A prize tuned to new symphonies

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The Independent Online
A pounds 25,000 prize to encourage contemporary composers to create new works for symphony orchestras was launched in London yesterday. The patron of the new international competition, entitled Masterprize, is the world-renowned cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich.

The competition is the brainchild of John McLaren, an investment banker, writer and music lover, who became "distressed" over a long period about the "rift" between modern composers, orchestras, programmes, broadcasters and audiences. He has gathered partners, including BBC Radio 3, the EMI record company, the London Symphony Orchestra and BBC Music Magazine.

Fifteen short-listed works will be broadcast on Radio 3; the six finalist pieces will be performed by the LSO and distributed as a CD with Music Magazine, which will guarantee a world-wide circulation of some 200,000. EMI has promised to release the winning composition.

It has not yet been decided who will be on the final judging panel; but the LSO will certainly be represented, and the winner will be selected through equal vote by the public (voting after they hear the CD and the radio broadcasts) and a celebrity jury. It is hoped that the contest will be run every two years with the help of commercial sponsorship, though at the moment, only the first contest is guaranteed.

Rostropovich has performed 104 new compositions and has conducted 56 in his career. Speaking at the launch in London yesterday, he said: "I am sure we have a new Britten, a new Messiaen, a new Bernstein, but we don't know who these people are. I rejoice in this brilliant concept. I am particularly delighted that composers all over the world of every age can use their creative powers, knowing that their work will be recorded and go into the repertoire."

Mr McLaren, chairman of Masterprize, added: "Right now, too little music is winning enough hearts and minds to secure an assured place in the world repertoire. Masterprize creates a uniquely powerful channel for composers to win over large numbers of music lovers, and make them want to hear their music again and again."

One contemporary classical composer at the launch was 28-year-old Roxanna Panvenik, a London-based composer of chamber music, ballet and opera. She said that although she had many commissions, she had not had a commercial recording.

"Many of my composer friends feel ignored, but good work is being composed," she said. Gorecki is very spiritual. In the Nineties, audiences want this spiritual feeling in music and there are many contemporary composers who can supply that."

tComposers wishing to enter should write to: Masterprize, PO Box 12713, London NW6 6WR.

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