Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall : Takemitsu Memorial
Kah Chun Wong, conductor / Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra


  • 1st Prize
    Naoki Sakata (Japan)
    Paysages entrelacés pour orchestre
    Cash Award
    900,000 yen
  • 2nd Prize
    Zihua Tan (Malaysia)
    at the still point for orchestra
    Cash Award
    700,000 yen
  • 2nd Prize
    Annachiara Gedda (Italy)
    NOWHERE for orchestra
    Cash Award
    700,000 yen
  • 2nd Prize
    Stefan Beyer (Germany)
    Ich habe nie Menschenfleisch gegessen for orchestra
    Cash Award
    700,000 yen

Stefan Beyer, Naoki Sakata, Heinz Holliger, Annachiara Gedda, Zihua Tan
photo © Michiharu Okubo

Comments by Heinz Holliger, judge

Good afternoon. As I have already mentioned in my commentary which is printed in the program, it is not an easy task for a single composer to judge 115 colleagues of his, and to try to be fair, to try to be severe, but also to accept music which is very different to the music oneself writes. This was Toru Takemitsu’s idea that there is only one judge. Also now on the balcony I felt a little bit like a Roman Emperor in Circus Maximus who gave a thumbs down when it’s a death sentence and a thumbs up when it’s survival. It’s quite a charging task.

I also mentioned in my preface what is for me a little bit different. For instance, in those 115 scores, I missed very much a rich variety of rhythmic life – like the breathing of the body or the heartbeat. I heard very much just time beating, time like clockwork. For me, I’m sort of a pupil of Bartók – my teacher was a pupil of Bartók, so Bartók is a grandfather to me – and there the rhythm is something which is completely physical. For me, the music is very physical, and it’s also a language, but a meta-language which starts when the words end – you start with the music. This is a thing which I had problems to find in many of the scores.

I think in modern writing for a composer, you have a computer, not every note you write comes from your heart, through your arm and to the fingers into a pen like an old monk in Zen Buddist temple. It’s not any more a physical action to write. You have the computer, you tap and you can also find repeat patterns which gives a very different character to the music, and also a character which is very far from the human speech, which has so enormous variety of pitch, bending of rhythms. You see this when you see Janáček or Bartók, how they transcribed folk songs. It’s very, very complex in rhythm, rhythms that you never could imagine and machines can’t imagine. I hope very much that the composers do not fall in the trap of modern media, and try to keep the music as a meta-language and a thing which is really of great transcendence.

With music, Orpheus is the only human being who could step over the limit of life and death. Because he was a musician, he could go to take Euridice back. But as he couldn’t stop reflecting, Euridice disappeared again – because he wanted to see if she was behind. This is the greatest need about music existing. For me, music has very much to do with the beyond, much more than all the other arts, because it has no direct words any more. The words are already silent, and the sound starts. Also, the first thing we hear in life, or even before birth is the sound of the voice of the mother, the rhythm of the heart of the mother. Those are very differentiated acoustical things which define our unconsciousness. We have to keep this when we compose. We shouldn’t give away any of these treasures.

I have chosen those four pieces also because every one of those pieces reveals another side of mystery. Mystery is omnipresent in all the four pieces. It is what attracted me probably first in these pieces.

Zihua Tan’s at the still point, which refers to one of the most famous poems of modern poetry by T.S. Eliot, is a revelation of dreamlike landscape, even of a desert where no plant is left, no sound is left, and just layers of mysterious noises travel around the orchestra. Sometimes one hears a single sound. And Zihua Tan leads the audience into a very personal and very mysterious world. This is what impressed me.

Annachiara Gedda’s NOWHERE is probably more familiar to my way of feeling music. It’s also the piece which has the greatest flexibility in tempos, in declamation rhythms, has very clear elaboration of the real harmonic language, real harmonic structure of the piece, and this attracted me. It’s a little bit close to the idea which is now named “Klangrede” (Harnoncourt), a term which is applied to C.P.E. Bach’s Sturm und Drang music or early Haydn, where the music shows all the passions immediately of the body and soul. It’s very close to the speaking, as if the music would speak itself – but in a mysterious language which has no words.

