Last month, the Royal Philharmonic Society awarded music professor BRIAN FERNEYHOUGH for his “String Quartet No. 6” in a ceremony at London’s Dorchester Hotel. Nearly 400 attended the ceremony, presented in association with BBC Radio 3, which broadcast the program.
According to the society’s website, his quartet is “one of the essential experiences in contemporary music. It’s music that electrifies the familiar combination of a couple of violins, a viola and a cello with fizzing, splintering energy: 20 minutes of music that both shatters conventions and builds on the achievements of Ferneyhough’s five previous quartets.”
It’s Ferneyhough’s second award from the society. The English composer, who has been teaching at Stanford since 2000, won in the same category (chamber-scale composition) for his piece, “On Stellar Magnitudes,” in 1996. The award, which honors musicians, composers, writers, broadcasters and arts organizations, is the highest recognition for live classical music in the United Kingdom.
Ferneyhough is associated with the New Complexity school of composition – sometimes he is called its father. His scores make huge technical demands on performers. His string quartets, almost all of them premiered by the Arditti Quartet (as this one was in Donaueschingen, Germany last October), are considered among the most difficult in the genre.
In 2007, Ferneyhough received the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for lifetime achievement, with a 200,000 euro cash award. The coveted award, often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of music,” is bestowed by the Ernst von Siemens Foundation for Music.
– Cynthia Haven