Germany’s top composer is awarded the Schumann prize

Germany’s top composer is awarded the Schumann prize


norman lebrecht

July 09, 2014

Wolfgang Rihm is 25,000 Euros richer this morning.

Shouldn’t there be a limit on how many prizes an already successful musician can accept?



  • Halldor says:

    The successful reward the successful, the influential support the influential, money circulates from the rich to the also-rich…meanwhile across Europe orchestras are closing, school music provision is being axed and performers are forced to go on strike, while those at the top of the business continue to live in the style to which they have become accustomed.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The mere € 25.000,– is peanuts as compared to what conductors receive (see elsewhere on this site). If star conductors are properly rewarded for their artistic merits – something I would not put into question – then what contemporary composers are worth would be remarkably put in relief by this prize.

    Then, Rihm as Germany’s ‘top composer’ is a greatly, seriously, gravely exaggerated formulation. In contrast to the Anglo-Saxon music world (David Matthews, Corigliano) and France (Bacri, Dubugnon), where composers are beginning to reconnect with pre-modernist traditions, Germany is still laboring under the morally obliged blanket of postwar modernism (a modernist German is a good German because Strauss was a nazi and Wagner initiated the holocaust). This musically suffocating paranoia is occasionally lightened-up, by younger composers, by adaptations from pop, which is also morally ‘clean’ if even more detrimental from an artistic point of view. Rihm did quite well riding the wave of ethically acceptable new music at the time. But since the notion of ‘modernism’ has become a definition of a historical period, he has felt more free to leave the imitations of Bergian expressionism behind and explore more tonal and thus more musical territories as can be heard in his ‘Leichtes Spiel’ (vl + orch) which has really beautiful episodes. Calling such composer ‘top’ is not difficult within a context of artistically meagre production… If Rihm is ‘top’, what a pathetic situation that implies. It is to be hoped that German musical life which is still thriving – in spite of the usual problems – can produce something better in the future, when postwar guilt-complexes have become a thing of the past.

  • Mark Stratford says:

    Former winners have included Barenboim, Brendel, S Richter, Gilels, Masur, F-Dieskau, Sawallisch

    All pretty well known and wealthy

  • Richard G. says:

    Was it Ives that said awards are badges of mediocrity?

  • Dominy Clements says:

    I always remember one of Gordon Crosse’s favourite quotes: “prizes are for children, and I have grown up.”

    • John Borstlap says:

      The German author Martin Mosebach recently received the Buchner Prize, the most important prize for German-speaking writers, and was asked in an interview what he thought of prizes since so many authors had expressed their contempt of them. His opinion was quite modest: he thought of a prize as a confirmation that his book had been able to enter the inner life of readers – prize committees are readers, after all – and appreciated the gesture as one of recognition by the reading community of a real contact between author and reader, so: not as some sort of definite quality assessment.

      Maybe that is a more humane and honest way of looking at prizes, instead of trying to parade as the rebel against a ‘bourgeois’ society that wants to celebrate its artists, which looks a bit as a typical clichée from the hip sixties.

      As we know, public recognition is not a definite assessment. In the past, quite some famous artists, burried under prizes and medals, disappeared into oblivion because their work was not universal enough so that it could survive cultural changes over time.

  • Pete says:

    It shouldn’t matter how wealthy or poor the recipient is.

    Awards should be given with no attention paid to anything other than what their particular merits are in concordance with the guidelines for giving the award and any consideration to how much money someone already has would be a willful perversion of the awards orginal purposes.