Naoki Sakata’s Paysages entrelacés, for me shows best compositional technique, best old term of “métier”. He really achieves to find exactly a way of going from breath/noise to sound and backwards. Every acoustical event comes from somewhere and goes somewhere. It’s never just a material which is quoted and put at a certain point. It’s not anecdotic. Every acoustical element shifts always between the beginning of a sound where there is only breath, and the vibrated breath which is the sound, also of the dying away of the sound.
On top of it, he has certainly the best acoustical control – the best musical ear. It’s a fantastically orchestrated and very brilliant piece and I could not find many flaws in it. First I didn’t know the names of the composers, and I was sure this was a French composer, but at least I was a little right because he studied in Paris, and I think he is very influenced by French culture.

I have chosen Stefan Beyer’s Ich habe nie Menschenfleisch gegessen because it’s completely the opposite of all the other 114 scores. It’s a way of speaking in music (of musical speaking) but to refuse every ornamental side of the music making, and also free side of the music making. It’s a very sinister work, very dark music. But especially when you hear it from my actual place in the centre, it is full of fascinating mixtures of sound. In this refusal, it has a lot of positive, even human elements. It’s not a music of negation. At least, when God doesn’t exist, one can’t negate God – it’s the same thing in music. I discovered a lot of really fascinating sounds – or events I could say in a modern sense – how he mixes the resonance of plate bells (Plattenglocken) with low instruments, how he turns the string orchestra into an enormous orchestra of koto players who are completely percussive, music where all the notes are strangled and no breath to be born. It has also nearly hurting expression that time goes, goes, goes, goes on and you can’t take it back. It’s a little like Edgar Allan Poe’s novel The Pit and the Pendulum. This pendulum goes over your body, and comes always nearer, nearer, nearer, or like Kafka’s In der Strafkolonie or Der Bau. You try to find a way out of a labyrinth but you never come out.
And if Stefan would have written only acoustical material with all the techniques which are practically known since several years, he would have produced anecdotic and static things. But his capability of mixing the timbres, and also of expressing things which goes beyond normal music-making – I thought of a funeral ceremony, of La lugubre gondola by Liszt – this sinister character of mourning is present and that’s why the piece is also impressive. Even in the negation of all the brilliance, of nice mixtures of sound.

What I deplore a little bit is that all composers have chosen the very big orchestra. It would be so nice if in the next competitions one gives a limit of the minimum number of musicians (maybe 16-18) and the maximum, because I think the composer comes to very different ideas when you have a little ensemble, and can go much more unusual ways in the music. Also can achieve a much more flexible music. In all the scores it was an abundance of long notes, held notes, and harmonically lots of clusters. It could be so much more differentiated with fewer instruments. But this is only a suggestion for the next time.

What I miss also is that today all the composers have books about modern technique and unusual instruments. A lot of the used techniques I thought are not really “lived” by the composers here. Every composer should try to feel the instrument physically, and know exactly the dynamic which a high note on a harp can release against a big orchestra, or what a sizzle effect on a tam tam is exactly. Very often, one takes all the multiphonics in the wind instruments or all the techniques on the strings like a recipe for a cook who has a book and takes a little bit of this and this, and my dish will be great. I would dream that people economize much more in the material side of music making. It’s not a huge mountain of material here on stage. Every piece is different. Assembling of material. This is the rule of all great art – never to write one note too many. Everything one writes is absolutely essential. Think of all the great composers of the past. You couldn’t change a single note in a score of Mozart without destroying it. You couldn’t change a single note in Bach. Or you couldn’t change it even in modern music, in Anton Webern’s score, which is like a crystal or flower. It’s just perfect as nature. I dream of such things also to hear from young composers.

I stretch your patience, but the prizes will arrive in a minute. But before, I really want to thank you very much to the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra who did an absolutely great job in realizing those four scores where a lot of new techniques appeared they didn’t know before. They did everything with great engagement, great passion and also with professionality. Especially, the conductor Kah Chun Wong did an absolutely great job in a very short time. He achieved to lead all the musicians through those complex labyrinths of the pieces, and even the musicians liked to work with him. This is the best thing a conductor can achieve, that he doesn’t have the musicians against him. Great thank you to Kah Chun Wong and to the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Now to the most important thing apparently, although for me it’s not the most important thing. For me, the most important thing is that all those who took part in the competition had a chance to learn a lot and experienced a lot with a great orchestra, to really test their own capabilities and their personalities together with four competitors.

Now the prize: as a judge I would liked to have had 3 or 4 members of the jury to discuss, but what I feel to be fair and good and inspiring for all the composers is to give the first prize to Naoki Sakata and three second prizes – without any numbering within the three – to the others, Zihua Tan, Annachiara Gedda, and Stefan Beyer.

