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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 10, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 11
Peabody Faculty Member Wins Competition for New Music

Theofanidis was toasted by Peabody colleagues on his return from London.

Christopher Theofanidis' orchestral 'Rainbow Body' chosen as world's best

By Anne Garside

Peabody raised a champagne toast to Christopher Theofanidis when he returned in triumph from London last week. The composition faculty member's orchestral work Rainbow Body had just won the world's largest competition for new music, the Masterprize Competition. The finals were held at the Barbican Center on Oct. 30, with the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Daniel Harding performing the works of the six finalists. The win carries a cash award of 25,000 British pounds (about $42,000).

The Masterprize Competition is unusual in that the audience participates in the voting the night of the finals, and 45 percent of the vote is determined in advance by the readers of Gramophone and Classic FM magazines, which have a total circulation of more than 100,000. These magazines made recordings of the works available on their Web sites, as did the Masterprize Web site.

"It's a bit like the Oscars," Theofanidis said. "The night of the finals, colored slips were distributed to the audience with the names of the works. At the end, the emcee opened an envelope on stage and said, 'And the winner is... Rainbow Body.'"

American audiences will have a chance to hear the winning work on NPR's Performance Today program today, Nov. 10. Rainbow Body also has been recorded on the Telarc label with the Atlanta Symphony, conducted by Robert Spano. It was commissioned by "Meet the Composer" and the Houston Symphony Orchestra in Theofanidis' home state. Rainbow Body was performed at Peabody in 2002, conducted by Robert Sirota.

Christopher Theofanidis, at only 35 years of age, has had works performed by major ensembles on both sides of the Atlantic. Earlier this year, the American Ballet Theatre gave the first performance of his ballet Artemis at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and will perform it again in May/June 2004. His Viola Concerto was first heard this summer at the Kronberg Academy in Frankfurt, with Theofanidis conducting the Moscow Soloists and Peabody alumna Kim Kashkashian as soloist.

Winning the Masterprize Competition is likely to prompt a number of new performances and commissions. "I have already been approached by an orchestra in Paris and one in Beirut," Theofanidis said. "Rainbow Body also is being performed again by a British youth orchestra on its international tour."

Theofanidis, who joined the faculty in September 2002, will be composing a fanfare for Peabody's April 2004 Grand Reopening Festival, which celebrates the end of the current $26.8 million construction project.

Of Greek ethnic origin, Theofanidis said much of his music takes its inspiration from Greek mythology and history and is influenced by Greek modal harmonies.

The Masterprize Competition is only the latest in the composer's many awards and honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship, the Rome Prize and Composer-in-Residence at the California Symphony in San Francisco.


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