Laura Schwendinger was the first composer to win the Berlin Prize. She is a Professor and Head of Composition at the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her commissions, performances and recordings include those by Dawn Upshaw, the Arditti & JACK Quartets, Jennifer Koh, Janine Jansen, Cygnus, ICE, Eighth Blackbird, Matt Haimovitz, New Juilliard Ensemble, American Composers Orchestra, Franz Liszt Orchestra; And at Kennedy & Lincoln Centers, Berlin Philharmonic, Wigmore Hall, Théâtre Châtelet, Carnegie Hall, Miller Theater, Tanglewood, Aspen, & Ojai Music Festivals. Her fellowships include from the Guggenheim, Fromm (2), and Koussevitzky (2) Foundations, Radcliffe Institute at Harvard, Harvard Musical Association, Copland House, First Prize ALEA III,  Awards from American Academy Arts & Letters (2), and fellowships from MacDowell (12), Yaddo (10), Rockefeller Bellagio Center,Tyrone Guthrie Center, IRE (6) and Bogliasco Foundation. Her music, called “captivating, darkly attractive, artful..moving”, “serene mystery…of  infinite beauty” in the NYT, and as having “a sure command of craft”, “shrewd composing..the genuine article, onto the ’season's best list’ in the Boston Globe. The NYT’s Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, wrote in her review of Schwendinger’s opera, “Artemisia” lasts just 80 minutes, but fits in big themes set to music of quivering intensity…blended with Gentileschi’s unbearably compassionate painting of the biblical character Susanna.” The SFCV review of Artemisia read, “Artemisia is sumptuous on every level…”, and of her Albany CD (JACK), Colin Clarke wrote “the sheer intensity of the music is spellbinding, as if the passion of composer for subject shines through like a light.” Schwendinger’s work is published by Keiser/ Southern.

The first composer to win the Berlin Prize, UW-Madison Prof, Laura Schwendinger’s music has been championed by artists Dawn Upshaw (Tour 1997-2013; TDK/Naxos DVD), Matt Haimovitz, Miranda Cuckson, Julian Wachner with Trinity Wall Street NOVUS, Arditti & JACK Quartets, ICE, New Juilliard Ensemble, Jenny Koh, Janine Jansen, Eighth Blackbird, Mathieu Dufour, American Composers Orchestra, Franz Liszt Orchestra; Internationally at venues including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Ctr, Times Ctr, Symph Space, BargeMusic, Wigmore Hall, Berlin Phil, Théâtre Châtelet, and National Arts Center CA; And at the Tanglewood, Bennington, Aspen and Ojai Festivals. Honors include a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, a rare two time Koussevitzky foundation at the Library of Congress commission, a Fromm Foundation Commission, a Radcliffe Institute at Harvard fellowship, a Copland House prize, Harvard Musical Association commission for the Arditti Quartet, Chamber Music America commission, League of American Orchestras/NewMusic Alive orchestral residency; And fellowships from the McDowell (10), Yaddo (8) colonies,  as well as Rockefeller’s Bellagio, Bogliasco Foundations, American Acad. Arts & Letters (Leiberson“mid-career composers of exceptional gifts” and Ives Scholarship), First Prize ALEA III Competition (1995), and an Opera America Discovery Grant for Artemisia in with  Center for Contemporary Opera in NY (10/18), at the Times Arrow festival (1/7/17); And with fully produced World premieres lead by Left Coast Chamber Ensemble (June 2019),  and with Trinity Wall Street NOVUS (March 2019),  and with Chris Alden, Lidiya Yankovskaya, and Mathilda Hoffman, conducting & directing, and in a joint production in Milan Italy (2020)."Left Coast Chamber Ensemble Proves That Great Opera Needn’t Be Grand" World premiere of Chamber Version by Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, June 3, 2019

-"Laura Schwendinger's Artemisia, on the other hand, is sumptuous on every level...Schwendinger’s score is striking. Often, it’s the little things, like the intoning of ‘Susanna’: the stressed syllable rising before the terminal fall, a nagging presence grudgingly accepted. Or the resolutions of the diminished fourths in Tommaso’s aria, a breathtaking piece of worry and longing...Most memorably, the music underscores Artemisia’s deteriorating vision. Tender, high-pitched glimmers shift so as to be out of reach. The shadows are flat-sounding chords: impressionistic, but with a distinctly contemporary sensibility.” B y Rebecca Wishnia


In OperaWire --"Schwendinger’s score and Ginger Strand’s story not only casts its spell but awakens us again to the continuing conflict of men, women and art that has pervaded western history...The music challenges. The texture is rich. The variety of instrumentation stimulates and complements the complex issues alive in the script. Flute/piccolo, accurate and incisive, piano and percussion extending and developing motifs, harp and strings, provides a musical brocade that is excellent sister to the story, excellent transmitter of the story. Both reveal the complexity and do not hold back from riveting us to it.”

