A virtuosic composer and an energetic advocate for the artist’s role in making sense of transitional times, McKnight Distinguished Artist Libby Larsen has breathed new life into the concert music tradition for the new millennium.
With more than 500 major works, Larsen’s vivid and adventuresome catalogue has made her one of America’s most performed living composers, with a fluency that crosses boundaries, from massive technical operas and symphonies to intimate chamber and vocal pieces. A true trailblazer in the world of repertory composition, Larsen was the first female composer in residence with a major orchestra, opening doors for the next generation through the American Composers Forum, which she co-founded in 1973.
From her first symphony Water Music, to her stunning opera Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, to her most recent world premiere Earth — an “essay from space” made to fill the gap in Holst’s The Planets — Larsen’s wide-ranging body of work is united by its imaginative risk-taking, rhythmic energy, and essential optimism. A Grammy winner with more than 50 recordings, Larsen is widely commissioned by leading orchestras and ensembles, creating new work and fruitful collaborations with such artists as James Dunham and Frederica von Stade and ensembles as varied as the Minnesota Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, Cantus, The King’s Singers, and the Apollo Chamber Players.
“Composers working today are in a strange bridging area; we are redefining ourselves,” Larsen says. “We are philosophizing about the nature of sound in our world today. We are struggling to figure out, in our noise-polluted world, what is sound, what is music, and what is silence.”
About the Distinguished Artist Award: The Distinguished Artist Award recognizes artists who have chosen to make their lives and careers in Minnesota, thereby making our state a more culturally rich place. Although they have the talent and the opportunity to pursue their work elsewhere, these artists have chosen to stay—and by staying, they have made a difference. They have founded and strengthened arts organizations, inspired younger artists, and attracted audiences and patrons. Best of all, they have made wonderful, thought-provoking art. The goal of McKnight’s arts funding is to support working artists who create and contribute to vibrant communities. The program is founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive. This award, which comes with $50,000, goes to one Minnesota artist each year.