Posted: 4 July 2016
The Alan Bush Composition Prize, 2016, organised by the Royal Academy of Music, was very successful this year. Twelve young composers entered for the Prize. The adjudicator, Mark Simpson, stated that the overall content was high with some very outstanding works, notably by the winner, Rubens Hernandez, who wrote a very original work and won the Prize, and Maya Hishida, who wrote a very accomplished work that was beautifully scored and well paced. She was Very Highly Commended, but whose work would have taken second place, if there were one. In the Very Highly Commended category there were some very strong works that displayed good ideas, but which lacked the level of invention of Rubens and Maya. In the Highly Commended category, there were two works by composers with a lot of potential but they needed to display a greater understanding of their musical materials. In the Commended category, there were works which showed great promise technically.
The winner, Rubens Hernandez, is a Canarian composer based in London. He works as a freelance composer while completing his doctoral studies at the Royal Academy of Music. Writing his programme note about his winning composition, Del Buen Callar (The Good Silence), Rubens Hernandez wrote that his work was an adaptation of the Spanish proverb phrase: "Al buen callar llaman Sancho", roughly translated as "The good silence is called Sancho", who advised prudence and moderation when speaking. In this trio, he invoked the famous proverb as an elegy to discretion; an idea that he tried to develop through a careful distribution of materials, and the strict order in which he submitted the instruments, both technically and structurally, serving an important function, both when they sounded and when they were silent. Mark Simpson, the adjudicator, stated that Rubens Hernandez's composition was full of invention and ideas. He thought that Rubens Hernandez had a firm grasp of the potential of the material that he had set up at the beginning of the piece and that he achieved it and pushed it further. Mark Simpson also suggested that Rubens Hernandez had created new sounds, new textures and new ways of interacting between the instruments. He concluded that he enjoyed the piece very much.
Maya Hishida, the runner-up, was born in 1990 in Osaka (Japan). She began studying composition and playing the piano at the Yamaha music school when she was five years old. From the age of 12 to 22, she also studied classical singing. Most of her musical education was at the Osaka College of Music. Her good student grades in all subjects earned her a scholarship at the Osaka College of Music, and in 2013 she graduated with a Bachelor of Music in composition with first class honours. The ensemble piece by Maya herself was performed by ten players at the graduation concert. She then continued as a postgraduate student. In 2015, she graduated as a Master of Music in Osaka, and received a scholarship from the Royal Academy of Music to study with Edmund Finnis for the Master of Arts in Composition in the RAM. Also in 2015, Maya won a prize at the 84th Music Competition of Japan, the most prestigious national music competition in Japan, and her winning piece was broadcast on Japanese radio and television.
Maya's winning composition was called La toile en ciel, "Canvas in the sky" in French. Maya composed her piece with the theme of colour, as she could visualise the colours of sounds, which had various shades and characters and which seemed to flow out from a jewel box and rush into the air. Sometimes similar tones blended into a unified colour; at other times different colours appeared distinct from one another. Maya believed that we listen to music with our ears, but she tried to compose music which also had a visual aspect. She declared that she would be happy if the audience, after listening to her music, would gain the same pleasure as they would from watching an interesting film or a stage performance, or looking at a beautiful painting. Mark Simpson found her music wonderfully colourful and very inventive, with beautiful shapes both globally and locally. Her calligraphy was gorgeous to look at. The ending of her piece was interesting, but unexpected. This was a very fine, well-formed work.
Very Highly Commended:
Chen Yung Xu
Joss Alexander Timms Smith