French pianist collects 250,000 Euros tonight

No-one has ever satisfactorily explained the point of the Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis, but the winners aren’t complaining.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, 59, will collect his quarter-million in Munich tonight.

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  • I’m sure that in this case, the prize was deemed fully deserved because Aimard often includes progressive music in his recitals (Boulez, Ligeti, or other progress of some time ago), which for Siemens is a symbol of their own brand. And I think that is entirely right.

    • The prize was personally endowed by Ernst von Siemens. It does not support the family brand.

      • I have also been informed through other channels that the Siemens company has nothing to do with the Siemens prize. I therefore apologize for my taking the likeness of the two names at face value. (I don’t know how I could have done that…. it must have been because all the home appliances at the estate are Siemens, even our tooth brushes and shoehorns, and where they make a noise, it is always discretely Ligetian.)

        • “Discreetly Ligetian.” Depending on which period, that could be very entertaining or horrifying.
          At least it’s not Pendereckian.

      • The prize was set up by Werner’s grandson, Ernst, see below. I heard him “do” the Art of Fugue, it went ok, JSB would probably through his wig in the Air.

        In 1972 Ernst von Siemens, the grandson of the industrial entrepreneur Werner von Siemens, established the foundation that bears his name. Every year the Foundation awards the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize to a composer, performer, or scholar who has made outstanding contributions to the world of music. The award has increasingly drawn international attention over the years and will be accompanied by a € 250,000 cash endowment in 2017.

        In total the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation is awarding 3,5 million euros. The largest share is distributed to support contemporary music projects in more than twenty countries all over the world. Along with commissioned works, concerts and events are also supported, as well as educationally valuable projects that give children and adolescents access to contemporary music. Competitions, academies and workshops where music students and young composers, conductors and instrumentalists can demonstrate their skills, individual academic publications and complete editions also sponsored. In addition, numerous festivals receive yearly grants from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation in recognition of their contribution to contemporary music.

        The Foundation’s Board of Trustees includes the composers Wolfgang Rihm, Enno Poppe, Peter Ruzicka and Isabel Mundry, the musicologist Hermann Danuser (Humboldt University, Berlin), and the cultural managers Thomas von Angyan (Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna), Ilona Schmiel (Beethovenfest Bonn), Nikos Tsouchlos and Winrich Hopp (musica viva, Munich). According to the Foundation’s bylaws, the chairmanship of the Board of Supervisors is held by the president of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, and one of its members must be a descendent of the Siemens family.

        To date there have been fourty-four recipients of the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize. The laureates include Benjamin Britten, Olivier Messiaen, Mstislav Rostropovich, Witold Lutosławski, Luciano Berio, Hans Werner Henze, György Ligeti, Claudio Abbado, Maurizio Pollini, Helmut Lachenmann, György Kurtág, Daniel Barenboim and Mariss Jansons to name only a few.

        • As far as new music goes, it appears that the S Foundation mainly supports modernism, the very type of music which has created so much damage to the art form and hastened the cementing of the central performance culture as a ‘museum culture’.

  • Love Aimard’s Ligeti etude recordings. Some of the finest music-making I’ve ever heard. Glad he is being richly rewarded for taking on challenging modern works.

  • Now that the BRSO will get its new hall, some good journalist must find out whether Mariss really did hand over his Siemens €250,000 — as he promised — toward the construction.

  • George Benjamin gave one of the very best honouring speeches I have ever heard for anyone. – in English. It would be fitting to have it reprinted here. The nastiness of some of the comments above would be revealed to be so petty and undeserved were that done. By the way, Benjamin Britten was the first recipient of the Siemens Prize some 69 years ago – the German bashing re the Siemens family is wholly undeserved in this context.

  • He certainly is a master interpreter of “wrong note” music. In that respect he reminds me of Les Dawson who used to play well known song tunes but using wrong notes and off key!

    • It is very hard to write the right wrong notes in new music (Stravinsky) but very easy to write the wrong wrong notes like [redacted, redacted, redacted etc. etc. etc.]

      • I think what Lunchtime O’Rihm means is that there are no wrong notes just notes played in the wrong order. I played a Josef Mathias Hauer Etude, op 22 upside down it made absolutely no difference at all and he invented 12 wrong note music before Schoenberg. The human brain and neural sensory system needs clear patterns to follow, a wrong note piece as Les Dawson played is comprehensible but Hauer et al not. Its the same with abstract art.

