Library Announces 2023 Music Commissions from Koussevitzky Foundation

Published : Thursday, October 19, 2023, 8:43 pm
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The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress has awarded commissions for new musical works to six composers. The commissions are granted jointly by the foundation and the performing organizations that will present the world premiere of each work.

Winning composers for 2023 and the groups co-sponsoring their commissions are Lembit Beecher and Ensemble Échappé; Ashkan Behzadi and Ensemble Recherche; Michael Finnissy and the ensemble loadbang; Gabriela Lena Frank and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Igor Santos and Ensemble Dal Niente; and Conrad Tao and The Westerlies with the Orlando Philharmonic.

The Koussevitzky Foundation was once again able to grant a commission in memory of composer Andrew W. Imbrie (1921-2007), a long-time member of the board. This commission, inaugurated in 2021, is made possible through a gift from Barbara Cushing Imbrie and Andrew Philip Imbrie. Composer Igor Santos, sponsored by Ensemble Dal Niente, is the 2023 recipient of the Imbrie commission.

Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949, was a leading champion of contemporary music. Throughout his distinguished career, he played a vital role in the creation of new works by commissioning composers such as Béla Bartók, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky. He established the Koussevitzky Foundation in 1942 and passed operations to the Library in 1949 to continue his lifelong commitment to composers and new music. Original manuscripts of works commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation comprise an integral part of the Library’s unparalleled music collections.

Applications for commissions are accepted annually. The next deadline for submissions is Jan. 15, 2024. Please visit for more information.

2023 Koussevitzky Commission Recipients

The music of Estonian-American composer Lembit Beecher draws on his fascination with the ways in which memories permeate contemporary lives, for him bringing together pieces of family lore, legend and Estonian folk songs and culture. Beecher served three years as the “Music Alive” composer-in-residence of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and was the inaugural composer-in-residence of Opera Philadelphia, working across disciplines with actors, artists, poets, ethnographers and engineers. He currently is Visiting Artist at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford. This commission will result in a work for solo horn and sinfonietta of 15 players, to be premiered by New York’s Ensemble Échappé.

Ashkan Behzadi, a 2021-2022 Guggenheim Fellow in Music Composition, is an Iranian-Canadian composer whose new work for Germany’s Ensemble Recherche will result in a chamber piece for eight players. In addition to receiving degrees in music in the U.S. and Canada, Behzadi also studied architecture in Tehran. Internationally acclaimed ensembles have commissioned works from Behzadi, and he has served prestigious residencies in the U.S. and Europe. In his recent work, the composer explores issues of genre-blurring and the relationship between modernist lyric poetry and contemporary music. Behzadi joined the music composition faculty of the Manhattan School of Music in 2023.

British composer Michael Finnissy created the music department of the London School of Contemporary Dance and has served as composer for many notable dance companies. Finnissy is a professor of composition at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. As a recognition of unusual accomplishment, he was appointed an honorary life member of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). His distinguished catalogue of over 240 works includes operas, orchestral works and pieces for voice, solo instrument and chamber ensembles. Finnissy has been the featured composer at international festivals and his music is performed and broadcast worldwide. His work for the U.S.-based ensemble loadbang, scored for trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet and baritone voice, will premiere on Oct. 29 at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York City.

Gabriela Lena Frank was named in The Washington Post’s 2017 list of the top 35 most important female composers in history. Born to a mother of Peruvian and Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian and Jewish descent, Frank explores her multicultural American heritage through her compositions. Frank currently serves as composer-in-residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Founder of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, a non-profit training institution for emerging composers from a broad array of backgrounds, she considers civic outreach an essential part of her work. Frank’s new work for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, with baritone voice soloist, will highlight climate urgency and juxtaposing environmentalism with unique experiences of the Black community. Frank’s oratorio “My angel, his name is freedom” was co-commissioned by the Carol Royall Just Fund in the Library of Congress in 2013.

A native of Curitiba, Brazil, Igor Santos crafts his works around the relationship between sounds occurring in our environment, acoustic instruments and video footage, dramatized through techniques of repetition and the use of electronics and microtonal keyboards. The composer often explores “musical mimesis,” where everyday sounds are imitated by instruments. He has received the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other prestigious prizes, and his works have been performed and commissioned by leading international ensembles. Santos’ new chamber music work, supported by the Andrew W. Imbrie Fund, will be written for Chicago’s Ensemble Dal Niente.

Conrad Tao, a native of Urbana, Illinois, has appeared worldwide as an acclaimed pianist and composer. His Koussevitzky commission will be a concerto-style chamber orchestra work for The Westerlies, a brass quartet of two trumpets and two trombones, and the Orlando Philharmonic. Among his honors, Tao received The New York Dance and Performance Award for outstanding sound design/music composition for “More Forever,” a collaboration with dancer and choreographer Caleb Teicher, and the Gilmore Young Artist Award, presented every two years to recognize the most promising new generation of pianists based in the U.S. As both a composer and pianist, Tao will mark the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with multiple performances of the work and a new companion piece commissioned by the Santa Rosa Symphony.

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