With the presentation of the 2007 Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition for his chamber ensemble piece Static, Sebastian Currier has clearly been recognized as a major figure in 21st Century American Music.
Born in 1959 in Huntington, Pennsylvania, Sebastian Currier is the product of an unusually musical family. His father was a string player and pedagogue, and both his brother and mother are also composers. He holds Bachelor and Masters Degrees in music from the Manhattan School of Music and received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied with Milton Babbitt.
His music has been described by fellow composer and critic David Cleary as “polished without being glib, lucid without being empty and substantial without being forbidding – this is fluid stuff that tantalizes the ear.” The New York Times heralded it as “music with a distinctive voice” and the Washington Post characterized his style as “lyrical, colorful, firmly rooted in tradition, but absolutely new.”
Currier’s music has been performed at major venues worldwide by many acclaimed artists and ensembles.
His music has been enthusiastically embraced by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, for whom he wrote Aftersong, which she has performed extensively in the United States and throughout Europe, including performances at Carnegie Hall in New York, Symphony Hall in Boston, the Barbican in London and the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg. A critic writing in the London Times said: “If all his pieces are as emotionally charged and ingenious in their use of rethought tonality as this, give me more.” He has recently completed a concerto for Ms. Mutter called Time Machines.
His orchestral tour-de-force Microsymph, described by the composer as a large-scale symphony that has been squeezed into only ten minutes, was commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra and premiered by them in Carnegie Hall. It has also been performed by orchestras as varied as the San Francisco Symphony, the Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Eos Orchestra, and the National Symphony Orchestra, and has been recorded by the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra with Hugh Wolff conducting.
A full evening of his chamber music, which included two premieres, was recently presented by the Berlin Philharmonic. Shortly thereafter he returned to Berlin for the premiere of Broken Minuets, performed by harpist Marie-Pierre Langlament and the Oriol Ensemble at the Philharmonie. He won the Grand Prize from the 2005 Van Cliburn Competition’s American Composers Invitational with his piano work Scarlatti Cadences and Brainstorm.
The recent recording of two of Currier’s string quartets, by the Cassatt Quartet, says Anne Midgette, writing in The New York Times, “…distances the present from the past, causing the listener to think about music itself.” The New World CD was named one of the best recordings of 2006 by The New Yorker magazine. A new CD of mixed chamber music, recorded by Music from Copland House, which includes the award-winning Static, as well as Verge, Night Time and Variations on “Time & Time Again,” has been released on the Koch label.
In addition to the 2007 Grawemeyer Award, Currier has received many prestigious awards including the Berlin Prize, Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has also held several residencies at the MacDowell and Yaddo arts colonies. He spent much of the summer of 2007 as composer-in-residence at the Marlboro Music Festival in Marlboro, Vermont. His music is published by Carl Fischer, European American Music and Boosey & Hawkes.