All shall have prizes: Chinese composer scoops 60k Swiss francs

All shall have prizes: Chinese composer scoops 60k Swiss francs


norman lebrecht

March 08, 2021

The 3rd Basle Composition Competition has given its first prize to Yiqing Zhu from China for a work titled “DeepGrey”.

The prize is 60,000 Swiss francs ($US62k).

The judges were composers Unsuk Chin, Beat Furrer and Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini with Felix Meyer, Director of the Paul Sacher Foundation and composer Michael Jarrell as chairman.



  • yujafan says:

    he looks overjoyed… not!

    • Rogerio says:

      To have won, this composition must have a great deal of merit. Nevertheless, it will probably never be played in the future.
      That is a testimony to the incredible vitality of classical works of the past. What a blessing it is to hear them again, and again, and again, …. and again, and again… again …. ain …. aga … aaaaaaaaagain… againnnnnnnnn…
      And now conducted increasingly by women maestros!! … oh my god! again and … again…

    • Christopher Clift says:

      The picture may NOT have been taken following the award.

  • Tito says:

    60k Francs is not 50k USD. More like 63k USD

  • Anon says:

    Congratulations to him and I hope he composes better than the judges who awarded him this prize.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      I know works by two of the judges, and I can say that the YouTube examples of Mr Zhu’s collected by Mr Borstlapp bellow are much, much more “advanced”.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Mr Zhu is one of those Chinese who think that progress consists of imitating what in the West is considered the progress of half a century ago.

    Here are some of his works:

    As music, it’s pretentious nonsense. As sound art, it is very conservative. Has all been done, all been heard (once). Why are there still people around who think it is ‘new’? Because it is quickly forgotten, so every time it reappears, for ignorati it seems new, like demented people with amnesia – they experience the new all the time.

    Why do Western competitions reward such nitwit stuff? Well, it has to survive, somehow, so: it’s called ‘modern music’ – and as such it is a parasitic cultural appropriation.

    Poor Mr Zhu! he is duped in a terrible way. At least he gets some money as compensation.

    • RW2013 says:

      Indeed, 62,000USD compared to the pittance that Bartók earned for his Concerto for Orchestra, albeit Competition versus Commission.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      There is even a conductor in the first video above!

      That thing is not serious.

  • Lord Bus Stop says:

    Many congratulations to Yiqing Zhu!

  • Couperin says:

    Played a work by him at a Composer Workshop at Lucerne Festival. The music he notated was not actually what he wanted. He kept snapping and yelling at musicians to play louder or softer, or singing rhythms the way he wanted to hear them instead of how he notated them. His notation was inconsistent, difficult to read and in many cases actually impossible to play and needlessly complex. He kept changing dynamics and indications, and finally an ensemble member chastised him in front the conductor for his behavior and performance materials being completely unacceptable. To add insult to injury, the final work was subjected to “live processing” which added reverb, transformations and feedback. The thing just sounded like a mess. In the end, for listeners in the audience they might say “Wow that was insane and virtuosic!” But in reality we were just doing the best we can. Of course he wins an award.

    • John Borstlap says:

      A typical description of sonic art preparation. And the notion of ‘right notes’ or ‘wrong notes’ does not even come into play.

      I know from performers who did a lot of sonic art that the reality of rehearsing it is often a total mess, and that does not in the slightest affect the result, since it does not make any difference, performances are about some general impression.

      I even got this from people like [redacted] and [redacted].

      And then, people complain that I am ‘too critical’ about sound art.

      Exceptions should be made for carefully worked-out sonic art like Morton Feldman’s, which almost always has a formidable aesthetic quality. Or some works by Ligeti, like ‘Melodien’, for the same reason.

      So, when you are confronted by something like this:

      …. you can imagine what has been going-on behind the screen of respectability.

  • Peety says:

    “All shall have prizes” ? Did everyone win prizes ? Well Bilbo Baggins would have been pleased anyway.