Choirs are no exception when it comes to needing conductors capable of inspiring and imparting vision. A new German Music Council award aims to honor such individuals at early stages of their careers.
Manuel Pujol has won the first-ever German Choral Conductor's Prize, an award established by the German Music Council to culminate its support program for young talents in the field. 31-year-old Pujol currently serves as choir director for the Theater Görlitz, in the small city of the same name at the German-Polish border.
Speaking after his win, Pujol praised the experience he gained during the four-year program leading up to the competition on Friday (07.02.2014), held in the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonie. "The fact that it's been crowned with the conductor's prize is the icing on the cake, and I am very excited about this award," he told DW.
An eight-member jury of choral music experts selected Pujol as the winner above fellow finalists Tobias Löbner and Cornelius Volke, each of whom led Berlin's RIAS chamber choir in a four-part program. The evening included works by composers Heinrich Schütz, Giacinto Scelsi, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn and Johann Hermann Schein.
The pieces from which the finalists could select showcased their skill in leading a choir through a range of styles, from the meditative and unconventional "Tre Canti Sacri" (Three Sacred Songs) by Scelsi to the cheerful and pastoral "Lieder im Freien zu singen" (Songs to Sing Outdoors) by Mendelssohn.
"I find the variety in these works really appealing," Pujol said in advance of the competition. "The challenge for me is working together with the RIAS chamber choir to develop an individual soundscape and language for each work."
In a statement issued after the competition, the jury declined to name reasons for its selection of the young conductor, who was born in Mainz. Head jury member Jörg-Peter Weigle said this is a conscious decision intended to avoid denigrating the artistic achievements of Pujol's competitors and fellow participants in the training program.
At its launch in 2008, the German Music Council's choral conducting program joined the non-profit's established training initiative for orchestral conductors. Both operate under a similar principle: the young musicians selected for participation are given opportunities to polish their skills by working with professional orchestras and taking part in advanced training sessions and seminars.
The conductor's prize conferred on Friday carries an award grant of 5,000 euros ($6,800), donated by the German Orchestra Union (DOV) and The German Opera Choirs' and Stage Dancers' Organization (VdO).