I thank you very much that you have been so cooperative and among the four composers you have been like a little family, without any competition like in sport. I hope everybody goes home with a rich package of new experiences and inspirations. I wish you all the best for your next compositions.

[Edited by Tokyo Opera City Cultural Foundation]


1st Prize
Naoki Sakata (Japan)
Paysages entrelacés pour orchestre

Born in Kyoto city, Japan in 1981. He finished Aichi university of the arts in 2007, Ecole normale de musique de Paris in 2008, The class of Stefano Gervasoni in Conservatoire de Paris in 2013 and the cursus I at IRCAM in 2014. His pieces have been performed in various festivals and projects such as Takefu International Music Festival, Festival Musica and Royaumont “Voix Nouvelles”. He has received Kuwabara prize, Sacem prize and 36th Irino prize. His works have been selected for Takefu composition award and Japan music competition. From 2010 to 2011, he was scholarship student of Rohm music foundation. Currently he lives in Paris.

The reason I decided to apply to the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award was because I wanted to hear the premiere of my music by a professional orchestra. Another reason was that I admired Heinz Holliger so much, and I wanted to know how he would react to my music, how he would listen to my music, and I was anxious to know how he would judge my piece.
When I was studying at the conservatoire in Paris, I had the opportunity to attend some seminars by Heinz Holliger but I never had a chance to talk to him directly. But while I was composing this piece, I was always listening to his voice. It was of course my imaginative voice of Heinz Holliger, but he was always asking me aren’t there any better ideas, or whether this instrumentation was OK. I was the one who created his voice, but I felt like I was listening to his voice, which encouraged me and challenged me to a higher level. I’m really happy that during the last few days I had the opportunity to talk to him directly and receive advice and suggestion from him.
It was also a great opportunity to meet the three other finalists. These few days were very special for me because of the friendship with them. Their works have different origins and aesthetics from mine, but through the experience of their pieces, I have learnt a lot, and also getting to know the composers of the same generation was an exciting experience. We compose in solitude, but here I made some friends who I could talk to, eat Ramen with and go to the Izakaya together.
I would like to express my gratitude to all the people who were involved in the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award, especially to the judge Heinz Holliger and to the conductor Kah Chun Wong, the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tokyo Opera City Cultural Foundation, and to Mr. Sawahashi who took very good care of us, and to the people of Hustle Copy who made the very complex orchestral parts. I would also like to thank my friends and my teachers who supported me. Finally, I would like to thank all the audience who listened to my music.

2nd Prize
Zihua Tan (Malaysia)
at the still point for orchestra

Born in Kota Bharu, Malaysia in 1983. He is Canadian‐based composer whose works have been performed in Asia, Europe and North America, at events such as Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt (Germany), Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik (Germany), Royaumont “Voix Nouvelles” (France), the Tongyeong International Music Festival (Korea), and Akademie Schloss Solitude Summer Academy (Germany).
Among the ensembles he has worked with include Ensemble Mosaik, Ensemble Recherche, and Ensemble SurPlus. He has won several prizes and grants, including the “Goethe Award” at TIMF. Currently, he is a lecturer and doctoral student at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Many thanks to the President as well as the esteemed members of the Tokyo Opera City Cultural Foundation for organizing and inviting us to a series of really beautiful events, including the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award which culminated just now in this beautiful concert hall in this beautiful country. What a privilege it is for young composers like us to be given a platform like this.
And thank you Maestro Heinz Holliger for believing in our ideas and sharing with us his music and his insights. Thank you to the musicians of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Kah Chun Wong for realizing our pieces. The incredible musicianship is truly moving. Thank you to Mr. Jun Sawahashi for taking care of us during these few days.
Thank you to my friends and fellow composers, Annachiara, Naoki and Stefan for their friendship and their music which has provoked me to think about composition in many fascinating new ways.
Thank you to all those who are present today, and last but not least, thank you to my family, some members of whom are here today, for providing me with a lot of support throughout these years. Thank you.

