GrawemeyerH. Charles Grawemeyer was a Louisville entrepreneur and industrialist who instituted annual awards in five fields, to be administered and granted by the University of Louisville: music, education, ideas improving world order, psychology, and religion. Music was the first of the awards to be developed. It was launched in 1984, and the Grawemeyer Award in Music has come to be recognized as the most prestigious composition award in the world. It is also the most lucrative. The amount of the first award, given in 1985, was $150,000, and was raised to $200,000 in 2000. The amount offered for the 2011 award (whose submission deadline has just passed) was decreased to $100,000, no doubt in response to the effect of the world economy on endowments such as Grawemeyer's, but it remains by far the largest composition prize.

Lutoslawski 1985

Ligeti 1986

Birtwistle 1987

Ung 1989
Grawemeyer was not a musician, but he was a music lover, and reasoned, "If we did something like this perhaps we could find another Mozart." He worked with the music department at the University of Louisville to develop criteria for judging that would distinguish the award from others, such as the Pulitzer Prize, which were judged by academicians. The group establishing the award studied the procedures for the Nobel Prize, incorporating some of its principles, and came up with a system that involved three tiers of judging, including the faculty of the University of Louisville, an international committee of professional musicians, and a lay committee of knowledgeable music lovers. Pieces by living composers that had been given their premiere in the previous five years were eligible, and the composer had to be nominated by a professional musician or organization.

Tower 1990

Corigliano 1991

Penderecki 1992

Husa 1993
Award recipients have included both composers acknowledged to be among the greatest masters, and composers who are virtually unknown. Particularly in the earlier years, renowned composers like Witold Lutoslawski, György Ligeti, Harrison Birtwistle, John Corigliano, Kryzstof Penderecki, Toru Takemitsu, and John Adams dominated the winners’ list, and more recently Tan Dun, Thomas Adès, Pierre Boulez, Kaija Saariaho, and György Kurtág have been honored. Recent winners tend to include composers respected by their colleagues, but less likely to be familiar to broad audiences, such as Unsuk Chin, George Tsontsakis, Brett Dean, and York Höller.

Takemitsu 1994

Adams 1995

Tcherepnin 1996

Bainbridge 1997
The intent of the Grawemeyer to be an international award has been to some degree a success. While Americans certainly predominate, with seven U.S.-born composers among the 24 winners, 13 nationalities have been represented, including Australia, Cambodia, China, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Germany, Japan, and South Korea, with multiple honorees from Great Britain, Poland, Hungary, and France. It should be noted, though, that winners from three of the other countries, Karel Husa of Czechoslovakia, Ivan Tcherepnin of France, and Tan Dun of China, established their careers in the U.S., so it can't be denied that the U.S. has been disproportionately represented.

Tan Dun 1998

Adès 2000

Boulez 2001

Kernis 2002
Three women have won the award: Joan Tower of the U.S., Kaija Saariaho of Finland, and Unsuk Chin of South Korea. Of the four Asian-born winners, all of whom, to varying degrees, have adopted or incorporated Western musical vocabularies, three have lived for most of their life in the West: Cambodian Chinary Ung and Korean Unsuk Chin in Germany, and Chinese Tan Dun in the US. Only Toru Takemitsu, born in Japan, developed his career primarily in his home country.

Saariaho 2003

Chin 2004

Tsontakis 2005

Kurtág 2006
In 2004 the Pulitzer Prize in music expanded its reach to include a wider array of music outside the academic tradition, with recent winners including jazz composer Ornette Coleman and post-minimalists David Lang and Steve Reich. Grawemeyer winners have tended to be composers with rigorous training in Western classical and modernist traditions, recognized as acceptable by the academic musical community, and even composers like John Adams and Tan Dun, who are indifferent to the world of academia, are represented by very fine but relatively conventional works. Four of the Grawemeyer winners, John Corigliano, Karel Husa, John Adams, and Aaron Jay Kernis, have also received the Pulitzer Prize.

Currier 2007

Lieberson 2008

Dean 2009

Höller 2010
The Grawemeyer judges have favored works in large traditional forms, particularly concertos. Eleven winning compositions feature single or multiple soloists and orchestra, and seven purely orchestral works have been honored. Other winning compositions include three operas, two pieces of chamber music, and one work for piano. None of the winning compositions have included a significant electronic component, and only Tan Dun's Marco Polo makes substantial use of non-Western instruments.

