The Schulich School of Music of McGill University is proud to announce that Thierry Tidrow is the grand prize winner of the inaugural edition of the Graham Sommer Competition for Young Composers. The $15,000 first prize for Tidrow’s new work for piano quintet, “Quicksilver,” was among $45,000 in total prize earnings awarded at the Concert and Prize Gala on Saturday, September 29, at Pollack Hall. This new national competition for Canadian composers under the age of 35 was founded by Dr. Graham Sommer (1946-2016), MDCM’72, a graduate of McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and an accomplished pianist and devoted music lover.
Five finalists, chosen from 84 applicants from across Canada and Canadians living and studying abroad, were each commissioned to write a new work for piano quintet, which were premiered by pianist Sara Laimon and the Molinari Quartet.
Thierry Tidrow, a Franco-Ontarian composer from Ottawa, currently living in Berlin, was thrilled to win the first prize on what was his 32nd birthday. “As a freelance composer, this prize allows me to be committed to write more music,” he comments, “It was a big challenge to find how I could express myself in a work for piano quintet, a formation with so much history. With Quicksilver, I tried to use strings in a different way, almost slipping out of the players’ fingers.” The winning piece, as well as all of the performances from Saturday evening, may be viewed on YouTube.
Tidrow, who graduated from McGill University with a B.Mus. in 2009, expressed his gratitude to his teachers Christoph Neidhöfer and Brian Cherney, as well as Schulich School of Music faculty Jean Lesage, Peter Schubert, and others. His studies in Montreal were followed by a master’s degree in composition from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and an Advanced Studies diploma at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg. A winner of the Canada Council for the Arts’ Jules-Léger Prize, Tidrow has collaborated with many performers across Europe and North America, and was selected for the ECM+ Generation 2018 tour.
A second place prize of $10,000 was awarded to Ashkan Behzadi, with the $5,000 third, fourth, and fifth prizes going to Christopher Goddard, Taylor Brook, and Alison Yun-Fei Jiang, respectively. Jiang’s In Absent Waters was also awarded the $5,000 Audience Choice Award, voted upon by the audience in attendance at the concert as well as online.
Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft, Dean of the Schulich School of Music and chair of the competition jury, expressed her congratulations to Thierry Tidrow, adding: “To all the finalists, I hope that this experience will encourage you to pursue your artistic and creative endeavours without reserve. We are very fortunate here at the Schulich School of Music to be able to host competitions of such quality and distinction. I’m absolutely thrilled that these awards extend to composers across the country, thanks to the generosity and vision of the late Dr. Graham Sommer.” Dr. Ravenscroft was joined on the competition jury by composers Ana Sokolović and Alexina Louie; clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh; David Pay, Founder and Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Music on Main; violinist/violist Barry Shiffman, Associate Dean at the Glenn Gould School in Toronto and Executive Director of the Banff International String Quartet Competition; and Robert Everett-Green, feature writer and Montreal cultural correspondent for The Globe and Mail.
Part of the 22ndedition of Quebec’s Journées de la culture, the Concert and Prize Gala was presented free to the public and was preceded by a series of lectures and discussions with the composer finalists.
Dr. Graham Sommer died on October 2, 2016 and left a legacy of excellence in medicine and an abiding love for the transformative power of music. A native of British Columbia, Sommer graduated from McGill’s Faculty of Medicine in 1972 and went on to hold positions at Yale and Stanford Universities, becoming a world-class researcher for 37 years. Dr. Sommer’s enduring passion for music has resonated at McGill notably through the Dr. Graham Sommer Piano Fund, which supported the restoration of pianos in McGill residences and the purchase of a new piano for Douglas Hall. While Sommer excelled in his chosen field of medicine, he was also inspired by a lifelong love of music fostered by his own accomplishments as a classical pianist and composer.
Download high-res photos of the finalists and artists