Léonie Sonning Awards 2002

Alfred Brendel

2002_brendel _prismodtagelse

Alfred Brendel received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 500,000 at a concert held at 7.30pm on Saturday, 26 January 2002 in Tivoli Concert Hall.

The music prize was presented by the pianist Amalie Malling, Assistant Professor at The Royal Danish Academy of Music, who said the following about Brendel: “With your brilliant knowledge of the piano, your sensitive intelligence and your enormous urge to explore, you have succeeded in penetrating music ever more deeply and illuminating it from within. You experiment with the piano, you develop, renew, rediscover your repertoire. But the inner necessity of the music is always the most important thing for you, and you convey this necessity to us, your audience.”

You can listen to Amalie Malling's speech and Alfred Brendel's acceptance of the award here (in German):

The programme

Igor Stravinsky Symphony in three movements
Mozart Piano Concerto no. 25 in C major
Interval – with the awarding of the Léonie Sonning Music Prize
Beethoven Piano Concerto no. 5 Emperor

Performed by:

Alfred Brendel, piano
The Royal Danish Orchestra
Conductor: Michael Schønwandt


The 2002 Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 500,000 is awarded to the pianist Alfred Brendel for his life-long exploration and interpretation of the core repertoire of the piano. With his far-ranging overview, his intelligent sensitivity and his exception sense of sound he is one of the most important communicators of, in particular, the classical repertoire – and both brilliant inheritor and epoch-making innovator of the Central European piano tradition.

Alfred Brendel in Denmark

Alfred Brendel is one of the most prominent musicians of the past half century. As a young man, Brendel played all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in 1964 in a series of unforgettable concerts in Odd Fellow Palæet in Copenhagen. He was the first pianist to record all of Beethoven’s piano works, and his contribution has been invaluable in ensuring, for example, that Schubert’s and Haydn’s piano sonatas are now a natural part of the concert repertoire.

71-year-old Alfred Brendel received the music prize from Amalie Malling, who is one of his own pupils, and at a press meeting in the foyer of The Royal Theatre in connection with the concert he said that it is always with strong feelings of friendship that I am in Denmark. Afterwards he said what he was proud of about this prize was being placed in the same company as composers and musicians like Stravinsky, Bernstein, Shostakovich and Britten, for "without them I would be nothing. It is their light I reflect when I play."

Brendel does not play new music."Why should I do that when there is old music one can spend one’s whole life playing, he said, adding: There are various ways of interpreting music. One is to go back in time and research one’s way into an attitude towards it; another is to try and forget everything one knows and then wait and see if one receives a message from heaven, a message so infinitely pure as possible. I think I find myself somewhere in between."

Selected Music by Alfred Brendel

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"Brendel was expected with great anticipation that nevertheless was exceeded by what one got to hear [...] When Brendel plays Mozart, it is – so to speak – Mozart on Mozart’s conditions, and what he does to enrich the experience of the music is to show its depths. Brendel swears allegiance to his principle that it is the work that is to show the musician how it is to be played. The musician is not to show the work how it is, nor to show the composer how he ought to have written it. In other words, an exceedingly humble musician, completely without whims. His phrasing is so sensitive that even Mozart would probably have tears in his eyes.
In her award speech, Amalie Malling emphasised Brendel’s sense of sound and sensitive intelligence – oh yes, indeed, I can vouch for them! All honour and a well-earned DKK. 500,000 to Alfred Brendel."
(Jakob Wivel in Børsen).