This listing of the recipients of the Grawemeyer Award allows you to sample the winning compositions.
1985Lutoslawski Witold Lutoslawski Poland, 1913-1994
Symphony No. 3 (1973–1983)
Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond. - Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 3
1986Ligeti György Ligeti Hungary 1923- 2006
Études Book 1, for piano (1985)

Fredrik Ullén, piano - Ligeti: Études, Book 1 - Arc-en-ciel
Fredrik Ullén, piano - Ligeti: Études, Book 1 - Automne à Varsovie
1987Birtwistle Harrison Birtwistle Great Britain b. 1934
The Mask of Orpheus, opera (1984)

Various Artists - Birtwistle: The Mask of Orpheus - 3 Shouts of Gratitude: Shout of Victory
Various Artists - Birtwistle: The Mask of Orpheus - 3 Poems of Reminiscences: Poem of Miracles
1988 - No Award
1989 UngChinary Ung Cambodia (Germany) b. 1942
Inner Voices, for orchestra

Dennis Russell Davies, Cond. - Ung: Inner Voices
1990Tower Joan Tower USA b. 1938
Silver Ladders, for orchestra (1986)
Leonard Slatkin, cond. - Tower: Silver Ladders
1991 Corigliano John Corigliano USA b. 1938
Symphony No. 1 (1991)

Leonard Slatkin, cond. - Corigliano: Symphony No. 1 - Movement 3
Leonard Slatkin, cond. - Corigliano: Symphony No. 1 - Movement 4
1992 Penderecki Krzysztof Penderecki Poland b. 1933
Symphony 4 ("Adagio") (1989)

Kryzstof Penderecki, cond. - Penderecki: Symphony 4 ("Adagio")
1993 Karel Husa Czechoslovakia (USA) b.1921
Concerto for cello and orchestra (1988)
No recording available
1994 Takemitsu Tōru Takemitsu Japan 1930-1996
Fantasma/Cantos, for clarinet and orchestra (1991)

Sabine Meyer, clarinet - Takemitsu: Fantasma/Cantos
1995 Adams John Adams USA b. 1947
Violin Concerto (1993)

Gidon Kremer, violin - Adams: Violin Concerto - Chaconne
Gidon Kremer, violin - Adams: Violin Concerto - Toccare
1996 Tcherepnin Ivan Tcherepnin 1943-1998 France (USA)
Double Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra (1995)
No sound sample available
1997 Bainbridge Simon Bainbridge Great Britain b. 1952
Ad Ora Incerta – Four Orchestral Songs from Primo Levi (1994)
No sound sample available
1998 Tan Dun Tan Dun China (USA) b. 1957
Marco Polo, opera (1995)

Tan Dun, cond. - Tan Dun: Book of Timespace - Winter
Tan Dun, cond. - Tan Dun: What a Place That Was
1999 No Award
2000 Ades Thomas Adès Great Britain b. 1971
Asyla, for orchestra, Op. 17 (1997)

Simon Rattle, cond. - Adès: Asyla - II
Simon Rattle, cond. - Adès: Asyla - III Ecstasio
2001 Boulez Pierre Boulez France b. 1925
Sur Incises, for 3 pianos, 3 harps, 2 vibes and marimba (1996–1998)

Boulez, cond. - Boulez: Sur Incises - Moment I
Boulez, cond. - Boulez: Sur Incises - Moment II
2002 Kernis Aaron Jay Kernis USA b. 1960
Colored Field, cello concerto (1994)

Truls Mørk, cello - Kernis: Colored Field - Pandora Dance
Truls Mørk, cello - Kernis: Colored Field - Hymns and Tablets
2003 Saariaho Kaija Saariaho Finland b. 1952
L'amour de loin, opera (2000)

Kent Nagano, cond. - Saariaho: L’Amour de loin – Act 2, Tableau 1

Kent Nagano, cond. - Saariaho: L’Amour de loin - Act 5, Tableau 3 - J’avais cru en toi
2004 Chin Unsuk Chin South Korea (Germany) b.1961
Violin Concerto (2001)

Viviane Hagner, violin - Chin: Violin Concerto - Movement 2
Viviane Hagner, violin - Chin: Violin Concerto - Movement 4
2005 Tsontakis George Tsontakis USA b.1951
Violin Concerto No. 2 (2003)

Douglas Boyd, violin - Tsontakis: Violin Concerto No. 2 - Surges (among stars)

Douglas Boyd, violin - Tsontakis: Violin Concerto No. 2 - Just Go!
2006 Kurtag György Kurtág Hungary b. 1926
...Concertante..., for violin, viola and orchestra, Op. 42 (2003)

Zoltan Kocsis, cond. - Kurtág: ...Concertante... - Choral (quasi “Trio”)
Zoltan Kocsis, cond. - Kurtág: ...Concertante... - Coda
2007 Currier Sebastian Currier USA b.1959
Static, for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano (2003)

Music from Copland House - Currier: Static - ethereal
Music from Copland House - Currier: Static - floating
2008 Lieberson Peter Lieberson USA b. 1946
Neruda Songs, for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (2005)

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano - Lieberson: Neruda Songs - No estés lejos de mí un solo día (Don't go far off, not even for a day)

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano - Lieberson: Neruda Songs - Amor mío, si muero y tú no mueres (My love, if I die and you don't)
2009 Brett Dean Australia b. 1961
The Lost Art of Letter Writing, violin concerto (2006)
No recording available, but you can hear a sample here
2010 York Höller Germany b. 1944
Sphären, for orchestra (2001–2006)
No recording available, but you can hear a sample here
For more information about the Grawemeyer Award, check out the website