2019 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize announces winner

A British composer has made history as the first woman to take the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for her life-long service to music – aged just 51. Every year, the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize Foundation awards a cash endowment worth €250,000 to a composer, performer, or scholar who has made outstanding contributions to the world of music. Rebecca Saunders now joins the likes of  Britten, Messiaen, Ligeti, Birtwistle and Kurtag as a winner of the international award. The prize will be given to Saunders at a presentation ceremony on 7 June at Prinzregententheater in Munich.

Since 1990 the Foundation has additionally awarded up to three Composers’ Prizes to promising talents worth €35,000 each – Saunders won one of these in 1996. The Composer Prize Winners 2019 will be announced at the end of February.

This is the third big win for the composer in under six months: in September 2018, Saunders was granted the tenth Roche Commission, with a piece to be premiered at the Lucerne Festival 2020. In December 2018, she was one of 14 composers selected for the 16th British Composer Awards for her chamber work, Unbreathed.

Her new work, Yes made its UK premiere at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF) with Ensemble Musikfabrik and conductor Enno Poppe in November 2018.

Described as a “master of effective progressive tension and expansive sound architecture”, the Berlin-based Brit is fast becoming known as a leader in the pack of a new generation of composers.

Saunders will be at London’s Southbank this Saturday for Ensemble Modern’s portrait concert of her music at the Queen Elisabeth Hall on 19 January. Joined by soprano Juliet Fraser, Zimbabwean-American Vimbayi Kaziboni will conduct Saunders’ works Fury II for double bass and ensemble; a visible trace for ensemble; and Skin for soprano and 13 instruments.