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Biennale Musica 2024

Rebecca Saunders

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement

Award Ceremony

Friday 27 September, 12:00 noon
Ca’ Giustinian, Venice

Rebecca Saunders

La Biennale di Venezia will present the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to composer Rebecca Saunders.

First woman to receive the Ernst-von-Siemens award in 2019, and subject of a dedicated focus at Lucerne Festival and Musikfest Berlin, Rebecca Saunders has been awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement “for the refined sophistication of her research and her compositional intentions, for the attention she dedicates to the sonic microcosm, for her capacity to create a private listening area within the listener, an intimate inner acoustic space that evolves and amplifies the sonic imaginary. The composer conceives a specific temporality for each work which becomes an investigation into and experimentation with the experience of listening. Her elaboration of the sonic material is profoundly speculative and at the same time powerfully empirical and material, tied to the performance and the playing strategies” (from the motivation for the award).

Rebecca Saunders has explained her research as follows: “Surface, weight and feel are part of the reality of musical performance: the weight of the bow on the string; the differentiation of touch of the finger on the piano key; the expansion of the muscles between the shoulder blades drawing sound out of the accordion; the in-breath preceding the 'heard' tone. Being aware of the grit and noise of an instrument, or a voice, reminds us of the presence of a fallible physical body behind the sound. This physical presence of the musician and his acoustic instrument, and of sound itself, are important sources of inspiration”.

Biographical notes

Rebecca Saunders (London, 1967) studied composition with Nigel Osborne in Edinburgh and Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe. Saunders pursues an intense interest in the sculptural and spatial properties of organised sound, which she often creates in collaboration and dialogue with a wide variety of musicians and artists. Her works include:  Chroma I - XX (2003-2017), Stasis, Stasis Kollektiv (2011/16), and Insideout, a 90-minute collage for a choreographed installation, created in collaboration with Sasha Waltz, her first work for the stage which received over 100 international performances. More recently in 2017, Yes, an expansive 80-minute spatial installation composition, was written for Musikfabrik, Donatienne Michel-Dansac and Enno Poppe for the architectural spaces of the Berlin Philharmonie and the St. Eustache Cathedral in Paris.
Since 2013, Saunders has written a series of solos and duos for performers with whom she has collaborated closely, including Bite for bass flute, Aether for bass clarinet duo, dust for percussion, O for soprano, hauch for violin, and Flesh for accordion. She has simultaneously pursued her keen interest in works in the concertante form, writing a double percussion concerto Void, a trumpet concerto Alba, and both Skin and Yes for soprano and large ensemble. In 2018 her double bass concerto Fury II was choreographed by Emanuel Gat in collaboration with Ensemble Modern as part of the Story Water project.
Saunders’ music has been performed and premiered by many prestigious ensembles, soloists and orchestras including, among others, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Modern, Quatuor Diotima, Asko|Schönberg, the Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Resonanz, Ensemble Recherche, ICE, the Neue Vocalsolisten, Ensemble Remix.
Her compositions have been recognised with numerous international prestigious awards, including the 2019 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, the ARD und BMW musicaviva Prize, the Paul Hindemith Prize, four Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, four BASCA British Composer Awards, the GEMA Music Prize, the Hans und Gertrud Zender Preis and the Mauricio Kagel Music Preis.
Saunders is also active as a composition tutor and teaches regularly at the Darmstadt Summer Courses and at the Impuls Academy in Graz. She lives in Berlin and is a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts and the Sachsen Academy of Arts in Dresden.

Biennale Musica
Biennale Musica