The man who finished off Lulu gets an unearned bonus

Friedrich Cerha, the Austrian composer best known for completing Alban Berg’s torso opera, has been awarded the 200,000-Euro Ernst von Siemens prize. Cerha is 85, and unlikely to blow it on Lulu-like indulgence.

Ernst von Siemens Preisträger 2012: Friedrich Cerha. Foto: Manu Theobald/Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung

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  • Cerha is a brilliant composer in his own right, particularly in his writing for the orchestra, a composer who has a unique perspective on the balance between tradition and invention, His music deserves to be much more widely heard. A splendid choice for the Siemens prize.

  • What makes this ‘unearned’ exactly? Aside from the fact that all non-competitive awards are ‘unearned’?

  • Great award. Cerha is a very hard-working composer, still producing good work at 85 and still pushing himself. I’ve no idea what Norman means by “unearned bonus”.

  • How unfair to describe a prize for a life’s work as “unearned”: I just looked at the list of previous recipients and Cerha richly deserves to be in the same company as Stockhausen, Anne Sofie Mutter, H.C Robbins Landon, Boulez, Menuhin, Brinkmann, Bernstein, Ferneyhough, Ligeti and all the rest. Cerha is not just the man who completed/orchestrated “Lulu” although for those in the English-speaking world that may be his main claim to fame. He is a distinguished composer with a long career of what are often very influential works. He was also the main instigator and driving force behind the ensemble “die reihe” who commissioned the Ligeti Kammerkonzert and had a long and distinguished performance history. I have just been listening to the “Spiegel” series and this set of works, besides being brilliant in their own right have had I would argue an enormous unspoken influence on generations of composers. If anything I would say some recognition for this seemingly quiet and unassuming man is long overdue. Hopefully it will get people to look at his music again.

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