      • For decades critics of modern classical music have been derided as philistines for failing to grasp the subtleties of the chaotic sounding compositions, but there may now be an explanation for why many audiences find them so difficult to listen to.
        A new book on how the human brain interprets music has revealed that listeners rely upon finding patterns within the sounds they receive in order to make sense of it and interpret it as a musical composition.
        While traditional classical music follows strict patterns and formula that allow the brain to make sense of the sound, modern symphonies by composers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern simply confuse listeners’ brains.
        Philip Ball, author of The Music Instinct, has drawn on the latest scientific findings from neuroscientists to show structure and patterns in music are a fundamental part of musical enjoyment.
        He said: “Many people still seem to find modern classical music challenging. If that is the case, then they can relax as it is challenging for a good reason and it is not because they are in some way too musically stupid to appreciate it.
        “The brain is a pattern seeking organ, so it looks for patterns in music to make sense of what we hear. The music of Bach, for example, embodies a lot of the pattern forming process.
        “Some of the things that were done by those composers such as Schoenberg undermined this cognitive aid for making music easier to understand and follow. Schoenberg’s music became fragmented which makes it harder for the brain to find structure.
        “That isn’t to say, of course, that it is impossible to listen to, it is just harder work. It would be wrong to dismiss such music as a racket.”
        Mr Ball believes that many traditional composers such as Mozart, Bach and Beethoven subconsciously followed strict musical formula to produce music that was easy on the ear by ensuring it contained patterns that could be picked out by the brain.
        In the early twentieth century, however, composers led by Schoenberg began to rally against the traditional conventions of music to produce compositions which lack tonal centres, known as atonal music.
        Under their vision, which has been adopted by many subsequent classical musicians, music no longer needed to be confined to a home note or chord.
        But such atonal music has been badly received by audiences and critics who have found it difficult to follow.
        Professor David Huron, an expert on music cognition at Ohio State University, has studied some of the underlying reasons why listeners struggled with such modern classical pieces.
        He said: “Much of what the brain does is to anticipate the future. Predicting what happens next has obvious survival value, and brains are remarkably adept at anticipating events.
        “We measured the predictability of tone sequences in music by Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern and found the successive pitches were less predictable than random tone sequences.
        “For listeners, this means that, every time you try to predict what happens next, you fail. The result is an overwhelming feeling of confusion, and the constant failures to anticipate what will happen next means that there is no pleasure from accurate prediction.”
        Dr Aniruddh Patel, a researcher at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, said that tonal music such as traditional classical music uses some of the same mechanisms needed for processing language.
        “This may be one reason such music is congenial to the human mind,” he said. “It may be a reason why atonal music is more difficult when first encountered.”
        Dr Timothy Jones, deputy principal at the Royal Academy of Music, said: “Mozart and Bach have similar levels of complexity as Schoenberg, but those complexities are in different musical domains. Their music is very information dense.
        “I would question how much of the familiarity with the music of Mozart and Bach has to do with culturalisation rather than an innate cognitive inability to understand the music of composers like Schoenberg. Certain people can learn to appreciate it.”
        Research has shown that listening to music is a major cognitive task that requires considerable processing resources to unpick harmony, rhythm and melody.
        Recent studies by Professor Nina Kraus, a neuroscientists at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, have shown that the electrical activity inside the brain while listening to music closely matches the physical properties of sound waves.
        Using brain scanning equipment Professor Kraus, who presented her findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego on Saturday, said the brainwaves recorded from volunteers listening to music could be converted back to sound.
        In one example where volunteers listened to Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water, when the brainwaves were played back the song was clearly recognisable.
        She said: “When we play the brainwaves back as sound, although they don’t sound exactly like the song, it is pretty similar. It shows that the brain matches the physical properties of sound very closely.”

        • Science confirming what a musically alert person hears immediately, without the help of any theory or scientific report.

          “Mr Ball believes that many traditional composers such as Mozart, Bach and Beethoven subconsciously followed strict musical formula to produce music that was easy on the ear by ensuring it contained patterns that could be picked out by the brain.” They never used ‘strict musical formula’, but music has always been an art form using pattern making. Music IS pattern making. The complexities in Bach etc. are musico-psychological complexities, in a musical language that is accessible because being tonal. The problem with Schoenberg is that he thought that the pattern making was merely a human construct that simply could be replaced by another human construct. But musical pattern making is based upon the perception of relationships between tones, and these relationships are again based upon the harmonic series, which are a natural given. The human ear and brain have developed as to perceive these relationships.

          • I doubt the audience for contemporary “wrong note ” music is very big. Must be hard to make money out of it. I made a stack from a wee jingle flogging Chicken Burgers on the telly! Had I stuck to doing wrong note stuff, I would have been destitute.

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