Léonie Sonning Awards 1971

Arthur Rubinstein

1971_arthur _rubinsteinThe pianist Arthur Rubinstein received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 60,000 at a concert held on Sunday, 31 October in Holstebro Hallen 

The music prize was presented by Børge Friis, Dr. Phil..

The programme

W.A. Mozart Magic Flute overture
Robert Schumann Concerto for piano and orchestra
Beethoven Piano Concerto no. 5 (Emperor Concerto)

Soloist: Arthur Rubinstein, piano
Copenhagen Philharmonic
Conductor: John Frandsen


The Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 60,000 is hereby awarded to Arthur Rubinstein in profound admiration of his long and epoch-making contribution as the most excellent and versatile pianist of his age. Arthur Rubinstein’s concerts in Denmark will be remembered as an expression of the highest ideals within the field of piano music.

Arthur Rubinstein in Denmark

When the SAS plan to Karup Airport took off in the afternoon of Sunday, 31 October, Rubinstein was over 84 years of age, but both his mind and his physique were young. Lars Grunth was a viola player in the Copenhagen Philharmonic back then, and he still recalls the concert:

"Immediately on arrival in Holstebro, Plaetner had arranged a press meeting with champagne, but Rubinstein could hardly drink champagne at that point in time – he had had a rehearsal in the morning, had travelled the rest of the day, was surrounded by eager journalists and would be a soloist a few hours later. Even so, he played like a dream that evening. And on the plane home that night he was almost unstoppable, Lars Grunth recalls. The rest of us were rather tired, for it had been a quite strenuous day, but Rubinstein kept charging around, entertaining and talking with everyone on board the plane."

On the evening of Sunday, 31 October, there were no less than 1,600 in the audience at Holstebro Hallen who had come to listen to the Copenhagen Philharmonic under the baton of John Frandsen, which began by playing the overture to The Magic Flute by Mozart. After that, Rubinstein played Schumann’s piano concerto, and after the interval Børge Friis came onto the stage to give a speech for the recipient of the music prize – a speech that not only had to do with music:

"You have made this young composer come to life for us just now, and you have done so because your spirit is young [...] We already have three composers, two conductors and two singers in the Music Foundation, and now we wanted a young pianist for our ‘collection’. There are many reasons why you have been chosen [...] and I will limit myself to naming two of them: Your humanity in your work, which contains much reflection on life, and your humour. It is an inseparable part of your humanity. Humour is another word for tolerance, and tolerance, in turn, is another word for humanity – and that completes the circle."

When Rubinstein, visibly moved, expressed his thanks, he said, among other things, that "the Danes have always been close to my heart for their spontaneity and sensitivity. I am a Jew, and I will never forget what Denmark did for my people in the hard times during the war." And then he asked the audience to save a little of the applause for the Beethoven concerto, which he hoped he would manage even better than the Schumann, which he felt he had not had enough time to practise satisfactorily.

Selected Music by Arthur Rubinstein

The daily press

wrote among other things:

"[...]  it was quite entrancing to experience him as a true ‘poet at the piano’. A number of the details of the concerto almost sounded like improvisations the way he played them, the instrument ‘sang’ under his fingers, while time after time his particular combination of almost plastic-sculptural forming and fluid musicising nevertheless revealed how incredibly sure and conscious his art of phrasing was ‘controlled’.

[...] The greatness that the work [Emperor Concerto] can certainly be combined with via pianistic bravura alone was something he almost completely abandoned. The format was constructed artistically with a host of expressive nuances, all of which combined to form a meaningful, weighty totality – the characterisation, the attitude were a goal that was never lost sight of [...]"

(HV. Berlingske Tidende, 2 November 1971)

"When the final, sweeping orgy of notes died away, the applause broke out once again, and for a full five minutes there was rhythmic hand-clapping from the 1,600 people in the audience, until Rubinstein finally relented and added yet another piece to his huge performance: an encore. And seldom has one heard so many people so quiet as when one of Chopin’s nocturnes crept out of the grand piano under Rubinstein’s coaxing fingers [...]"

(Sindbæk, Holstebro Dagblad, 1 November 1971)