Toru Takemitsu Composition Award 2014 - final concert

2014.05.25. - 2014.05.25.
Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall, Tokyo (Japan)

Peter Eötvös is the judge of the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award in 2014.

Peter Eötvös has chosen the following 4 orchestral works out of 108 entries from 31 countries eligibly accepted by 30 September 2013. Screening was done with the anonymous scores having only their titles. These four nominated works will be performed on 25 May 2014 at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall : Takemitsu Memorial for Mr. Eötvös’s final judgement.
(originally posted at the website of Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall)

Results of Toru Takemitsu Composition Award 2014

1st Prize Kei Daigo (Japan)
Cash Award 1,200,000 yen

2nd Prize Giovanni Dario Manzini (Italy)
Until the sea above us closed again
Cash Award 800,000 yen

3rd Prize Timo Ruttkamp (Germany)
BLACK BOXES für drei Orchestergruppen
Cash Award 600,000 yen

4th Prize Siraseth Pantura-umporn (Thailand)
Cash Award 400,000 yen

Please find more information about the award at the website of Tokyo Opera City Hall:

Comments for the Final / as a single judge 
for the Toru Takemitsu Composition Awards 2014

I have spent time over several decades on perusal and selection, but this was the first time I have ever received 108 scores: I alone had to make a decision as to which 4 compositions shall be part of the international concert repertoire.
It was a great challenge although the selection was far less complicated for me to do on my own. It was a pleasure to read the scores, especially since I am very interested in the younger generation’s way of musical thinking.
I do not set high value on the works of composers who come from an easily recognizable "school" where patterns of thought are already in place. You can generally tell by the outward, graphic appearance of such scores that the composer is a copyist.
As a conductor I often find that compositions which lack charisma cannot touch, cannot form a connection with the audience. A dialogue must be crafted between the composer and the audience. For the orchestra, it is extremely important that a common language should develop between the composer and the musicians within the new thoughts and techniques; and that there should be one or two moments in the course of the new piece which will be a true discovery, a revelation for the musicians and the audience alike. Originality of the musical message, clearly discernible cultural roots and clear, precise "notation": these were my criteria for the evaluation of the submitted scores.
The selection process took 6 weeks. After reading all 108 scores, 54 proceeded to the next round (exactly half of them). It took another two weeks for my brain to "process" the material. Following a second reading I was left with 18 pieces (exactly one-third). Seven of these were favorites, eleven were possible.
I made the final decision on the very last day, when I said to myself, “I am sitting in a concert hall and I would like to ask the orchestra to perform the following 4 pieces for me”:

(In order of entry)


Reading the score I had the same feeling that I sometimes have in a foreign country, where despite the fact that I do not speak the language, I seem to understand everything; everything becomes clear and obvious in the composition. It is a piece one can recognize after hearing it only once. It is unique, singular, and very positive.
The composer uses strong, contrasting colors. The set of instruments where the glockenspiel, the vibraphone, the tubular bells, the harp, the piano and the sparkling sound of the wind chimes dominate probably represent "serenity", in opposition to the wind and string instruments that make regular attempts to "wake up". If they manage to do so, we can look forward to a serene and energetic day.

BLACK BOXES für drei Orchestergruppen

It is easily discernible that the composer comes from the German musical heritage. The model for this piece written for 3 groups of instruments cannot have been any other than the Stockhausen piece from 1957, "Gruppen", written for 3 different orchestras.
However, it is only a model, and the "Black Boxes" is not an imitation.
While Stockhausen was interested in polyphony - the independent, individual lives of the three orchestras, perceived as the life of three countries would be seen from the cosmos - "Black Boxes" incorporates its incredibly compact and energetic material into a single frame, into one great stereo sound.
This piece is without a doubt the most traditional of the four chosen scores. Because of its extraordinarily clear, formal composition, dynamism and verve and the transparent sound that comes from constantly employing the entire orchestra, it would most certainly be a pleasure to listen to this piece sitting in the middle of the front row of the balcony.
I do hope that the premiere in Tokyo will arouse the interest of other orchestras to perform it.


I read and reread this score, at length, several times. I perused it as I sometimes do with a painting, when I am in a museum, alone in a room where there is only one picture exhibited. I stand in front of the picture for a long time, taking stock of the whole, then studying the details, then looking at the whole again – and so on, for some time.
The composer has a deep knowledge of sound. He does not listen to it from outside, but from within the music. He uses a special technique that reminds one of the Impressionists: he constantly repeats sounds, as the painters used points strung together instead of lines. In this way, sounds are lifted from the ground into space: they will be lighter, and as the sound is made up of points, they can mix and mingle with each other lightly and easily, like snowflakes. The composer found an extremely simple and clear writing technique to help musicians with the performance of this repetitive sound.
I am very much looking forward to hearing a live performance of this composition.

Until the sea above us closed again

There are certain themes that are not suitable for musical transformation. In this case the exact opposite happens: it is the choice of theme and the musical refinement that makes this subdued and sensitive piece stand out from among the others. This piece is like three poems, recited in a whisper. It evokes the spirit of Dante – and the moment it becomes almost tangible, it disappears.
This piece was written for a medium-size orchestra and it is relatively short, suitable for a concert hall, but I imagine that listening to it on CD at home alone, a closer inspection would bring further details to the listener's attention.
- Thanks
My grateful thanks to all 108 composers for giving me an inside view of contemporary musical thinking and trends from all over the world. Despite the varying quality of the pieces, the overall picture is coherent and positive.
Appreciative thanks are due to the organizers of the competition, for their conscientious, thorough preparatory work and the precise information given at all times.
I look forward with great pleasure to meeting all concerned in Tokyo in May.

Peter Eötvös

November 30, 2013

Please find the gallery of the composers at the website of Tokyo Opera City Hall: