UK composer wins 250,000 Euros

UK composer wins 250,000 Euros


norman lebrecht

January 17, 2019

Rebecca Saunders has been named as the winner of the Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis 2019.

The organisers helpfully point out that she is ‘the first female composer’ ever to take this prize.

Is she also the first to wear glasses?

While British by birth Saunders, 51, lives in Berlin and composes German post-Rihmisms.




  • JayBee says:

    Can anybody make me less ignorant and tell me what post-Rhimisms mean?

    • Stuart says:

      She studied for 3 years with Wolfgang Rihm. Post-Rihmism presumably is music written after Rihm, though he is very much alive.

    • Clarrieu says:

      Maybe she’s composing nursery rihmes…

    • John Borstlap says:

      Post-rhimism is a form of neo-post-expressionism after the initial expressionism had been completely exhausted by Schoenberg and Berg. This form of Klangkunst is scraping the barrel for the last remnants of symbolic postwar modernity. The genre has nothing to say any longer, but luckily it still earns money, so it is kept alive with great passion.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Merely the thoroughly bourgeois, conventional neo-Klangkunst which has become the asset of the musically-challenged:

    Regression parading as progressiveness.

  • Ellingtonia says:

    I bet people will be falling over themselves to get to concert halls in the UK to hear performances of her “outstanding” compositions………………….just try YouTubing her to sample her musical (and I use that word loosely) landscape.

  • Peter Owen says:

    I assume the people who award this prize explain their reasons (and it would be wonderful to know what, in the case of Ms Saunders, they were). And, rather than handing over such a large sum to one composer would it not be more useful to to offer smaller sums to more fledgling composers?

  • Aaron H says:

    How sad your life must be to feel so triggered by their press release.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      If someone issues a press release “celebrating” som ething then I think it only fair that we, as members of the public, at which it is aimed, have the opportunity to respond and express our views. Her “music” is the kind that would drive people from the concert hall shaking their heads in disbelief………I also thought that this kind of drivel went out of fashion in the late 60s!

  • Rhian Samuel says:

    Are we going back to the 90s when women composers could only be described by comparing them to their male colleagues?

    • D T says:

      Since you’re one of those angry women composers who feels gender got in the way of your career: it’s not gender, it’s that your music is sort of crap.

      I have nothing against Rebecca Saunders, but she could stand to smile a bit. Then again, her music sounds sort of like that.

      • Avenger says:

        Then Beethoven must have written absolutely shitty music, isn’t it? He’s never smiling in the paintings, he always looks embittered. His music sounds sort of like that.

  • Alexander Strauch says:

    She is a wonderful composer and a wonderful colleague, an enrichment for minimum the continental contemporary music. Every bullying here of her is nothing than harassing and some kind of bombing on a person between UK and Europe. Be not so selfish in knowing what other people are as long you know not what you really want….

    • Oh sweet Jesus, bullying! Really? Sorry, The irony is just overwhelming. Frankly no surprise then that the recipient is a resident of Berlin, a city that despite the fact it presents itself to the world as a hub of creativity, is in reality stiflingly creatively conservative, all held in place by what can only be described as a copybook bullying culture.

      The word colleague sums it up doesn’t it? She’s ‘one of ours’. The bizarre cult closes rank as usual to defend one of it’s own. Meanwhile music in Germany continues it’s slow, graceless and self-inflicted slide into cultural irrelevance.

      One day there will be nobody left wanting to finance art that amounts to no more than a private conversation between it’s practitioners. Art that delivers not a sod of benefit to the community that is expected to pay for it, and perhaps most importantly, one that coldly and methodically silences voices who believe we could be so much better than this .

    • Klaus Narr says:

      Yes, I don’t get all the hate either. She strikes me as being a very interesting composer. and indeed we went to a concert of her music on Saturday night (which, though not full, was very well attended) which we enjoyed very much. I loved the physicality of the performance and the sense of drama (the final piece was inspired by a Beckett play).
      Her music is so much better (in my opinion) than a lot of other music being composed these days – even if it is “klangkunst”.

  • contemporary says:

    great choice, very interesting composer ! and she is the first female prize-winning composer so why not mention it ? strange way of presenting this great news !

  • Kayone says:

    Wow, we have 2019, dear author. To your embarrassing and body shaming comment, that’s all I can think. Look to Beethoven. Did he look more friendly? And Igor Strawinsky, didn’t he have glasses, too?

  • Marcia says:

    Belittleing a woman and her achievments by judging her looks is just so ridiculous. No-one cares if she wears glasses or smiles. Doing so is nothing but mysogynistic. Obviously there’s nothing else to hold against her apart from being a woman. She’s an artist and her work has been acknowledged by giving her this award. If you don’t like her work, that’s ok, but it has nothing to do with her looks. It makes me laugh that some guys still can’t bear a successful woman. The world has changed, get over it!

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Do you remember where you mislaid your sense of irony? The organisers point out superfluously that she’s the first woman. We note the precedence of glasses.

  • Claudia Lehleitner says:

    The first female composer ever to take this prize….but her glasses? Degrading bullying. What a crap!