Léonie Sonning Prize 2016

Herbert Blomstedt

Watch Steen Frederiksen's speech to Herbert Blomstedt (in Danish)

Herbert Blomstedt awarded the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2016

Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of EUR 100,000 at a concert Thursday, 7 April, at DR Byen.

The concert was broadcast directly on DR P2 and streamed on dr.dk and recorded for later broadcasting on DRK.


L. van Beethoven Symphony no. 8 in F major, op. 93 (1812)
Gustav Mahler Symphony no. 1 in D major (1884-88)
Presentation of the Prize  


The Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor


Steen Frederiksen, member of the board of directors of the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation, presented the Prize and held a personal speech, which included the following official motivation:

Conductor Herbert Blomstedt is awarded the Léonine Sonning Music Prize of EUR 100,000 for his life-long, dedicated efforts in the service of orchestral work. As one of the greatest conductors of the world, humanist Herbert Blomstedt's tremendous effort has been to fight against the formal and for the inner, lasting values of music to enable us - in his own words - to sense its substance, simplicity, transparency and harmony.

Photos from the concert

Photo: Bjarne Bergius Hermansen

Herbert Blomstedt and Denmark

Herbert Blomstedt conducted the Danish National Symphony Orchestra for the first time in 1955, and from 1967-77 he was the chief conductor of the orchestra. Together with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and a number of Nordic soloists, Herbert Blomstedt recorded all Carl Nielsen's symphonies and solo concertos with EMI from 1973-75. Since then, Carl Nielsen's music has played a key role for Herbert Blomstedt, which, at the end of the 1980's, resulted in yet another complete recording of Carl Nielsen's symphonies; this time with the San Francisco Symphony with Decca. This issue is considered a reference recording of Carl Nielsen's symphonies.

In 2002, Herbert Blomstedt donated his conductor's fees from a concert with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra for a complete issue of Carl Nielsen's Letter Edition.

Today, Herbert Blomstedt is honorary conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra.

8 April at the DR Concert House

A master class was held with Herbert Blomstedt, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and three young Nordic conductors.

Magnus Fryklund conducted Carl Nielsen's Helios Ouverture
Christian Øland conducted Sibelius Symphony no. 2, movement 1
Håkon Nystedt conducted Brahms Symphony no. 4, movement 4

DVD issue

In connection with the award of the Prize, a DVD has been issued with Herbert Blomstedt and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra of Schubert's symphony no. 7 (the Unfinished) and Bruckner's symphony no. 7. Recorded at Roskilde Cathedral in 2007.

The DVD also contains an 80 minutes' long interview with Herbert Blomstedt.

The daily press wrote the following about the prize concert at the DR Concert House

Herbert Blomstedt conducted with remarkably few and subtle gestures, making it appear as if he was merely pedalling through a summery landscape somewhere in Sweden; perhaps on his way to the grocery store to buy milk. It is incredible how this conductor manages again and again to make the major symphonic works fall almost magically into place.

With a relaxed, retired Prince Consort looking on from the royal box on the first floor, Blomstedt introduced the audience to the first movement with the fewest possible strokes with his old hands. However, the old hands were dynamic, and the arrangement was frisky and filled with delight and vigour. Human warmth was dominant, and this is perhaps what he masters better than any other conductors: to conquer music from within, ensuring that the audience is not missing out on anything, but can merely listen with the feeling that everything is falling into place.

The music grew organically, but without any form of sensitive revelling in of the kind which Mahler's music tempts many conductors to fall into. The experience was definitive. Everybody from the orchestra's brilliant solo-oboist over clarinets and the horn group to percussion and string players contributed to creating the perfect vision where rural Austrian waltz, fanfares, soft sorrow and phrasing led to comfort and victory .... The music unfolded in a performance where all trouble was over while music ruled.

(Thomas Michelsen, Politiken)

Despite being 88 years of age, he is capable of hearing every nuance. He masters the art of tone balance and doses the instrumental colours in a perfect blending.

"Silence is the greatest homage".

A packed concert hall feared that this year's Sonning laureate, conductor Herbert Blomstedt, had a blackout in the middle of his speech when he respectfully thanked the Music Foundation for the honour of receiving the Prize of EUR 100,000. There was a pause where the audience, the Prince Consort and the minister of culture were all petrified. Finally, the above sentence was said, which everybody was waiting to hear. The long, silent seconds appeared to be a carefully prepared part of the maestro's acceptance speech - not an involuntary verbal block in the moved laureate.

Everybody could breathe a sigh of relief.

(Christine Christiansen, Jyllands-Posten)

Blomstedt's gestures have become more graceful as years have gone by. He does not make any powerful gestures any longer; he is in full control with very few resources. But he still undertakes the full responsibility. Like when the whole orchestra is to stop playing at the exact same time! He raises his left arm straight into the air, without any sign of insecurity, without any trace of hesitation - thus providing comfort to everybody.

Blomstedt has never been a distinct communicator on the podium. External effects are not the stately conductor's line ... And the Swede's warmth when off the podium therefore makes an even greater impression. Like when he steps off the podium to shake the hands of almost everybody close by; or when he gave his acceptance speech Thursday evening. The believing Seventh Day Adventist revealed both his modesty and his sense of humour. The packed concert hall with the Prince Consort at the lead could barely entice him to the podium for the last ovations; it was the orchestra that deserved the ovations. And the most powerful moment in the speech was ten seconds of breathless and absorbing silence. Herbert Blomstedt is able to distinguish between what is important and unimportant and cut to the bone. Life experience is the best teacher in the world.

(Søren Schauser, Berlingske Tidende)

For additional information
Contact Bente Legarth
Tel. 3334 4232
E-mail: bl@horten.dk


Torsten Hoffmeyer
Tel. 3334 4231