2nd Prize
Annachiara Gedda (Italy)
NOWHERE for orchestra

Born in Turin, Italy in 1986. She studied composition at the Turin Conservatory with Giorgio Colombo Taccani and in 2015 took a Master’s Degree in composition cum laude. She attended masterclasses with Luis Bacalov, Azio Corghi, Paola Livorsi and Tristan Murail.
Winner or special mention in several national and international composition competitions, her works have been performed in Italy and abroad during various important music festivals such as the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK), Biennale di Venezia (IT), Gmem Festival les Musiques (FR), Expo Milano 2015 (IT) by musicians such as Ensemble 10/10 (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra), Divertimento Ensemble, Ensemble Télémaque, Ensemble TaG, Akiko Kozato and Valentino Corvino to mention but a few. Some of her pieces have been published by Sconfinarte, Bèrben and Zedde.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am so happy to be here this afternoon. I think there are a few things that a composer in his/her early career can wish for, and one of them maybe the most appealing is to take part in the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award. So, a huge thank you for this amazing opportunity that has been given to me.
I received the call from the producer Mr. Jun Sawahashi more or less six months ago, and I remember perfectly where I was and what I was doing. To be honest, when I saw a strange number calling me, I thought it was some call center trying to sell me something and I wasn’t certain whether or not I should answer. But finally when I answered and said hello, one of my biggest dreams came true. Honestly, a dream I didn’t expect to come true, and this moment is deeply embedded in my mind.
I would like to thank all the people who have been involved in this amazing competition. First of all, the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and the conductor Maestro Kah Chun Wong, for their excellent and deep performance of my piece and for their dedication and passion. I would like to thank all the members of the Tokyo Opera City Cultural Foundation for their hospitality and for making this award possible. I would like to thank producer Mr. Jun Sawahashi for his invaluable assistance and kindness. Last but not least, I would like to thank Maestro Heinz Holliger for his precious advice and suggestions about our pieces.
Finally, I would like to say I’ve always admired Toru Takemitsu. I think he is a great example of a musician for composers of our generation. About half a year ago, an Italian guitar player asked me to take part in a project called “Toward the Sea” in honor of Maestro Takemitsu, a trip around the continent led by music written by or influenced by Maestro Takemitsu. So I’m doubly happy to be here this afternoon, and I will remember this moment forever. Thank you very much, and doumo arigato gozaimashita.

2nd Prize
Stefan Beyer (Germany)
Ich habe nie Menschenfleisch gegessen for orchestra

Born in Braunschweig, Germany in 1981. Studied history at Leipzig University and musics and composition at Leipzig Music University “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” and Gothenburg Music University. Concert Examination in composition at Leipzig music university with Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf in 2011. Adjunct professor for orchestration from 2011 to 2013. Resident at Cité des arts in Paris (France) from 2015 to 2016, at Schloss Wiepersdorf (Germany) in 2016. Scholarships and composition prizes.
Worked with numerous ensembles and conductors, such as Ensemble Modern, Luxembourg Sinfonietta, Pablo Rus Bruseta, Johannes Kalitzke. Lives and works in Berlin.

Good evening everyone. These past days in Tokyo were very special to me personally. This is my very first visit to Tokyo and to Japan in general, so I am most grateful for the invitation, and I liked my time here a lot.
Orchestras are fantastic sound vehicles. It’s an incredible phenomenon with its body of many, many individual musicians. Yet to be able to work with an orchestra can be a very rare opportunity, which is why I call myself to be very happy having been able to be part of this year’s edition of the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award. In the process of rehearsals, there is always so much to observe, realize and learn, so I can say it was a great and unique learning experience.
I would like to thank the Tokyo Opera City Cultural Foundation so very much for making this award possible and organizing this event year after year with such thoroughness and passion. I think it is an important contribution both to new music in general and also to the community of younger composers. Thank you for all your efforts, and especially I have to say thank you for making the orchestral parts that is a huge help. Specifically I want to express my thanks to Jun Sawahashi who took only the best care of us four composers.
And thanks go of course to the conductor Kah Chun Wong for his wonderful musical work on the one hand, but also for his very active communication with us composers. He would meet with us daily for talks and he would let us participate in the rehearsals so closely, so I’m very grateful for that. And of course, I would like to say thanks to the many, many members of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra whose effort, patience and kindness are greatly appreciated. Arigato gozaimasu.

4 Finalists selected for Toru Takemitsu Composition Award 2017 [Judge: Heinz Holliger] (2/Dec/2016)
information about TORU TAKEMITSU Composition Award Next: TORU TAKEMITSU Composition Award 2018 (Judge: Unsuk Chin)

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Year 2019

Philippe Manoury (France)

Year 2020

Thomas Adès (United Kingdom)

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Pascal Dusapin (France)

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