Olga Neuwirth received the German Music Authors' Prize 2017

Olga Neuwirth received the German Music Authors' Prize 2017

Olga Neuwirth received the German Music Authors' Prize (Deutscher Musikautorenpreis) in the “symphonic composition” category. The award is given by the German collection society GEMA. Olga Neuwirth joins a distinguished list of past winners, including Hans Werner Henze, Klaus Huber, Helmut Lachenmann, Enno Poppe and Jörg Widmann.

Laudatio by Mark Sattler (Lucerne Festival)

" 'Catastrophe music' – these are the words I would like to use to pay tribute to Olga Neuwirth in a few sentences. We are surrounded by catastrophes. Big and small ones, both personal and international. To not let ourselves become numb to these catastrophes, but to face them, to not give up in desperation but to draw strength for artistic projects from the anger – this is typical for Olga Neuwirth’s attitude and actions.

With Olga Neuwirth’s symphonic music, I think of the great symphonic composer Gustav Mahler. Mahler’s credo was: “(...) To me, symphony just means: building a world with all the tools provided by available technology”. By doing so, Mahler incorporated the variety of musical language of his surroundings in his symphonic music, he combined the high, classical sound with that of folklore and military music.

Like Gustav Mahler, Olga Neuwirth also captures “non-classical” idioms and musical language and composes with them. A good example of “catastrophe music” and building up a symphonic world is her latest symphonic work, the “Trurliade - Zone Zero” percussion concerto, which was performed in Lucerne, Berlin and Vienna last year. Along with some jazzy parts, it also features a hymn from the African-American Civil Rights Movement. The symphonic orchestra is also complemented by a DJ with turntables, children’s toys and instruments made from junk. Olga Neuwirth commented on this:

'These surrogate soundscapes (including sounds that I recorded from the scrapyard in my home village) (...) were not something that I inserted into the music to cause irritation, but as a reference to the complex existence, which tears holes in our perception. Unravelling the “fabric of reality” with an homage to the implausibility! (...) with the surreal combination of nervously vibrating hand-held fans, objects from the car scrapyard and children’s toys it is possible to develop a challenging poetry of astonishment.'

This is how she describes the percussion soloist’s role in her percussion concerto: “He is the lonely soloist who rejects the “social apparatus” of his time and its value system, and fights against it like Munchausen. Namely with his pluriverse of poetry and diversity, but also with unbridled outbursts of rage and fury.“

Olga, it brings me great pleasure to be able to present this award to you today and I would like to congratulate you from the bottom of my heart on receiving the 2017 Deutschen Musikautorenpreis in the category of symphonic music."

Used by kind permission of the author.

Olga Neuwirth: composer profile