The 15-minute piece incorporates spatial effects and other inventive techniques to evoke a wide range of sound and emotion, said award director Marc Satterwhite.
The Berlin Philharmonic commissioned the work last year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Philharmonie, the city’s iconic concert hall. At the October 2013 premiere, Rihm stationed clarinetists and percussionists at different spots around the auditorium to give the audience a sense of hearing music both near and far away.
“The work evokes dark colors and uses mostly low instruments – no flutes, violins or violas, for example,” Satterwhite said. “It begins and ends in quiet and mystery, taking many interesting paths along the way.”
Rihm, 62, a professor at Germany’s Karlsruhe University of Music, has been a composer-in-residence at music festivals in Lucerne and Salzburg. He has written more than 400 pieces in every classical musical genre, making him one of the most prolific composers of his generation.
Orchestras, vocalists, soloists and chamber groups throughout Europe have performed his work, as have orchestras in New York and Cleveland.
The university presents the prizes annually for outstanding work in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology and education.