Toru Takemitsu Composition Award

4 Finalists selected for Toru Takemitsu Composition Award 2023
[Judge: Jo Kondo]

05 Dec, 2022

Jo Kondo, judge of the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award 2023, has chosen the following 4 orchestral works out of 107 entries from 31 countries (Countries & Regions) eligibly accepted by 30 September 2022. Screening was done with the anonymous scores having only their titles.
These 4 nominated works will be performed on 28 May 2023 at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall : Takemitsu Memorial for Mr. Kondo’s final judgement. Here is the list of finalists in order of their entry.

Applications for 2023(PDF/133KB)

Year 2023 Jo Kondo (Japan)
©Jörgen Axelvall

Finalists (in order of entry)

Guillermo Cobo Garcia (Spain)

Yabal-al-Tay for symphonic orchestra

Born in Jaén, Spain in 1991. He started studying music at the age of 10. He was trained in bachelor’s degree in Music Education at University of Jaén (2009). In 2011 he won a scholarship for one semester at Kean University (NJ, USA), where he attended his first composition lessons with Joseph Turrin, achieving the degree back in Spain in 2012. The following year he joined the Conservatory of Music of Aragon (Spain), where he studied bachelor’s degree in Composition with Jose María Sánchez-Verdú (2013) and Juan José Eslava (2015), attaining his degree in 2017. On the same year he was admitted in the Hochschule für Musik und Theather “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” in Leipzig, to follow his studies of master’s degree in Composition with Fabien Lévy. In October 2018 he won an Erasmus+ scholarship to study for one year at the Conservatorio di Musica “Giuseppe Verdi” di Milano with Gabriele Manca. After finishing his master in 2020, nowadays he carries out his PhD studies at University of Granada about the music of Francisco Guerrero Marín under the direction of Pedro Ordóñez Eslava, while he teaches music theory, harmony, and analysis at the Conservatory of Music of Soria (Spain).

©Sonia Neisha

Michael Taplin (UK)

Selvedge for full orchestra

Born in London, UK in 1991. He is a composer of orchestral, large ensemble and chamber music. His music has been performed by some of the UK's leading orchestras and ensembles including the Philharmonia and the London Symphony Orchestra. Recent highlights include the premiere of Lambent Fires (commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society) and Ebbing Tides (which received critical acclaim when premiered with the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Fabien Gabel). Ebbing Tides was released in May 2020 on the LSO Live Label as part of the third edition of the LSO Panufnik Legacies Series. Michael is increasingly becoming in demand abroad with performances and premieres of his music in prestigious international music festivals such as the Festival Archipel in Geneva, Switzerland, 2017 ISCM World Music Days' in Vancouver, Canada and most recently at the 2019 Gaudeamus Muziekweek. His music has also been broadcast on Swiss Radio Espace 2, and BBC Radio 3.

©Rémi Rière

Koji Yamabe (Japan)

Underscore for orchestra

Born in Gunma, Japan in 1990. Lives in Maebashi. Graduated from Kunitachi College of Music and completed the master's program in composition at the Graduate School of Music. Studied composition under Keiichi Morigaki and Toshiya Watanabe. Selected for the 26th Sogakudou Japanese Lied Competition (composition category). Selected for the 11th JFC composers award competition. A member of The Japan Federation of Composers Inc.

Yuheng Chen (China)

tracé / trait für Orchester

Born in Jinan, China in 1998. He lives in Vienna (Austria) since 2014. Study at the “University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna” (Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien), under the tutelage of Professor Karlheinz Essl and Michael Jarrell.
Has been worked with Schallfeld Ensemble, Ensemble Via Nova, Ensemble Platypus,Vokalensemble company of music etc... In 2019, His works have been performed at the “WIEN MODERN” (Vienna). In 2022 Selected as Finalist for the “Ö1 TALENTEBÖRSE” composition competition. In the same year also attendance composition seminar or workshop with Jorge sánchez-chiong, Misato Mochizuki, Olga Neuwirth, Ying Wang.

