Léonie Sonning Awards 1991

Eric Ericson

Eric Ericson received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 200,000 at a concert held at 7.30pm on Wednesday, 12 June 1991 in Tivoli Concert Hall.
The music prize was presented by the head of The Royal Danish Opera, Poul Jørgensen.

The programme

György Ligeti Lux Aeterna
Claudio Monteverdi Sestina, Lacrime d’Amante al sepolcro dell’ Amata
Benjamin Britten Hymn to St. Cecilia, op. 27
T. Jennefelt/
S.D. Sandström
Den enda stunden
Frank Martin Ariel songs for chorus, to texts from Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Ingvar Lidholm … a riverder le stelle
plus no fewer than three encores: One of Stenhammar’s Tre Körvisor, the Swedish folksong Och jungfrun hon går i ringen and finally the well-loved song Uti vår haga.

Eric Ericsons Kammarkör
Conductor: Eric Ericson


The Léonie Sonning Music Prize is hereby awarded to Eric Ericson for his lifelong work with choirs and for his contribution to the further development of choir literature. His work has also been of a pioneering nature outside the boundaries of Scandinavia and Europe, and has set new artistic norms for choral singing as a means of musical expression.

Event in connection with the awarding of the prize

Workshop with Sokkelund Sangkor on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 February at The Royal Theatre – concluding with a concert on Saturday 15 June 1991 at Ordrupgaard Museum.

Eric Ericson and Denmark

It was Poul Jørgensen, head of the Danish Opera House and a choir conductor for many years, who handed over the music prize with this words:

"As a former choir performer – on both sides of the rostrum – I cannot help having a quite special feeling when being able to give the music prize to you who through all these years have been our great, unattainable idol. The prize is given to you as an artist, and yet I cannot help feeling that you also see it as a pat on the back for the art form to which you have dedicated your life. In Sweden, choir singing has been called something as substantial as ‘a nationwide movement’, with 600,000 people taking part, and with you standing at the top of the pyramid as an initiator, teacher and inspiring force. I do not think there is any course centre in Sweden where you have not held a course, and hardly any university in the United States where you have not been a guest professor [...] A choir conductor does not only create the music we listen to, he has also created the instruments he most wants to make music with. We look forward this evening to hearing the special ‘Ericson sound’ that your own chamber choir demonstrates so wonderfully."

The reading out of the motivation is normally followed by an enthusiastic reaction from the audience, but this time it was replaced by an intense, warm tribute to the maestro of choir music in the form of a chamber choir which – without conductor – sang Brahms (one of the seven songs, op. 62).

It was only after several minutes of applause that Eric Ericson was able to reply. He said, among other things: "I feel fantastically honoured and prostrate myself before the long line of musicians who have already been awarded this music prize. In our concert programme we actually performed works by two of them: Benjamin Britten and György Ligeti. It is of course a source of great personal joy for me, but I also feel myself to be a representative of a form of music that is hereby drawn attention to. And I say this particularly because in many contexts in other countries I have seen that the professional choirs and their repertoire somehow end up in the shadow of concert life. But this I would call ‘the sunny side of the street’.

Perhaps it is because it takes place precisely here in our Nordic cultural area that it is at all possible for a choir conductor to be awarded such a fine prize."

You can listen to the entire speech here:

Selected Music by Eric Ericson

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"To hear Ericson’s choir with himself at the rostrum is like warming oneself at a cosy stove while listening to all sorts of tales. A mildness descends on the mind when Ericson creates poetry in music. When he conducts contemporary compositions it is as if the boundary between new and old is erased. The changes in the musical idiom are suddenly seen as a continuous development, anchored in fundamental human emotions.

[...] As a choir, they [Eric Ericsons Kammarkör] can perform a whole drama, juggling with words and playing with strange mysteries in so entrancing a way that the actual theatre seems to be superfluous [...] Here many singers with soloist ambitions could learn something about how one reproduces the music of the words themselves, how one treats phrases and sentences so that a question in the text sounds like a question when it is sung. What Ericson cultivates is the art of Lieder for choir."

(Teresa Waskowska, Politiken, 14 June 1991)

"The concert here was a number of highlights. [...] Six five-voice madrigals by Monteverdi were perfect chamber music performed by the choir’s 36 voices. The phrasing was absolutely harmonious, the sound mild and poetical and the impression spontaneous. The pain of love and beauty went hand in hand. Britten’s hymn to Cecilia was an example of Eric Ericson’s sense of the gently swinging rhythmic pulse and the absolutely precise character of every section [...]"

(Thomas Viggo Pedersen, Kristeligt Dagblad, 15 June 1991)