Léonie Sonning Awards 2015

Thomas Adès

The British composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adès is to receive the Léonie Sonning Music Prize on 8 October 2015 in DR Byen. Adès will conduct the prize-giving concert himself, which features Christianne Stotijn (mezzo soprano), Mark Stone (baritone), the Danish National Concert Choir and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra in a programming consisting entirely of his own music.


Thomas Adès Asyla (1997) (orchestra)
Thomas Adès America: A Prophecy (1999) (mezzo soprano, choir, orchestra)
Thomas Adès Totentanz (2013) (mezzo soprano, baritone, orchestra) First Danish performance.

The prize-giving concert will mark the conclusion of a mini-festival in Copenhagen that focuses on Thomas Adès.

On Sunday, 4 October, The Royal Danish Academy of Music (DKDM) will host two events:

* A public meeting between Thomas Adès and composition students from DKDM
* A concert of chamber music by Thomas Adès, with The Danish String Quartet and Thomas Adès (piano). Traced Overhead (1996) (solo piano), Arcadiana (1994) (string quartet), Piano Quintet (2000).

On Tuesday, 6 October in The Black Diamond, The Royal Library. Thomas Adès portrait concert with Athelas Sinfonietta lead by Pierre-André Valade and Thomas Adès, piano. Works include Chamber Symphony and Three Mazurkas (solo piano).

Thomas Adès will be the 15th composer to receive the Léonie Sonning Music Prize. Previous composers include Igor Stravinsky (1959), Benjamin Britten (1968), György Ligeti (1990), György Kurtág (2003) and, most recently, Kaija Saariaho (2011). This year’s prize-winner is the clarinettist Martin Fröst, who received the award on 10 May.

Apart from the honour of joining the royal ranks of those who have receive the Léonie Sonning Music Prize, Thomas Adès also receives the sum of DKK 600,000.

Thomas Adès and Denmark

Thomas Adès was a featured composer at the 2000 Musikhøst [Music Harvest] festival in Odense, which included a performance of his chamber opera Powder her Face.

In 2004, Adès and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra gave the national premiere of his America, whilst the following year he conducted six performances of his second opera The Tempest at The Royal Danish Opera. As a performer, Adès has long been an advocate of the music of Danish composer Poul Ruders - recording his Second Piano Sonata and conducting the world premiere of his ensemble work Abysm at the 2001 Aldeburgh Festival.

Thomas Adès in brief

Born in London in 1971, Thomas Adès studied piano at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and – after additional studies with György Kurtág in Hungary - read music at King’s College, Cambridge. A prodigious composer, conductor and pianist, Adès was described by the New York Times as one of today’s ‘most accomplished overall musicians.’

After a succession of breathtakingly inventive early pieces, including Catch and Arcadiana, Adès has gone on to compose major works for many of the world’s most important orchestras. Sir Simon Rattle performed Asyla (1997) at his final concert with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and his first as Music Director of the Berlin Philharmonic, and went on to commission Tevot for the Berlin Philharmonic in 2007. America: A Prophecy was written for the New York Philharmonic, whilst Adès’ Violin Concerto was first performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe with Anthony Marwood as soloist.

Adès’ first opera Powder Her Face caused a sensation at its premiere in 1995 and has subsequently been performed worldwide. His second, The Tempest, was commissioned by London’s Royal Opera House and was premiered under the baton of the composer to great critical acclaim in 2004. It was revived in 2007, again to a sold-out house, and has since had numerous performances elsewhere, including at the Metropolitan Opera New York where it was recorded for a Deutsche Grammophon DVD which subsequently won a Grammy Award. Current projects include a third opera, based on Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel.

Together with the video artist Tal Rosner, Thomas Adès composed the ground-breaking In Seven Days for piano, orchestra and moving image in 2007. Four years later, the pair collaborated once again to create Polaris, a spectacular ‘Voyage for Orchestra’ written for the opening of New World Symphony concert hall, Miami.

Thomas Adès is one of the most vital and omnipotent composers of our time. With his expressive musical idiom (that moves freely between a modern and a Romantic mode of expression) and his prominence both as a pianist and conductor, he has reached a remarkably broad audience. This was seen most recently at the 2013 BBC Proms, where his Totentanz, based on the fresco in the Marienkirche in Lübeck, had its world premiere - an event described by the Daily Telegraph as ‘a cultural event of the first magnitude.’

In addition to his work as a composer and performer, Adès was Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival from 1999 to 2008, the first Music Director of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group from 1998 to 2000, and now annually coaches piano and chamber music at the International Musicians Seminar, Prussia Cove.


Esben Tange
Chairman of the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation
Copenhagen 9 October 2014

For further information contact Bente Legarth on tel. (+45) 3334 4232 e-mail: bl@horten.dk or Torsten Hoffmeyer on tel. (+45) 3334 4231.

Ticket sales for the prize-winning concert open on 1 March 2015 via the Concert Hall website.