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Lieberson’s ‘Neruda Songs’ earns Grawemeyer music prize

December 2nd, 2007

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Peter Lieberson

“Neruda Songs,” a song cycle written by composer Peter Lieberson that became a parting gift to his dying wife, has earned the 2008 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

The work, a group of songs based on five love poems by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, was chosen for the prize among 140 entries from around the world.

Lieberson began writing the song cycle in 2003 for his wife, the late mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who was ill with cancer. In 2005, she learned that she was ill with cancer. She performed it with the organizations that jointly commissioned it, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Boston Symphony, before she died in 2006.

Each song represents a different stage of love, from first passion to the end of life, said Marc Satterwhite, a UofL music professor who directs the award program. “The piece has beauty and surface simplicity, but great emotional depth and intellectual rigor as well,” he said.

Lieberson, the son of former Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson and ballerina Vera Zorina, was born in New York City. He studied music at Columbia and Brandeis universities, also studying Tibetan Buddhism, a theme reflected in his works. He now lives in Santa Fe and devotes his time exclusively to composing music.

Among his other compositions are three concertos and several solo pieces for pianist Peter Serkin, the concerto “Six Realms” for cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the operas “Ashoka’s Dream” and “King Gesar.”

Lieberson’s awards include a Brandeis Creative Arts Award and one from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006.

The Grawemeyer Foundation at UofL annually awards $1 million — $200,000 each — for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education and religion.

Winners of the other 2008 Grawemeyer Awards will be announced throughout this week.

Related Link
University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award

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