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Last modified: Thursday, June 21, 2007

IU student named finalist in worldwide composition competition

June 21, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Jacobs School of Music senior Brian Buch has been named one of the finalists in the 2007 Queen Elisabeth Composition Competition in Brussels.

Brian Buch

IU senior Brian Buch was named one of the finalists in the 2007 Queen Elisabeth Composition Competition in Brussels.

Buch's piece, Prayer for an Unnamed Grave, was one of five scores selected from 165 compositions on five continents. At 22, Buch is the youngest finalist, and the only composer from the western hemisphere. The other finalists are from China, Italy, France and Spain.

During his time at IU, Buch has made an impression on IU faculty, including David Dzubay, chair of the composition program and director of the New Music Ensemble at the IU Jacobs School of Music.

"Brian Buch has a strong musical voice with a distinct approach and character," Dzubay said. "He has blossomed during his undergraduate years in the Jacobs School, and we anticipate a bright future for him. Being named a finalist in this prestigious, long-running, international competition held in Belgium is indeed an honor."

The competition, a founding member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions (1957), has been considered one of the most prestigious -- but also one of the most difficult -- in the world since its foundation.

The Queen Elisabeth Competition is open to musicians who have already completed their training and who are ready to launch their international careers. Competitors can submit entries under any one of four musical disciplines: piano, voice, violin and composition.

The winning works of the composer's competition are given as compulsory works during the piano and violin sessions. Spanish composer Miguel Gálvez-Taroncher, 33, won the 2007 competition with his piece, La Luna y la Muerte, which made its world premiere May 28 at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels.

The 10-minute piano concerto that Buch authored was written to pay tribute to those who died at Babi Yar -- a ravine in Kiev, Ukraine, where nearly 34,000 Jewish civilians were murdered. Buch was inspired by Shostakovich's Thirteenth Symphony, which is also written after Babi Yar, and by the Soviet composer Galina Ustvolskaya.

"The piece is intense and very dramatic," Buch said. "Because the Queen Elisabeth Competition is such a prestigious competition, I wanted to create a piece of music that was astonishingly striking and powerful. The goal of this work was to highlight classical music's ability to pull toward something bigger than the music itself.

"Unlike popular music, classical music contains a high quality of wisdom and inspirational power," Buch said. "I feel that it is a shame that music of such surface level quality -- most popular music -- is glorified in the way that it is. The goal of my piece was to lure listeners back to the vast world of expression and inspiration contained in classical music."

Buch said a piano concerto should display a pianist's technical and musical skills, which is why the work contains an extremely difficult piano part.

"In order to fully exploit the performer's talents, I exhausted the musical material I programmed into the piece in the piano part to allow the pianist to leave a lasting impression on his or her audience," Buch said. "In addition, the piece I wrote for this competition is extremely intense and passionate. Although the part is very difficult, it is far from impossible.

"This competition called for a piece that could be learned by a professional in eight days, and although I feel doing just that would not be an easy task, it is still quite possible," Buch said.

Buch wrote the piece during the 2006 summer when he was studying with Alla Cohen, a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music and at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

Last year, Buch was one of five finalists selected from 124 entrants in 41 countries in the Second International Lepo Sumera Composition Competition in Tallinn, Estonia. Buch received a finalist diploma in the competition, which is open to both students and professional composers. The Estonian National Symphony performed his score, Shadows from an Underwater Forest, in Tallinn in March 2006.

Buch has been awarded Second Prize (2005 and 2006) and First Prize (2007) in the MTNA Composition Competitions, and honorable mentions in the Robert Helps International Composition Competitions (2006 and 2007). His music has been performed in the United States, Canada and Europe. Buch composes and performs in jazz groups on a daily basis.

Buch has studied composition with Don Freund and Sven-David Sandström at Indiana University, Nancy de Van Vate in Vienna and Alla Elana Cohen at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

A native of Westborough, Mass., Buch is now a senior at IU and is scheduled to graduate in August with a bachelor of arts in composition and an emphasis in piano performance. This fall Buch will pursue a master's degree in composition at Boston University.