Comments for the Final / as a single judge
for the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award 2023

There is no unequivocal criterion for making value judgements of musical works. Therefore, it is inevitable that the result of any composition contest turns out to be biased or subjective to some extent, no matter how the judges strive to be fair, and even more so in the case of a contest with a single judge. In addition, we see in today’s world of art music that diverse styles based on different aesthetic standpoints coexist without sharing any common ground which might allow us to compare one style to another. All I can possibly do in such a situation seems to be nothing but to select the works that interest me as one of the composers living con-temporarily. Whether or not my choice can be of any significance in our music culture today is left to the public’s judgment. I am here to judge and to be judged at the same time.

Among the 107 works submitted a dozen attracted me. I could recognize in each of them a virtue or virtues (point(s) of interest) different from the ones found in the other pieces. However, the virtue in every piece was regrettably beclouded or sometimes even overwhelmed by the composer’s concern for customary (‘common sense’) concepts and/or the métier of contemporary art music. I was appalled to discover that young composers are working, it would seem, under the undefeatable pressure of the contemporary conventions of the art of writing music.

Even under such pressure, each of the composers of the four works I chose succeeded, penetrating this constraint, to crystalize their own musical thoughts into a unique piece of music of convincing quality.

Yabal-al-Tay for symphonic orchestra

The strength of this work springs from the composer’s firm belief in music as kinetic energy. The orchestra is treated as a collection of 57 soloists to create a linear, almost monodic music. The articulation of each sound constituting the melodic line is blurred intentionally by small simultaneous, heterophonic deviations in pitch and rhythm, shared between many voices, so that the line becomes perceived as a dynamic flux of energy. This is a powerful work in which the composer’s musical thought is well articulated through appropriate compositional techniques. However, my feeling is that it may need a string section twice the size of the string section specified by the composer in order to achieve the sound that the music seems to demand.

Selvedge for full orchestra

What impressed me about this work, which consists of the juxtaposition of prolonged chords, is the extremely detached attitude taken by the composer towards the sounds. The composer is standing outside of the sounds, neither involved nor intoxicated with them, observing them with serene eyes, and placing them calmly on the canvas of time. Each chord appears to be, though embracing rich linear movements within it, static in nature, and never serves to form any directional progression through its harmonic structure. The overall form of the piece, which is but mere juxtaposition of three blocks with no teleological orientation, is non-directional, never suggesting any developmental or narrative discourse. This music stands still quietly in front of the listener, as if it were something extrinsic to human being. This speculation on the work may sound idiosyncratic to most of the public. Still, this is how I found the piece.

Underscore for orchestra

This piece is in the form of what might be called a ‘theme and 6 characteristic variations’ written, according to the composer’s notes, on materials drawn from Cage’s Dream, although little of this source is recognizable aurally. The compositional idea of taking an existing piece and transforming it into a new different work is reminiscent of the Renaissance technique of so-called parody mass. The attempt to rejuvenate the ancient technique with this composition suggests a possible alternative to ‘quotation’, which has become used too commonly today, as a means to exploit existing pieces in new compositions. The curiously ‘naïve’ elements including non-functional tonal harmony, simplistic figures, and knowingly awkward movements that characterize this work have been derived from the original piece of Cage.

tracé / trait für Orchester

I could find more than a few pieces in the submitted scores that display an excellent compositional métier. Among them this work is highly noteworthy for its musical clarity and well-balanced structure that (at the risk of being misunderstood) we might even say, exudes classicistic grace. The composer is manipulating modernistic sound material including extended instrumental techniques and micro intervals within what fundamentally constitutes traditional modes of thinking such as counterpoint (re. combination of lines) and harmony (re. interrelationship between line and vertical sonority). The skillfully crafted musical continuity (devoid of any oddity) sounds ‘natural’ in the 18th century sense of the term. I have no hesitation in calling this music the traditionalism of our age, as distinct from academism that respects métier for its own sake.

Jo Kondo

Final Concert

15:00, Sun. 28 May, 2023
Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall: Takemitsu Memorial

Toru Takemitsu Composition Award 2023: Final Concert

Jo Kondo, judge
Kosuke Tsunoda, conductor
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra

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