Toru Takemitsu Composition Award[Results]


Helmut Lachenmann

Helmut Lachenmann (Germany)


Tetsuji Honna, conductor / Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra


  • 1st Prize
    Kenji Sakai (Japan)Profile&Speech
    Hexagonal pulsar
    Cash Award
    1,000,000 yen
  • 2nd Prize
    Raffaele Grimaldi (Italy)Profile&Speech
    Creatura temporale
    Cash Award
    600,000 yen
    Kazutomo Yamamoto (Japan)Profile&Speech
    ZAI For Orchestra
    Cash Award
    600,000 yen
  • 3rd Prize
    Lucas Fagin (Argentina)Profile&Speech
    Crónica Fisiológica Universal
    Cash Award
    400,000 yen
    Masato Kimura (Japan)Profile&Speech
    A whirl of endless repetition - To the chaotic ocean
    Cash Award
    400,000 yen
L.Fagin, M.Kimura, K.Yamamoto, H.Lachenmann, K.Sakai, R.Grimaldi photo © Michiharu Okubo

L.Fagin, M.Kimura, K.Yamamoto, H.Lachenmann, K.Sakai, R.Grimaldi
photo © Michiharu Okubo

Comments by Helmut Lachenmann, judge

Dear Mr. President, ladies and gentleman, the Takemitsu Prize is a unique phenomenon in the international music scene. I have no words for my admiration and gratitude to the institution of the Tokyo Opera City. It is as unique a phenomenon as Takemitsu was a unique phenomenon a great composer and also a never forgettable human personality. And I am proud to have the honor to be here as a juror in the year 2009.

A "one man jury": this means that a composer not only decides completely alone which works to shortlist, and ultimately determines the prizewinner by himself, without having to consider the reservations of other jury members, let alone make any compromises; it also means that he bears a corresponding responsibility, and he is personally liable to criticism for the outcome of the competition, whenever and wherever such criticism might be voiced. He does not have to argue with other people, at least, but he will inevitably experience an inner conflict: what criteria should I follow? Should I pay more attention to the perfection of the composer's craftsmanship, or to the originality of the compositional idea? How significant is the question of stylistic currentness, the "state of the material", as Adorno would call it or should I look for a collection of prospective meta-Lachenmanns ?

The actual work of selection, studying 103 large-format orchestral scores for two weeks last October and November my arm was always hurting by the evening from turning pages back and forth showed me that every score had something different that fascinated me. Perhaps there was a subconscious criterion that guided me in my final choices, best summarized with a line from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "There is method in his madness", which ought to be changed to "There is method in their madness". "Madness" in the sense of an uncompromising, perhaps sometimes also naive consistency in dealing with the orchestra and one's compositional means: this made me both curious and respectful.

In its own way, each one of these selected works is at once utopian, adventurous and authentic. And the adventure they embarked upon in the act of composition was conveyed in the last three days as an adventure for the wonderful orchestral musicians of the Tokyo Philharmonic and their conductor Tetsuji Honna, who made the most of the short rehearsal time with his assured strategies.

Embarking on an adventure means exposing oneself to an unaccustomed and confusing situation in order thus to discover oneself and one's own hidden energies and possibilities. Hence Stravinsky composed Le Sacre du Printemps, whose realization as he admits in his memoirs he himself feared. Similarly, Schönberg describes how, when he took the plunge into atonal composition, he had the feeling of being pushed into a sea of boiling water; and Boulez has reported that he was in a state of compositional helplessness and desperation when he composed Structures, a work that enabled him to discover his definitive language. I would not dare to ask our five finalists whether they have gone through similar crises in the composition of their works. But I hope that they do not evade such crises, and remain adventurous there is, I believe, no other way for an artist to achieve creative fulfillment.

I shall now make a few comments on the five compositions we have heard.
With his composition Crónica Fisiológica Universal, Lucas Fagin has created a work full of unusual playing techniques that deform the sound of the instruments; combined with more familiar sounds, which are by no means excluded, they create a distinctive, highly original cosmos whose authenticity in turn lends the sounds and figures an expressive power all their own. This expressive power is not artificially manipulated, but it is a result of the consistency of his compositional approach. Of all the composers heard today, it is perhaps his sound world that is closest to my own, but there is certainly no possibility of its being mistaken for mine.

