Léonie Sonning Awards 2013

Simon Rattle

The British conductor Sir Simon Rattle received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 600,000 at a concert held on 2 February 2013 in Koncerthuset, DR Byen, Copenhagen. The prize was presented by the conductor Michael Schønwandt and in his speech of thanks Simon Rattle mentioned his intention to use the music prize to start a new educational programme for conductors as part of the Berlin Philharmonic’s Orchestral Academy.

The programme

Jean Sibelius Symphony no. 7 in C major (1924)
Hans Abrahamsen Double Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Orchestra (2011)
Carl Nielsen Symphony no. 4: The Inextinguishable (1914-16)
Antonin Dvorak Slavonic Dance in C major, Op. 72, no. 7 (encore)
Prize-giving ceremony

The Royal Danish Orchestra


The 2013 Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 600,000 is awarded to the conductor Sir Simon Rattle for having given symphonic orchestral music a central position in contemporary society for more than 35 years.

With his gripping reinterpretations of more than three centuries of music, Sir Simon has most decisively helped redefine the role and function of the performer.

Thanks to Sir Simon’s enthusiasm and social involvement, numerous new listeners have had their minds opened to the primordial force of music.

Simon Rattle in Denmark

As a very young conductor, Simon Rattle visited Denmark on several occasions in the late 1970s to give a series of concerts with the Copenhagen Philharmonic, at such venues as the Tivoli Concert Hall, Hvidovre Community Centre and Kastrup Cinema.

A few months prior to the prize-giving concert, Simon Rattle conducted in Denmark again, when on 16 November 2012 he gave a brilliant concert with the Berlin Philharmonic on Koncerthuset. On that occasion, the programme comprised music by Ligeti, Wagner, Debussy, Ravel and Schumann.

Selected Music by Simon Rattle

The press wrote

among other things:

"Without any score, but with an ear for every musician in the enormous orchestra, ultra-precise use of the baton and a face that mimed in deep concentration the nature of the phrases, Rattle unfolded the symphonic sections in an explosive, colourful sequence. The woodwind danced and sang, the strings were taut, and the tympany thundered from every corner of the concert hall. In Sibelius’ Symphony no. 7 the deep murmuring of the strings gave way to airy glimpses of woodwind. Once again, Rattle, through his clear movements of hand and body, brought all the nuances of Northern nature and mood into play."

"In his speech of thanks, Rattle revealed that his Sonning Prize will be used to start a new educational programme for conductors at the orchestral academy. The ‘grand old man’ already has his eye on a promising 23-year-old. Hats off to this progressive and generous gesture from the maestro with so much humanity."

(Christine Christiansen, Jyllands-Posten)

"[...] This wonderfully friendly star lifts and bears until the very last bar. He brings out the best in people. Both in the audience with their standing ovations and in the musicians with two hours of musical score in front of them. The last symphony from 1924 by the Finnish composer Sibelius becomes much more in his hands than just birch-trees and green hills. It also becomes speculative, wearisome, tragical. And the piece by the Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen becomes the exact opposite: A frozen momenet of quiet beauty. A work of art made of crystal [...]"

"The central figure is cordiality personified. That he can also be eclectic and lack a little edge is something one is prepared to accept. For the smooth also has a useful side and becomes gold in the final piece at the concert: Carl Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony. A turbulent half an hour from the beginning of the First World War. A much-needed tour de force between two sets of angry ketteldrums in their separate trenches."

(Berlingske, Søren Schauser)

" [...] His magnetic presence of eye and movement inspired the musicians to contribute with the sum of their experiences in the symphony, making it an unforgettable achievement at all levels. Particularly moving in the intra-movement complexes, in the fabulously musical allegretto by the woodwind section, and in the intensely played two-voiced passages of the adagio by the strings."

"The orchestra was reduced to a small string ensemble in Abrahamsen’s Double Concerto from 2011, and it was strange to think that precisely this music could be notes emanating from the vault of Olympus. So crystalline, so brightly vibrating, so transparent, so rhythmically refined did the concerto communicate itself. The German violinist Carolin Widman and our own Tanja Zapolski were both eminent protagonists in this fascinating play of glass beads, understood as a playful concentrate of the sound spectrum, the emotional force of the melody and the inextinguishable life-patterns of the rhythm. It sounds incredibly simple, Rattle said on Friday, but it’s frightfully difficult to play."

"The festive occasion concluded in the same key in which it began: C major. With a Slavonic Dance by Dvorák, seething, hilarious, seductive and furious."

(Valdemar Lønsted, Information)