Sir Harrison Birtwistle has been awarded the prestigious Wihuri Sibelius Prize at a ceremony in Helsinki, Finland, on Friday 9 October, during which the Avanti! ensemble and Susanna Mälkki gave a performance of his 2004 work Night’s Black Bird. The prize recognises the creative work composers do to further cultural progress and the Foundation made the following statement:
“In the British classical music scene Birtwistle has presented a distinct and courageous style, which has strongly reflected to the international music field. He has established his position as one of the most significant composers of the 20th and 21st century.”
Birtwistle is the seventeenth composer to be awarded the Wihuri Sibelius Prize since the first award was made to Jean Sibelius in 1953. Other notable recipients include Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Messiaen and Ligeti, and he is only the second British composer to be awarded the prize, following Benjamin Britten in 1965.