The work by Raffaele Grimaldi, Creatura temporale, only seemingly has a similar compositional approach. For the element I referred to as an almost unconscious "expressive power" in Lucas Fagin's music would have to be termed a conscious "poetic intensity" in Grimaldi's composition. This music moves between complex fields of sound and movement on the one hand, while on the other hand there is a form of lyricism that he himself describes as "melancholy". It provides space for individual elemental intervals that, in this context, appear in a new light. In the middle of the work he touches on the key that has signaled musical threshold situations since Bach's Art of Fugue, Mozart's Requiem or the Ninth Symphonies of Beethoven, Bruckner and Mahler, and opened the door to new ways of listening in Schönberg's First String Quartet and the second of his op. 16 orchestral pieces, the second part of Stravinsky's Sacre, Debussy's Pelléas and Mélisande, Hindemith's scandalous Concerto for Orchestra op. 38, Berg's Wozzeck, and even in Stockhausen's Kontrapunkte: the key of D minor. And at the end of Grimaldi's work, the expressive marking used by Schonberg in the last of his Six Piano Pieces op. 19, written on the day of Gustav Mahler's funeral, is put into effect very realistically: "wie ein Hauch" "like a breath".

Masato Kimura's A whirl of endless repetition To the chaotic ocean is an orgy of a wild, magnificently seething orchestral tutti, with ostinato signals appearing magically from all directions. It unmistakably illustrates my often-used opposition of music as a "text", for example in the music of Bach or Boulez, and music as a "situation", for instance the beginning of the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, the beginning of Bruckner's Symphony No.4 or the beginning of Daphnis and Chloe by Ravel. With his music, Kimura has created not a text, but a situation whose interior we are invited to listen to in the way that, when dazzled, we see colors that turn out differently for each person, simply by applying pressure to the pupil, or in the way we sometimes experience acoustic hallucinations under a loudly droning church bell. One could recall Stockhausen's idea of temporal noises: a spectrum of movements, an arrangement of natural forces in the concert hall that a composer such as Varese might also have enjoyed.
Perhaps in Kimura's music one should no longer speak of "structures", that is to say constructed orders, but rather of textures that are no less precisely crafted, but convey an impression of organized chaos. If we look at an anthill close up we can see clear structures: every ant has a goal, but from a greater distance it seems like an idiosyncratic chaos.

It is precisely this dialectic or the ambivalence - of chaos as an order and order as a chaos that the composer Kazutomo Yamamoto conveys in his work ZAI. The complexity of a finely-crafted structure of lively colors and figures (it is essentially an octet consisting of eight instrumental groups, which I could easily imagine being spread out around the concert hall in future performances) leads into an almost violent layering of different, partly jazz-like marches and dances, arranged in the manner of quotations, which form their own idiosyncratic chaos. Charles Ives shows his face and might be pleased. But the escalation does not end here; as you were able to experience, it is taken even further. And, perhaps for the first time, we are invited to hear so familiar a ritual as the applause as a texture, an "idiosyncratic chaos": triviality becomes an extreme form of the kind of highly artificial complexity we heard at the start of the piece. Some may consider this humorous why not but it is more than that: it is music that changes our way of listening.

In the case of the final work we heard, Hexagonal pulsar by Kenji Sakai, I also could imagine a widely spread arrangement of the different instrumental groups having a positive effect.
In this piece we sense a highly developed compositional craft: a virtuosity not only on the part of the wonderful piano and percussion soloists, but also a compositional virtuosity in dealing with sound and time. The stylistic area inhabited by this music is not entirely unfamiliar: one can hear where this composer has studied or left the city with a strange tower. This is no sterile epigonism, however, for the music develops in a highly personal manner, without fear of triviality, with a lightness and a luminosity that, despite my careful study of the score last autumn in Germany, surprised me when I finally heard it now in the performance. It is not only this piece, but especially this piece that makes me feel the greatest admiration for the masterful achievements of every single musician in the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and its superb, "electric" conductor, maestro Honna, who devoted himself to every one of these works with such care and such a sense of responsibility.

Before I now tell you my final decision about the Takemitsu Prize, let me say this: I cannot guarantee that the works I have selected will go down in music history. But, as a result of compositional adventures, however they may have been sought, they have undoubtedly expanded both the experience of the composers and also our horizons whether as performers or as curious, likewise adventurous listeners.

