The Music Prize:

The Prize Concert Tradition
Roster of Winners
Grants in Support of Music

The Léonie Sonning Music Prize: Origins

By its very name, the Léonie Sonning Music Prize is delimited to the field of music. The prize is endowed by the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation, established by Léonie Sonning (nee Rothenburg, 1894-1970), widow of the eminent Danish writer and editor Carl Johann Sonning. The prize consists of a diploma of honor and a monetary award of DKK300,000 (about US$40,000 at current rates).

The Foundation is managed by a Board of Directors consisting of five members of which three are music experts appointed by the Royal Academy of Music, Radio Denmark, the Royal Theatre and Orchestra, a fourth is a music expert appointed by the Board itself along with an expert in law. A sixth member is added if the Board so desires.

Secretariat of the Leonie Sonning Music Foundation: Torsten Hoffmeyer, Law Offices of Horten and Partners
Address: Ved Stranden 18, P.O. Box 20341012 Copenhagen K.
Phone: + 45 77 30 40 00Fax: + 45 77 30 40 77

The Prize Winners and the Concert Tradition

Like the Sonning Foundation before it, the Léonie Sonning Foundation's first award was given years before the Foundation was officially established (in 1965).
Photo: Stravinsky in his Younger Days
Igor Stravinsky in his younger days

The Russian composer IGOR STRAVINSKY received the Music Prize in 1959
at an award ceremony that took place at a concert of The Royal Danish Orchestra, held in Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens Concert Hall, with Stravinsky himself conducting his own works.
Thus was a tradition born.
To this day, the awarding of the Music Prize has taken place within a concert setting in the beautiful Tivoli Gardens. This year, HILDEGARD BEHRENS will be the vocal soloist at the concert that honors her.

There have been only three occasions when the honor was awarded elsewhere: In 1971, when Arthur Rubinstein received the prize at a concert in Holstebro; in 1981 when the prize was awarded to Mstislav Rostropovich in Odense in connection with a Master Class he was giving at the castle "Egeskov Slot", and in 1990 when the awarding of the prize was combined with the Numus festival in Aarhus where many of composer Gyorgy Ligeti's works were performed.

The charter of the Léonie Sonning Foundation mandates that the prize be awarded to an internationally acknowledged composer, musician, conductor or singer. But as the roster of winners will show, like the Sonning Prize awardees, the Music Prize winners are bigger-than-life personalities whose life-works are shaped by a multifaceted creativity and a superior intelligence from which spring the most original musical ideas - qualities possessed only by artists of the highest order. And more often than not they are also the most authentic of human beings. Here then are the Léonie Sonning Music Prize awardees to date:

Roster of Winners
Photo: 8 Winners

Click on a name to go to a web site containing biographical or bibliographical information
1959 Igor Stravinsky composer
1965 Leonard Bernstein conductor
1966 Birgit Nilsson singer
1967 Witold Lutoslawski composer
1968 Benjamin Britten composer
1969 Boris Christoff singer
1970 Sergiu Celibidache conductor
1971 Arthur Rubinstein pianist
1972 Yehudi Menuhin violinist
1973 Dmitri Shostakovitch composer
1974 Andrés Segovia guitarist
1975 Dietrich Fischer-Diskau singer
1976 Mogens Wöldike conductor
1977 Olivier Messiaen composer
1978 Jean-Pierre Rampal flutist
1979 Janet Baker singer
1980 Marie-Claire Alain organist
1981 Mstislav Rostropovich cellist
1982 Isaac Stern violinist
1983 Rafael Kubelik conductor
1984 Miles Davis composer
1985 Pierre Boulez composer
1986 Sviatoslav Richter pianist
1987 Heinz Holliger oboist
1988 Peter Schreier singer
1989 Gidon Kremer violinist
1990 György Ligeti composer
1991 Eric Ericson conductor
1992 Georg Solti conductor
1993 Nikolaus Harnoncourt conductor
1994 Krystian Zimerman pianist
1995 Yuri Bashmet violist
1996 Per Nørgård composer
1997 Andras Schiff pianist
1998 Hildegard Behrens singer

Grants in support of MUSIC

Projects Involving Music Prize Winners

In addition to funding the Music Prize, the Léonie Sonning Foundation often supports activities that promote the works of prize winners and advance the cause of music. As shown below, it may sponsor concerts by awardees or performances of their music outside of the prize concert itself, commision new works, or underwrite various music-related publications:

1976 staged a memorial concert in honor of Dmitri Shostakovitch
1977 published Messaien - Handbook by Paul Borum and Erik Christiansen
1978 commissioned Cappriccio for flute and orchestra by Erik Norby, premiered and recorded by Jean-Pierre Rampal together with Carl Nielsen's flute concerto.
1980 commissioned Ib Nørholm's Idylles d'Apocalypse, premiered at the prize concert and recorded by Marie-Claire Alain together with the organ concert by Jacque Charpentier
1982 sponsored a 2-day student workshop with Isaac Stern at the Royal Danish Academy of Music
1984 commissioned Aura by Palle Mikkelborg, performed and recorded with Miles Davis as soloist.
1985 sponsored a seminar conducted by Pierre Boulez for composition students of The royal Danish Academy of Music;
underwrote the publication of Pierre Boulez, composer - conductor- utopian edited by Mogens Andersen and Mogens Wenzel Andreasen
1987 sponsored a seminar by Heinz Holliger
1991 sponsored a workshop with the "Sokkelund" choir conducted by Eric Ericson that ended with a concert.
1993 sponsored a workshop conducted by Rafael Kubelik with the orchestra of The Royal Danish Academy of Music, which ended with a concert.
1994 supported a Master Class given by Krystian Zimerman at The Royal Danish Academy of Music
1995 commisioned a Concert for viola and orchestra by Poul Ruders, premiered by Yuri Bashmet at his prize concert;
1996 commissioned Per Nørgård's Concerto in due tempi which premiered at the prize concert;
underwrote the publication of the book The Music of Per Nørgård: Fourteen Interpretive Essays

The Foundation and Young Musicians

The Foundation also has its sights set on the future. Since 1967, it has granted over 100 awards in support of the artistic development of young musicians from Denmark and other Nordic countries. The grants have not been in vain. Truls Mork, the fast-rising, young Norwegian cellist and one of the best known of his generation, was a grantee in 1983. And one of the foundation's 1982 grant recipients has become quite a celebrated figure: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Finnish composer and conductor. Add to that Artistic Director and Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Is it too difficult to imagine that one or the other of these young grant recipients will some day become a Leonie Sonning Music Prize winner? Definitely not. Esa-Pekka Salonen

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