Composer Philip Glass wins the 2015 Glenn Gould Prize

American composer and pianist Philip Glass has been named the 11th recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize at a ceremony Tuesday in Toronto.

Glass, 78, was chosen from a distinguished list of international candidates

Philip Glass performs during the Freedom Concert presented by the American Civil Liberties Union at Lincoln Center in New York, October 4, 2004. The American composer and pianist was named the winner of the 2015 Glenn Gould Prize at a ceremony in Toronto on Tuesday. (Reuters)

American composer and pianist Philip Glass has been named the Eleventh recipient of The Glenn Gould Prize at a ceremony Tuesday morning at Toronto's Koerner Hall.

Sometimes referred to as the "Nobel prize of the arts," the award is presented biennially to "an individual for a unique lifetime contribution that has enriched the human condition through the arts," according to the Glenn Gould Foundation.

Glass, 78, said he was "pleased" to receive the honour, which is named for the world renowned Canadian pianist.

"It is for me a special honor as I am one of the many musicians who have been inspired by him," Glass said in a statement. "Glenn Gould's name is associated with a lifetime of excellence in music interpretation and performance."

"Also I am aware that this award places me in the company of some of the most celebrated names in the broad spectrum of the music of our time," he added.

The full list of previous winners include:

  • 2013 – Robert Lepage
  • 2011 – Leonard Cohen
  • 2008 – Dr. José Antonio Abreu
  • 2005 – Sir André Previn
  • 2002 – Pierre Boulez
  • 1999 – Yo-Yo Ma
  • 1996 – Toru Takemitsu
  • 1993 – Oscar Peterson
  • 1990 – Lord Yehudi Menuhin
  • 1987 – R. Murray Schafer

This year, The Glenn Gould Prize includes a doubled cash prize of $100,000.

Glass will also receive a sculpture by Canadian artist Ruth Abernethy.

Influential musical creator

Glass, a prolific American composer, is considered one of the most important and influential creators in modern music.

The genre-bending artist challenged convention in the 1960s and '70s with his Eastern-inspired approach, and has broken barriers between art forms, collaborating with pop stars, choreographers and poets, among them Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen and David Bowie.

He has also written music for experimental theatre and for Academy Award-winning films including The Hours and Martin Scorsese's Kundun.

He has written over 20 operas, and in 2012 he revived his first-ever opera work, Einstein on the Beach.

Along the way, Glass has won a wide, multi-generational audience that straddles opera, dance, pop, film and more, and his name has become one of the most recognizable in contemporary music.

Brian Levine, the executive director of The Glenn Gould Foundation, said the jury made a "brilliant choice" in selecting Glass for the honour.

Philip Glass was chosen from a distinguished list of international candidates. (Marco Ugarte/AP Photo)
"At the start of his career his music was seen as radical and even derided for being contrary to the prevailing musical current," said Levine, "but his work advanced solidly until it permeated our cultural consciousness; it has exerted a profound influence on a whole generation of composers, filmmakers, dramatists and opera directors."

Jurors for this year's prize included British singer and actress Petula Clark, Toronto actress and director Sarah Polley and award-winning Canadian novelist Michael Ondaatje.

Others jurors include former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, Grammy nominee Wu Man and American soprano Deborah Voigt.

Glass, like all Glenn Gould Prize laureates, will also name a young artist to receive The City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé Prize.

The recipient of that prize, which is worth $15,000, will be announced at a later date.

With files from Nigel Hunt and Jennifer Van Evra