A second opera is in the planning stages now. Commissions include those from Miller Theater, an UnSafe commission for the American Composers Orchestra, New Juilliard Ensemble, Sounding Beckett (Classic Stage Co. Off-Broadway), Kennedy Center, StonyBrook Premiere series , National Flute Assoc. She has been on faculty at the Bennington Conference, New Music on Point, Irish Comp Summer School, St. Mary’s Composition Intensive, featured Composer at the Tallis Festival Switzerland (7/17) and Master Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts ( 7/2018). Her work on Cedille’s “Notable Women” ("hidden gem”, UK Guardian), review (Fanfare) “evokes a sense of serene mystery and infinite beauty.” CDs featuring her music (on Centaur/ Albany), received glowing reviews. A New York Times playlist review read “The chamber works grouped together on this captivating disc show off her acute ear for unusual textures..she sketches musical short stories of somnambulant fragility and purpose.” Review in Chic Tribune (of Eighth Blackbird) read “an acute sonic imagination and sure command of craft.”, in the  New York Times “The piece is darkly attractive, artful..moving…”, and the Boston Globe, “This was shrewd composing, the genuine article. Onto the ''season's best'' list it goes.” About her Creature Quartet just released by Albany Records on QUARTETS, featuring the JACK Quartet, nominated by Albany for a 2018 Grammy was reviewed in Fanfare by Colin Clarke as “The sheer intensity of both music and performance thereof is spellbinding, as if the passion of the composer for her subject shines through like a light.”  Her full catalog is published by Keiser/ Southern.


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Laura at Yaddo with Jennifer Karady, Jackie Lydon


The first composer to win the American Academy in Berlin Prize, Laura Elise Schwendinger, Professor of Composition at The University of Wisconsin Madison, was born in Mexico City. Her music has been performed by leading artists or our day including Dawn Upshaw (Tour 1997-2013; Voices of Our Time, TDK/Naxos DVD), the Arditti and JACK quartets, Jennifer Koh, Janine Jansen, Matt Haimovitz, Miranda Cuckson, the International Contemporary Ensemble, Eighth Blackbird, New Juilliard Ensemble, Collage, StonyBrook Premiere, Boston Musica Viva, Aspen Ensemble, Dinosaur Annex, Lincoln Trio, Trinity Wall Street Novus (Carnegie) and the American Composers Orchestra (an UnSafe series Commission; Carnegie Hall 2012) and Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra of Hungary; At venues including, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall-Lincoln Center, Times Center, Symphony Space, Poisson Rouge, BargeMusic, Corcoran Gallery, Wigmore Hall, Berlin Philharmonic, National Arts Centre CA,  Theatre Chatelet, Tanglewood, Aspen, Bennington and Ojai Music Festivals. She was a League of Composers/ New Music USA Resident composer with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in 2016. She has been on faculty at summer Festivals such as New music on the Point, Bennington Chamber Music Conference, Irish Composition Summer School and the Tallis Music Festival in Switzerland.

Her honors include those from the Guggenheim, Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, Radcliffe Institute-Harvard University, Copland House, Harvard Musical Association, Chamber Music America, League of American Orchestra/ New Music Alive, MacDowell (9), Yaddo colonies (7), and Rockefeller’s Bellagio and Bogliasco fellowships, American Academy of Arts and Letters awards (Goddard Leiberson Fellowship for “mid-career composer of exceptional gifts” and Ives scholarship) and first-prize of the 1995 ALEA III Competition. Notable premieres include those from Miller Theater  (a Pocket Concerto for Jenny Koh and ICE), an American Composers Orchestra Commission (SHADINGS), New Juilliard Ensemble, Sounding Beckett (Off Broadway at the Classic Stage Co.) and her High Wire Act, which has been performed by dozens of groups across the country including Chameleon Arts. Recent performances and premieres include her Artist’s Muse, Schwendinger’s second Koussevitzky commission by the Chameleon Arts Ensemble in Boston (5/17), Creature Quartet by JACK quartet, and Arc of Fire commissioned by Chamber Music America, performed at Bryant Park, both nominated for Pulitzers (WFMT radio in Chicago, and Union Theater Concerts), and her opera Artemisia, just premiered by Julian Wachner, and Marnie Breckenridge, with Trinity Wall Street, as part of the Times Arrow Festival (1/7/17) and was a recipient of a National Opera Center Discovery Grant. William Zagorski (Fanfare) wrote of her C’e La Luna Questa Sera? “it evokes a sense of serene mystery and infinite beauty.” John Van Rhein wrote of Eighth Blackbird’s performance of High Wire Act (Chicago Tribune) “it evinced an acute sonic imagination and sure command of craft.” Of her Song for Andrew Anthony Tommasini wrote (NYT) “The piece is darkly attractive, artful and moving…” and of her Fable, Richard Buell (Boston Globe) wrote in his review “This was shrewd composing, the genuine article. Onto the ''season's best'' list it goes.” The NY Times reviewer Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim wrote in her playlist review “The chamber works grouped together on this captivating disc show off Laura Elise Schwendinger’s acute ear for unusual textures. In these works… she sketches musical short stories of somnambulant fragility and purpose.”