The winners of the prestigious Paul Lowin prizes have been announced, with newcomer Katy Abbott and previous prize winner Nigel Westlake taking out the top honours. The announcement was made alongside the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address, presented this year by Deborah Cheetham at Melbourne Recital Hall.

Katy AbbottKaty Abbott

Abbott won the $15,000 Song Cycle Prize for her 2017 work Hidden Thoughts 1, for six voices and mixed instrumental media, premiered by The Song Company and Syzygy Ensemble and commissioned with funds provided by the Australia Council for the Arts. The work, which the jury described as “an inclusive and interactive work for the audience,” sets to music the ‘hidden thoughts’ of women, collected in an anonymous survey.

“This uniquely Australian work has an innovative and beautifully nuanced score with the compelling text always shining through,” the jury said. “The composer shows an excellent technical understanding for each voice type with voiceless interludes focusing the narrative and establishing a wonderful emotional connection for the listener.”

Nigel WestlakeNigel Westlake

Nigel Westlake’s Spirit of the Wild oboe concerto, written for Diana Doherty and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, took out the $25,000 Orchestral Prize. Commissioned with funds provided by the late arts philanthropist Jane Mathews, the concerto – which the jury described as “a temporal experience” – has been performed around the country, as well as by the SSO in Beijing. Doherty’s recording of the work with the SSO and the composer conducting was Limelight’s Recording of the Month in May this year and was nominated for an ARIA Award. This is Westlake’s second time winning the Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize – the composer took out the 2013 award for his Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli.

Spirit of the Wild is “effectively written and beautifully paced, with the oboe line expertly supported by the orchestra and the orchestration,” the jury said. “This captivating work was the clear winner for the judges, transporting the listener for the full 20 minutes, transcending technicality and going straight to the heart.”

Finalists Brett Dean, Elliott Gyger, Lachlan Skipworth and Luke Styles received Highly Commendeds.