Léonie Sonning Awards 1969

Boris Christoff

The bass singer Boris Christoff received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 60,000 at a concert held on Friday, 21 November 1969 at Falkoner Centret.
The music prize was presented by Børge Friis, Dr. Phil.

The written motivation for the award no longer exists, but in a very short speech of thanks Boris Christoff said: "I am happy and proud to receive precisely this prize. I have been awarded many, but this is one of the most important – I am happy, because it links me even more closely to the Danish people."

The programme

11 songs by Modest Mussorgsky, sung in Russian

Boris Christoff, song
Friedrich Gürtler, piano

Motivation

The written motivation does not exist.

Boris Christoff and Denmark

Boris Christoff knew the inhabitants of Copenhagen from an earlier visit three years previously, when he had sung Boris in Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov at The Royal Theatre. The following year he was King Philip in Verdi’s Don Carlos in an Italian opera guest performance.

After the prize concert, there was a dinner that included Boris Christoff, his Italian wife, Mrs Sonning, Friedrich Gürtler, Ingvar Blicher-Hansen – the singer’s Danish representative – and Henning Rohde, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was not, however, Boris Christoff’s last visit to Denmark. Two years later he returned to be a soloist in Verdi’s Requiem at a Thursday concert at Radiohuset – and in 1972, Danmarks Radio managed to convince him to sing King Saul in a concert and LP production in which Jascha Horenstein conducted Carl Nielsen’s Saul and David, along with other soloists such as Elisabeth Söderström and Kim Borg.The Saul and David concert was also an EBU concert broadcast directly via The European Broadcasting Union to all radio stations in Europe.

Selected Music by Boris Christoff

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"Just how great an artist Christoff is could be heard behind the rich facets of his bass voice, as with intimate intensity he brought out the essence of the mental images, or turned the songs into scenes in a one-man show of high artistic merit, culminating in the bitter ‘Guignol’. He has registers ranging from the full-throated dynamics of an enormous bass singer’s chest to the sharp tenor-like falsetto of parody. He played on those registers as a musician, in the figure of a world-singer."

(Frede Schandorf, Politiken, 22 November 1969)

"Boris Christoff not only owns a wonderfully dense, sonorous voice but also has a temperament and an artistic mind that gets to the very marrow of the music he is interpreting. His ability to portray characters, as we are familiar with from his dramatic performances, was also in evidence in the songs, where he, so to speak, recreated both Mussorgsky’s deep melancholy and his flashes of sarcasm and irony that, like lightning, can suddenly tear apart the black clouds of sorrow."

(Johannes Nørgård, Kristeligt Dagblad, 24 November 1969)