Arvo Pärt wins Denmark's Sonning music prize | Awards |

Arvo Pärt wins Denmark's Sonning music prize

Playbill Arts – Matthew Westphal
– Arvo Pärt, whose meditative, spiritually-themed music has made him among the most popular and recorded of living classical composers, has been named the winner of the 2008 Léonie Sonning Music Prize, Denmark's top award in the field.

The Sonning Music Foundation will present the award — 600,000 Danish kronar (currently about €80,000 or US$106,000) — at a special concert at the Radiohusets Concert Hall in Copenhagen on May 22, 2008. Pärt's compatriot Tõnu Kaljuste will conduct the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Vocal Ensemble in three of Pärt's works — trisagion for string orchestra, L'Abbé Agathon for soprano and eight cellos, and In principio for choir and orchestra — as well as J. S. Bach's motet Singet dem Herrn. Conductor Paul Hillier will lead a second, all-Pärt concert, featuring the vocal ensemble Ars Nova and the Athelas Sinfonietta, two days earlier at Copenhagen's Garrison Church.

In announcing the award, the Sonning Music Foundation called the 71-year-old composer "one of the most original voices of our time." The same statement offered a quote from one of Pärt's (rare) interviews:

"Tranquility is always more complete than music. One just has to learn to listen for tranquility; the world is full of tranquility. There is so much in the air ... Generally, people do not notice. They do not want to listen to what tranquility is."

The prize, established in 1959 by the charitable foundation of Danish editor Carl Johan Sonning and named after his widow, Léonie, is given every year to an outstanding musical figure. The 2006 winner was Yo-Yo Ma; previous recipients include (among others) Igor Stravinsky (the inaugural prize), Dmitri Shostakovich, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein; Alfred Brendel, Keith Jarrett, Janet Baker, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Birgit Nilsson, Gidon Kremer, Yuri Bashmet, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Andrés Segovia, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Mstislav Rostropovich, Miles Davis, John Eliot Gardiner, Georg Solti, Benjamin Britten, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Sergiu Celibidache.

The winner of the 2007 Sonning Music Prize, who was named last year, is Danish harpsichordist and conductor Lars Ulrik Mortensen, artistic director of the period-instrument orchestra Concerto Copenhagen. He receives his award on June 2, at a concert he will give with his ensemble at the Royal Theater in the Danish capital.