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Saariaho wins 2008 $100,000 Nemmers Prize

The Northwestern University School of Music today (April 2) announced that Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is the 2008 winner of the $100,000 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition. The biennial award honors classical modern composers of outstanding achievement who have significantly affected the field of composition. Past winners include John Adams (2004) and Oliver Knussen (2006).

Saariaho was cited by the selection committee for “transforming avant-garde techniques into a world of luminous, shifting color and emotional depth, mirroring the human experience.”

As winner of the 2008 Nemmers Prize, Saariaho receives a cash award of $100,000 and during the 2009-10 season a performance of one of her works by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She also will be in residence at Northwestern University’s School of Music during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years. Her first residency is scheduled for January 2009.

Kaija Saariaho said, “I am very honored to have received the Nemmers Prize. Awards of this rank are important because they recognize a composer’s life work and the great effort required to develop and deepen a musical style. I was especially happy to read the prize citation because it indicates that I have been successful in reaching some of my musical goals.”

Northwestern University School of Music Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery said, “Ms. Saariaho has extended both musical vocabulary and instrumental technique into a new language that is profoundly beautiful and highly personal. Our students and faculty look forward to welcoming her to the Evanston and Chicago communities.”

The anonymous, three-member Nemmers Prize committee that selected Saariaho comprised individuals of widely recognized stature in the international music community.

The Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition is made possible through a generous gift from the late Erwin E. Nemmers and Frederic E. Nemmers, who in 1994 enabled the creation of the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics and the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics, leading awards in those fields.


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