Nigel Westlake And Katy Abbott Awarded 2019 Paul Lowin Prizes

Nigel Westlake and Katy Abbott are the winners of the 2019 Paul Lowin Prizes.

The announcement was made during a ceremony at the Melbourne Recital Centre this week. A video of the ceremony is available for streaming the Australian Music Centre’s website, and includes the 2019 Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address by Deborah Cheetham AO.

Nigel Westlake won the coveted $25,000 Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize for his work Spirit of the Wild – Concerto for Oboe (2016); Katy Abbott’s Hidden Thoughts 1 (2017) for six voices and mixed instrumental media won the $15,000 Song Cycle Prize.

Katy Abbott’s large-scale work is the first composition in her series of festival pieces for The Song Company and Syzygy Ensemble. Commissioned with funds provided by the Australia Council for the Arts, Hidden Thoughts 1 sets to music ‘secret thoughts’ by anonymous women. This is the first time this Melbourne-based composer has been shortlisted for the Lowin Prizes.

The jury said about Hidden Thoughts 1 “This uniquely Australian work has an innovative and beautifully nuanced score with the compelling text always shining through. The composer shows an excellent technical understanding for each voice type with voiceless interludes focusing the narrative and establishing a wonderful emotional connection for the listener. […] an inclusive and interactive work for the audience.”

Nigel Westlake’s Spirit of the Wild was written for oboist Diana Doherty and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, commissioned with funds provided by Jane Mathews AO (1940-2019) and Symphony Services International. Westlake has won the Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize previously in 2013.

The 2019 Paul Lowin Jury was impressed with Westlake’s engaging and idiomatic writing for the oboe, and the rich orchestral texture of the concerto: “…effectively written and beautifully paced, with the oboe line expertly supported by the orchestra and the orchestration. This captivating work was the clear winner for the judges, transporting the listener for the full 20 minutes, transcending technicality and going straight to the heart – a temporal experience.”

Nearly 100 original works of music competed for the Paul Lowin Prizes in 2019, with entries reflecting the rich spectrum of artistic expression by composers today. The other finalist composers were Brett Dean and Lachlan Skipworth for the Orchestral Prize, and Elliott Gyger and Luke Styles for the Song Cycle Prize. All finalist works can be said to represent the very best of Australian orchestral and song cycle composition over the past three years, since the awarding of the previous Lowin Prizes in 2016.

Hidden Thoughts 1 is available for listening online as an ABC podcast. Spirit of the Wild has been released by ABC Classics and is widely available as CD, for streaming and download, including on Youtube.

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