Léonie Sonning Awards 1973

Dmitri Sjostakovitj

The composer Dmitri Shostakovich received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 60,000 after the performance of his opera Katerina Ismailova on Saturday, 26 May 1973 at The Royal Theatre.

The prize was presented by Børge Friis, Dr.Phil. (interpreter: Senior Lecturer Erik Stahl)

The programme

Shostakovich’s opera Katerina Ismailova (Lady Macbeth from Mtsensk)

Katerina Ismailova: Lone Koppel Winther
Sergei: Peter Lindroos

Boris: Bent Norup
Sinovich: Otte Svendsen

Production staged by Jan Biczyski.

The Royal Danish Orchestra
Conductor: Kazimir Kord, artistic leader of the Krakow opera


The Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 60,000 is hereby awarded to Dmitri Shostakovich in profound admiration of his lifelong and comprehensive contribution in the service of creative music. Dmitri Shostakovich’s works, which range from chamber music, concertos and symphonies to ballet, opera and oratorio, are seen in Denmark as in the rest of the world as brilliant highlights in the music of our century.

Shostakovich and Denmark

A music-prize series was successfully held that has not been surpassed since – The Shostakovich Olympics was what a newspaper headline jokingly called the month of concerts and opera.

Shostakovich arrived as early as 4 May, in order to follow rehearsals of the opera before the premiere ten days later – every day he was present to correct and give good advice to the conductor and producer. To begin with, the composer was somewhat unapproachable and shy, but gradually he brightened up and actually stayed here for almost a month.

Shostakovich was the first Russian to receive the music prize, and it was an event that the world press was interested in. The day after the prize concert, there was more Katerina Ismailova – this time as an opera film (from 1966), with Galina Vishnevskaya in the title role and with the Kiev opera under the leadership of Konstantin Simonov. Prior to the film, Dmitri Shostakovich talked about Soviet music. Two days later teachers at the Danish Academy of Music played music by Shostakovich, including his cello sonata with Erling Bløndal Bengtsson and Anker Blyme and his piano quintet, op. 57.

The next concert was held on Friday, 1 June in the Tivoli Concert Hall, where Shostakovich’s son Maxim conducted The Danish National Symphony Orchestra in the suite from the ballet The Golden Age and the concerto for piano and strings with trumpet obbligato. And on Sunday, 3 June there was a Shostakovich concert at the Tivoli Concert Hall with The Tivoli Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eifred Eckart-Hansen – featuring Galina Werschenska, who played Shostakovich’s piano concerto no.2. There was a special reason why she wanted to pay homage to Shostakovich: they knew each other from the Moscow conservatoire – "There wasn’t a day when we didn’t see each other, discuss things or eat together," Galina Werschenska related.

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"With his ability and will to produce long melodic lines, often moving in their simplicity, Shostakovich creates moments of supreme beauty, and his mastery at letting different voices act with and against each other is only found among composers who are truly great. His instrumentation can sound a little forced, while his harmonic inventiveness, within the sphere of the 1930s, is very exciting and refreshing. There can be no doubt: This soon quite old and so highly controversial work [Katerina Ismailova] that Russia has now once again taken to its heart, has musical values that raise it far about national and musical quarrels..."

(Nils Schørring, Berlingske Tidende, 16 May 1973)

"While all involved in the performance stood on stage, 67-year-old Shostakovich came on, dressed in a dinner jacket [...] After the prize presentation [...] Shostakovich said [...] ‘I am deeply grateful to be able to stand here as the recipient of this prestigious prize. In this recognition of my works I also see a recognition of the musical culture of the Soviet Union that is my own sine qua non. I would like to thank the many Danish artists who have put in so much work in performing my music, and I wish the Danish people a future in happiness and peace. I intend to donate the prize money to the World Peace Foundation. Thank you for your attention.’

Shostakovich, who spoke rapidly in a quite high-pitched voice and from a manuscript, was given loud applause and cries of ‘bravo’ from a audience that had risen to its feet, and The Royal Danish Orchestra gave him a flourish before the curtain fell."

(Robert Naur, Politiken 28 May 1973)