Tsontakis was honored for his Violin Concerto No. 2, premiered by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in April 2003 and later recorded by the SPCO for the Koch label.
According to the composer, the piece is structured more like a chamber work than a conventional concerto, with the violinist often ceding the "solo" part to the ensemble. "The concept of 'orchestral' is diminished in deference to the concept of 'chamber,'" Tsontakis said.
Tsontakis, former director of the Riverside Orchestra in New York, is a faculty member at the Aspen Music School and founded the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble there. He has written works for the Emerson Quartet, violinist Cho-Liang Lin, and percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Pianist Stephen Hough's 1998 recording of hs Ghost Variations was nominated for a Grammy Award.
The composition prize is one of five awards given out each year by the University of Louisville's Grawemeyer Foundation, which was created by industrialist and philanthropist Charles Grawemeyer. The others recognize achievements in education, religion, psychology, and "ideas improving world order."