Léonie Sonning Prize 1976

Mogens Wöldike

The conductor Mogens Wöldike received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 65,000 at a concert held at 7.30pm on Thursday, 13 May 1976 in Sankt Annæ-salen. 

The prize concert and performance of Funen Springtime were transmitted directly on TV.

The prize was presented by the leader of the Royal Danish Orchestra, John Frandsen, who had a personal connection with the prize-winner. In his speech to Mogens Wöldike he said: "Without ever having moved outside the areas where Mogens Wöldike’s abilities, knowledge and talent have their natural breeding ground, his career demonstrates considerable expansion – the assessment of art is quite changeable, but the magnificent building in which we today find ourselves is visible proof of the fact of what a man of vision and will-power to make these qualities tangible is capable of through work and stamina."

John Frandsen concluded with these words: "You have long since followed the advice that another of the famous names of Danish musicology, Knud Jeppesen, gave you in a speech in 1945: ‘Science can lead one to the highest posts, as long as one leaves in time."

The programme

Georg Friedrich Händel Concerto for organ and orchestra in F major
  Coronation anthem for chorus and orchestra with organ continuo
Joseph Haydn Symphony no. 60, Il Distratto
Carl Nielsen Funen Springtime

Bodil Gøbel, soprano
Kurt Westi, tenor
Mogens Schmidt Johansen, bass
Niels Henrik Nielsen, organ

Children’s choir from Sangskolen
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Mogens Wöldike


The Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 65,000 is hereby awarded to Mogens Wöldike in profound admiration of his great contribution to Danish musical life, especially as regards the Copenhagen Boys Choir, which is his life’s work, established in 1924 and led by him for half a century.

Mogens Wöldike

was the first Dane to receive the Léonie Sonning Music Prize. As the result of a comprehensive debate on how church music of the baroque and classical period sounded when it was composed, Wöldike founded the Copenhagen Boys Choir in 1924. During the first years, it comprised boys from various schools in Copenhagen who met three times a week at a municipal school for rehearsals, and after two years they held their first concert. Results improved even more when the boy singers were also able to attend the same school where they had rehearsals. This was the school in Hindegade street in Copenhagen – and thereby the ‘song school’ was created – from 1929, the school had a Class Three where all the pupils were gifted boy singers from the local municipal schools.

By the latter half of the 1930s, the choir had become so good that they were able to give concerts featuring highly demanding works by Buxtehude, Bach, Händel and Carissimi as well as Palestrina’s Marcellus mass. The choir became an elite choir and during certain periods in the 1950s and 1960s it was undisputably the best boys choir in Europe. It toured on several occasions and participated in concerts with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and The Royal Danish Orchestra.

A whole string of gramophone recordings documents just how good a conductor Wöldike was – some of his Haydn recordings are unsurpassed. In 1953, he recorded with the Copenhagen Boys Choir Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols on ‘London Classics’, in 1959 Bach’s Matthew Passion on Vanguard Classics, and in the 1960s Bach Cantatas with The Danish National Choir and the Radio Chamber Orchestra as well as a number of Haydn Symphonies and Music Masterpieces before 1750 on the Haydn Society label.

In 1965, he was made an honorary doctor of the University of Copenhagen.

Over the years, Sangskolen grew so large that it became a sixth form college and moved into brand-new buildings – Sankt Annæ Gymnasium, where musical life flourishes and where the boys’ choir is developed and is still going strong. So when it was decided that Mogens Wöldike was to have the Sonning Music Prize, it was self-evident that the concert should be held in the concert hall of his own school, Sangskolen – in Sankt Annæ-salen.

Selected Music by Mogens Wöldike

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"There was [...] not only the typical Wöldike feeling for style and clear shaping in his performance of the Händel organ concerto in F major but also a rhythmical energy, a robust feeling for life – characteristics that have not emerged so clearly in his artistic personality until in later years. To this was added [...] a vigorous, folk-musician-like humour, but at the same time also a fresh, warm poetic sensitivity.

[...] As an inspector of music for many years, Wöldike gained an influence on musical life and music education in our schools, from primary to university level, from upper secondary schools to colleges of education. And finally there was the ‘Copenhagen Boys Choir’, which not only was and is an excellent concert ensemble, but was and is first and foremost a cultural institution where thousands of Danes over the years have had their ears and minds opened to music."

(Walter Zacharias, Land og Folk, 18 May 1976)

"It was of course wonderful to see the almost 79-year-old, youthful Mogens Wöldike stand surrounded by a devoted Danish National Symphony Orchestra and The Danish National Choir, the adored Copenhagen Boys Choir, soloists and a warmly appreciative audience in the concert hall of his own school, [...] and to here receive the most prestigious prize in Danish musical life from the hand of his colleague, John Frandsen. Very few people get such a breath of fair wind."

(Thomas Viggo Petersen, Kristeligt Dagblad, 18 May 1976)