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CSO resident composer Mason Bates receives $250,000 Heinz award in arts and humanities

Submitted by on Sep 12, 2012 – 10:39 am

Mason Bates will receive the unrestricted cash prize as one of five winners of the 18th Annual Heinz Awards. At 35, Bates is one of the youngest recipients of the honor. The ceremony will take place on Oct. 11 in Pittsburgh.

By Nancy Malitz

Mason Bates, a Chicago Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence, is the recipient of a $250,000 Heinz Award in the category of arts and humanities.

The award is given by the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Family Foundation, where Bates has become well known. The Pittsburgh Symphony named Bates 2012-13 Composer of the Year and will perform several of his works throughout the season, including the world premiere of his Violin Concerto, with soloist Anne Akiko Meyers, Dec. 7-9.

In awarding the unrestricted  cash prize to Bates, the 18th Annual Heinz Award presenters stated that his music “has moved the orchestra into the digital age and dissolved the traditional boundaries of classical music.” The award, named for the late U.S. Senator John Heinz, was presented by his widow, Teresa Heinz, on Sept. 12.

The announcement comes just weeks before CSO music director Riccardo Muti will introduce Bates’ composition “Alternative Energy”  to audiences at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 4, during a weekend of CSO concerts in New York City.  (“Alternative Energy” had its world premiere in Chicago in February 2012 and was subsequently taken on a West Coast tour.) The new season of MusicNOW, which Bates curates with fellow Mead Composer-in-Residence Anna Clyne at Chicago’s Harris Theater, begins on Monday, Oct. 29.

In presenting the award, Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation, stated: “Mason Bates illustrates what can happen when a truly talented artist dares to stretch and even reinvent the boundaries of an art form. By merging symphonic orchestration with electronic sound and tackling broad creative themes, he is breathing new life into orchestral music and translating it for a new generation.

“Tinkering with an art form as sacred as classical music requires a level of skill and audacity that few possess and fewer still can pull off, but that is precisely his genius. He brings a joy and exuberance to his work that is expressed through both his compositions and his commitment to mentoring the even younger composers coming up behind him.”

As a composer, Bates is equally well known for his electronica.  His classical/club project Mercury Soul integrates classical performances into an evening of deejaying in alternative venues and has attracted large crowds to events created for the Chicago, San Francisco and New World Symphonies.

Accepting the award, Bates said: “The orchestra is alive. It’s never stopped evolving, and I am so grateful that so many orchestras recognize that and have welcomed my expanded sound world into their halls. There’s no reason the orchestra can’t expand into digital sounds. After all, it’s been the world’s greatest synthesizer for centuries.”

Captions and credits: Home page, top and right: Composer Mason Bates. (Photos by Todd Rosenberg)

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