The Takemitsu Prize is not just a compliment for what the composer has achieved, but is an encouragement to go on and never to stop searching new horizons. To make an objective ranking is almost as impossible as to make a ranking between Gagaku music, a Viennese waltz, New Orleans blues and an Indian raga. So I made my subjective ranking and you'll have to support it.
There are two third prizes, two second prizes and one first prize. Third prize is 400,000 yen each to both composers who are Lucas Fagin, Crónica Fisiológica Universal and Masato Kimura, A whirl of endless repetition To the chaotic ocean. Second Prize is 600,000 yen for Raffaele Grimaldi, Creatura temporale and Kazutomo Yamamoto, ZAI. So it is obvious the first prize is 1,000,000 yen for Kenji Sakai, Hexagonal pulsar.

I thank you for your patience with my long speech, and my work now is more or less finished here. Thank you for being here and I wish you all the best. Sayonara.


1st Prize
Kenji Sakai (Japan)
Hexagonal pulsar

Born in Ikeda, Osaka, 1977. He graduated from the Kyoto University of Fine Arts & Music with the first prize, studying with Yoko Kubo, Kei Kondo, Shuichi Maeda and Hinoharu Matsumoto. After graduation, he studied abroad in France. In 2006 he graduated from the Paris National Superior Conservatory with the first prize in composition. He studied with Marco Stroppa and Michael Jarrell. In 2001 and 2002 he qualified in 'The Music Competition of Japan' (chamber music and orchestra) and in 2007 he won the grand prix of George Enescu International Competition. In 2004 he was granted the fellowship under the Japanese Government Overseas Study Programme for Artists. In 2003 and from 2005 to 2007 he obtained a scholarship of Rohm Music Foundation. Since 2007 he has been a participant in the computer music cursus at IRCAM. He currently lives in Paris.

2nd Prize
Raffaele Grimaldi (Italy)
Creatura temporale

Born in Siano, Italy, 1980. Diploma in Piano in 2004 and Diploma in composition at Conservatorio Martucci in 2007. He held a musicological post at the San Carlo Theatre of Naples in 2005. He participated at Festival Acanthes in Metz, France, in 2007 and 2008. Since 2008, he attends advanced classes in composition at the National Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome. He is also a selected member of the cursus 1 in composition and electronic music at IRCAM for 2008 /2009.

2nd Prize
Kazutomo Yamamoto (Japan)
ZAI For Orchestra

Born in Hagi, Yamaguchi, 1975. He studied music by himself. His works have been performed in Japan, Canada, France, Germany, and America. He won the first prize in the Molinari Quartet's International Composers' Competition in 2006 (Canada), and the AIC/Mostly Modern International Composers' Competition in 2007 (Ireland). He also qualified at the Jeunesses Musicales Romania International Competition in 2005, 2006, and 2007 (Romania), Dresden 2006 "Sound-City-Silence" (Germany), Alea III 26th International Composition Competition (USA).

3rd Prize
Lucas Fagin (Argentina)
Crónica Fisiológica Universal

Born in 1980 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied composition with Daniel Montes and Ricardo Martinez until 2003 in Buenos Aires. Since 2003 until 2007 he studied composition with Marco Stroppa, Stefano Gervasoni and Luis Naón at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris In 2008, he continued exploring different possibilities exploiting particularly the use of spatialization and noise in "Physiological Mechanics Fantasy" for electronics and "Ilusionario" for sax ensemble.
At present, he is starting a new string quartet commissioned by the Ensemble Multilatérale, Sacem (France), and he is planning to construct a new piece including image and text based on the novel “The flame-throwers” by Argentinean writer Roberto Arlt.

3rd Prize
Masato Kimura (Japan)
A whirl of endless repetition - To the chaotic ocean

Born in Tokyo, 1981. Having grown up in environment without relation to music, since he was 15 years old he has started to learn the piano by himself being attracted to the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, then studied composition. In 2005, he graduated from Musashino Academia Musicae, studying with Koya Ban. In the same year, he qualified in the 74th 'The Music Competition of Japan'. His works are "Dancing cherry blossoms - three songs of Saigyo", "Inaudible voice", "From the abyss", "What is innocent?", " Pilgrimage - travel of inside soul".

Year 2021

Pascal Dusapin (France)

Year 2022

Brian Ferneyhough (United Kingdom)

Year 2023

Jo Kondo (Japan)

Year 2024

Mark-Anthony Turnage (United Kingdom)

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Toru Takemitsu Composition Award