Winner of the 2014 Composition Award: Reinhard Fuchs

“Stirring, unique”; “iridescent sound loops”; “harried, detailed material, building up to form fields of high-density information”; “waves of eventful, multi-layered theme work with brilliant sound highlights”: These are just a few reviews of the music of Reinhard Fuchs, the recipient of this year’s Erste Bank Composition Award. The Austrian composer, who studied composition with Michael Jarrell and celebrated his 40th birthday earlier this year, has a great deal of imagination and likes to have a multitude of events meet, collide and culminate in his music. The fact that his personal style is among the most interesting of his generation has been somewhat overshadowed since he took over the general management and artistic direction of the PHACE ensemble for new music (formerly ensemble on_line vienna) in 2008.

Erste Bank’s commission for a new composition, which will premiere at WIEN MODERN 2014, once again draws attention to the artist Fuchs to whom, as he emphasizes, both areas have always been equally important. This is also confirmed by his commitment to the composers’ group GEGENKLANG, which he once founded together with fellow students in order to explore alternative concert models as well as collective composition methods. Even back then, Fuchs pursued complex thoughts, and he still does in his two current fields of activity. Thinking in dramaturgical contexts, he says, influences his composing and, conversely, there are interactions as well: “The thing is that our concert programmes are also ‘composed’, so to speak. And the extensive study of scores is certainly an enrichment and inspiration – and if it sometimes only serves as confirmation that the compositional way I’ve chosen is the right one for me.”

What’s striking about Reinhard Fuchs’s works, in spite of their density, is a fact that seemingly contradicts the prevailing wealth of information: his scores are constructed intelligibly; the meandering elements frequently emerge from small cells that continue to grow in a logical, yet free manner. While he previously often followed a superordinate concept, he now increasingly trusts his intuition. “A few years ago, I still had the feeling that my music had to be conceptually justified. In the meantime, I feel less restricted in this regard.”

MANIA, based on David Lynch’s film Blue Velvet and currently (summer 2014) still a work in progress, is full of virtuosic gestures, rapid runs and abrupt contrasts. In other works Fuchs has repeatedly referred to images, films, and also texts, but always found inner-musical processes that haven’t required any outer-musical explanations. He also does so in MANIA. Almost boundless in the pleasure in which they are combined, their innovative sounds, which can also have an experimental character, but always stringently arranged and full of surprising turns – Fuchs composes music that encourages extensive associations, yet at the same time always stands on its own.

Text: Daniel Ender


Born in 1974, Reinhard Fuchs first studied accordion at the Brucknerkonservatorium Linz (1991-1995) and, subsequently, composition with Michael Jarrell (1996-2002). In 1997/98 he spent an academic year at the University of Miami, Florida.

Providing further valuable impetus for his work were studies with Brian Ferneyhough, Marco Stroppa, Magnus Lindberg, Klaus Huber, among others. In 1997, together with some colleagues, Fuchs founded the composers’ group GEGENKLANG.

Composition commissions by renowned ensembles and organisers include the Salzburg Festival, Bavarian State Opera, Witten Days for New Chamber Music, WIEN MODERN, Donaueschingen Festival, ORF musikprotokoll, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO), Konzerthaus Berlin, Klangforum Wien, Konzerthaus Wien, Alicante Contemporary Music Festival, Soundings London, Warehouse London, Festival Latinoamericano de Música (Caracas, Venezuela), Sound Ways New Music Festival (St. Petersburg, Russia), Venezuela Festival Internacional “a tempo” (Caracas, Venezuela), etc.

In addition, Reinhard Fuchs has also received numerous international prizes and awards. These include first prize at the 7th International Mozart Competition in Salzburg, second prize at “stasis et vita” (Germany), the special prize of the Fondation Royaumont (France) in 2001, the Theodor Körner Prize of the City of Vienna in 2001, the Anton Bruckner Prize in 2002, and the Austrian State scholarship for composition in 2003.

His works have been performed by Klangforum Wien, Ensemble intercontemporain, RSO, Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, Basel Sinfonietta, Arditti Quartet, Accroche Note, ensemble on_line, STUDIO PERCUSSION graz, TENM, Trio Amos, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Vienna Piano Trio, Ensemble Wiener Collage, etc.

Since 2008, he has been general manager and artistic director of PHACE (

About the Music


“I refer to various aspects of David Lynch’s film Blue Velvet. What I’m particularly interested in are stylistic elements that keep returning and changing in Blue Velvet, as well as in Lynch’s other work, such as colour symbolism and other symbols. There are, for example, recurring sequences of stairs leading up and down that constantly assume different meanings and are thus perceived in different ways. The method of variation and change, of varying an idea and putting it in a different light, is an essential element of MANIA. In a similar way to Hermann Broch’s novel The Guiltless (inspiration for a solo piano work in 1997), Lynch puts us on the wrong track or shows situations that raise expectations but don’t fulfil them. MANIA will be a very block-like work, propelling elements and incidences, and include textures that recur and change – textures that are partly interspersed with strongly contrasting breaks. But the main driving force behind MANIA is the protagonist, the psychopath Frank Booth, played by the ingenious Dennis Hopper, who embodies insanity and rage in the truest sense.”