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Yehudi Wyner’s Piano Concerto Wins Pulitzer; Thelonious Monk Receives Special Citation

Posted in News on April 18, 2006
BMI classical composer Yehudi Wyner has won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his piano concerto "Chiavi in Mano," it was announced by Columbia University on April 17. The concerto was premiered by the Boston Symphony on February 17, 2005.

Yehudi WynerThelonious Monk

The $10,000 prize is awarded on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize board for a "distinguished musical composition of significant dimension by an American that has had its first performance in the United States during the year." This year's jury for the music prize included fellow BMI composer and Pulitzer winner William Bolcom, jazz pianist and BMI composer Muhal Richard Abrams (who also served on the jury last year), Carnegie Hall Senior Director & Artistic Advisor Ara Guzelimian, musicologist George E. Lewis and jazz critic Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune.

The Pulitzer board also awarded world-renowned BMI jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Monk a special posthumous citation "for a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz." The citation, like Duke Ellington's in 1999, acknowledges the longtime exclusion of jazz composers up until 1997 when Wynton Marsalis received it for Blood on the Fields. The board recently changed its rules to encourage the submission of jazz and other non-classical works.

Yehudi Wyner has composed more than 60 works including the 1998 Pulitzer Prize-nominated "Horntrio," commissioned by Worldwide Concurrent Premieres Inc. for 40 ensembles worldwide; "Commedia" (2002), commissioned by pianist Emanuel Ax and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman; "Praise Ye the Lord" (1996), a psalm for soprano and orchestra commissioned by Dawn Upshaw and the 92nd Street Y; and "Lyric Harmony" (1995), an orchestral work commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the American Composers Orchestra.

Born in Alberta, Canada, in 1929, Wyner grew up in New York City. He studied at the Juilliard School, Harvard and Yale, and after winning the Rome Prize in 1953, spent three years at the American Academy in Rome. As a pianist, he is a member of the Bach Aria Group and has performed as a soloist and chamber musician; he has also conducted chamber groups, vocal ensembles and operas.

Wyner has taught at Yale, the State University of New York at Purchase, Cornell, Harvard, Tanglewood and Brandeis, where he is Professor Emeritus of composition. He has won two Guggenheim fellowships and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's Elise Stoeger Award for lifetime contributions to chamber music, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

First awarded in 1943, the Pulitzer Prize in Music has also been given to such BMI composers as Lewis Spratlan for the concert version of "Act II" of his three act opera, Life is a Dream (2000); John Adams for his September 11 tribute, "On the Transmigration of Souls" (2003); and Steven Stucky for his "Second Concerto for Orchestra" (2005).