Award Ceremony for the 2017 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize

On 2 June 2017, the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation awarded the international Ernst von Siemens Music Prize to the pianist Pierre-Laurent AimardMichael Krüger, Chairman of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation’s Board of Trustees and President of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, presented the award to Pierre-Laurent Aimard during a musical ceremony at the Prinzregententheater in Munich.

The ceremony began with the presentation of the 2017 Composers’ Prizes to Michael Pelzel from Switzerland, Simon Steen-Andersen from Denmark and Lisa Streich from Sweden.

Here you can watch a video of the award ceremony, and here you can take a look at the programme book.

The laudation for Pierre-Laurent Aimard was given by George Benjamin, who has been friends with Aimard since their student days and paid tribute to him as a historic figure: ‘In the last few decades, no one in the world has exerted a greater influence of the nature of the piano repertoire and the dissemination of modern music for keyboard instruments than Aimard.’ He described him as inquisitive and adventurous, uncompromisingly loyal and devoted to the idea of the contemporary composer from the start. For Benjamin, this was the only explanation for the fat that in his last year as Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival, Aimard inspired numerous British music-lovers to get up in the middle of the night and listen to the first notes of Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux – together with the sunrise – in natural surroundings.

In his acceptance speech Aimard said, ‘It is an extraordinary honour for me to receive this acknowledgement from an institution that views composers as the heart of musical life. Today you are honouring a servant of composers, someone who is available to represent them and to make their music accessible to an audience by performing their works. Seeking, as an explorer, to understand the composer’s universe, to uncover their message in learning their language, makes the performer an artisan of articulation and presentation.’ He described our world as multi-layered, with each composer and creator speaking their own language. Children and young people are capable of learning foreign languages, so Aimard asked, ‘Why does one prevent them from accessing such knowledge? Why has institutional musical education so rigid that it ignores seventy years of repertoire, when access to this music teaches us about life in the world of today? Comprehensively teaching contemporary works and their multi-faceted aesthetics would be an excellent way of remaining inwardly alert and battling an inner isolation from the world. The jury’s decision to award this prize to me is the greatest inspiration to continue this battle.’

Aimard followed this with a performance of George Benjamin’s Shadowlines, Passio sine nomine by György Kurtág, two of the Études by György Ligeti – ‘Entrelacs’ and ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – ‘Passacaglia canonica’ from Miniature Estrose by Marco Stroppa, Elliott Carter’s Caténaires and, together with his wife Tamara Stefanovich, Frames for piano four hands by Vassos Nicolaou. Aimard gave the following explanation for this selection of pieces in an interview: ‘My programme consists of works by composers with whom I have a special relationship and have collaborated closely. All of these pieces are dedicated to me and were premiered by me – they occupy an important place in my musical development, and taken together, they form something like an essence of myself as a performer.’

The Munich Chamber Orchestra (MKO), conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer, opened the award ceremony with an excerpt from AUGENLIDER by Lisa Streich, a piece for prepared guitar and orchestra. The soloist was the young British guitarist Laura Snowden. The MKO then played an excerpt from Michael Pelzel ‘s concerto for CLEX and orchestra, Gravity’s Rainbow. The CLEX, an electronically-expanded contrabass clarinet, was played by Ernesto Molinari. Simon Steen-Andersen presented Run Time Error, a joystick-controlled video performance. Portrait films about each of the three Composers’ Prize winners by Johannes List were also shown, and these can be viewed here (Lisa Streich, Michael Pelzel, Simon Steen-Andersen).

After the audience had accompanied Pierre-Laurent Aimard from the stage with standing ovations and enthusiastic applause at the end of the ceremony, the guests continued the festivities well into the night in the garden hall of the Prinzregententheater.