Léonie Sonning Awards 2011

Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 600,000 at a concert held on 5 May in DR Koncerthuset. The prize was presented by Bertel Krarup, principal of The Royal Danish Academy of Music.

The concert, also attended by Prince Henrik, was transmitted live on DR K and P2 Koncerten. It was also streamed live to Finland on the Internet.

The programme

Kaija Saariaho Laterna Magica (2008) for orchestra (text: Ingmar Bergman)
Kaija Saariaho Adriana Songs (2006) for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (libretto: Amin Maalouf)
Igor Stravinsky The Firebird (1910)


Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano
The Danish National Symphony Orchestra
John Storgårds, conductor


The 2011 Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 600,000 is awarded to Kaija Saariaho for having created for over 25 years works of eminent originality, great beauty and intense communicative force. With the artistic exploration of sound and timbre as her point of departure, Kaija Saariaho has over the years developed a profoundly personal musical language that is both colourful and expressive and yet also transparent and elegant. From the mid 1990s, she has to an increasing extent inscribed herself in the great European tradition, to which she has given new life and made a crucial contribution to leading it into the 21st century.

Kaija Saariaho in Danmark

In connection with the prize-giving concert a number of other concerts were arranged:

Takkelloftet, Copenhagen Opera House, 1 May at 4pm – Saariaho and other Gardens

Kaija Saariaho Lonh. For soprano and electronics (1996)
  NoaNoa. For flute and electronics (1992)
  Six Japanese Gardens. For percussion and electronics (1995)
Edsjö/Dill/Pontoppidan 3 Passages


Randi Pontoppidan, song and electronics
Jennifer Dill, flute
Linda Edsjö, percussion

Kulturværftet, Elsinore, 3 May at 8pm, and Den Sorte Diamant, 4 May at 8pm. Portrait concert of Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho Laconisme de l’aile
  Die Aussicht (1996)
  Miranda’s Lament (1997)
  Je sens un deuxième cœur (2003)


Camilla Hoitenga, flute
Signe Asmussen, soprano
Kaija Saariaho, sound management
Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen
Pierre-André Valade, conductor

The Royal Danish Academy of Music, 6 May at 7.30pm

Kaija Saariaho Amers. Cello Concert no. 1
Per Nørgård Helle Nacht. Violin Concerto no. 1
Kaija Saariaho New Gates. For flute, harp and cello
Per Nørgård Momentum. Cello Concerto no. 2 (first performance in Denmark)


Peter Herresthal, violin
Jakob Kullberg, cello
Ensemble Ernst, Norway
Thomas Rimuhl, conductor

Selected Music by Kaija Saariaho

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"Laterna magica derives from Ingmar Bergman’s memoir, written for and first performed by the Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle. Saariaho has tried to give musical expression to the distinctive rhythmic playing in the projection of slides through this ‘magic lantern’, and her fascination with the flickering light is obvious, because she has worked so much in-depth on exploring the sound spectra of notes in her music. It was very much an intoxicating performance, where enchanted landscapes succeeded each other, blends of resonating surfaces and sharply rhythmical characters, light in all its facets: gentle, direct, hazy, incidental, overwhelming, etc."

(Valdemar Lønsted, Information)

"The drama began as inescapable, existential confrontations with music as states of refined decline, with Lilli Paasikivi’s lone singing voice winding its way up and down and around the words like a carpet of melancholy. And it ended with a thought-provoking rejection of revenge: ‘This man deserved to die, but you, my son, do not deserve to kill.’ Sounds cast in one piece and relevant content in a world of terror and war as music that stuck in both diaphragm and cerebral cortex. And despite its ephemeral nature has not left either location as yet."

(Henrik Friis, Politiken)

"They can be something reserved about her as a person. Her speech of thanks, for example, about high tides in the seas and low tides in the artistic coffers was a bit on the dry side. Her music is just as reserved. When the army of musicians has to whisper adjectives about light, for example, it becomes the most powerful moment of the evening. Whispering as a climax! Kaija became world-famous for her work with computers and musicians on the same stage. Ultimately, with the distortion of the sounds of reality.

But her flair for the original colours of the orchestra has at least just as gripping an effect. Half a concert with her is really a woven fabric – as the music of her compatriot Sibelius can also be. It hangs together like a dream between the full-strength orchestra on stage and the very quiet audience out there in the dark."

(Søren Schauser, Berlingske Tidende)