Léonie Sonning Prize 1992

Georg Solti

Sir Georg Solti received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 200,000 at a concert held at 8pm on Thursday, 24 September 1992 in Tivoli Concert Hall.

The music prize was presented by Poul Jørgensen, Head of the Royal Danish Orchestra.

The programme

Joseph Haydn: Symphony no. 104
Anton Bruckner: Symphony no. 3

The Royal Danish Orchestra
Conductor: Sir Georg Solti

Motivation

The Léonie Sonning Music Prize is awarded to Sir Georg Solti for his part in continuing a great performing tradition, to which, by virtue of his strong personality combined with the deepest respect for the intentions of the composers, he has added an intensive, impressive artistic dimension.

Georg Solti in Denmark

Solti had been in Denmark before – to conduct Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 8, for example, with The Royal Danish Orchestra, and on that occasion he mentioned to Poul Jørgensen that it was not out of the question that he would return to conduct them once more. Poul Jørgensen reminded him of this in the letter of 9 January 1990 in which the Music Foundation offered Sir Georg Solti the 1992 Music Prize. Ten days later, Solti accepted – saying he was touched and honoured at being offered the prize. But he did not feel like including a Danish work in the concert – he wrote that he no longer studied new works.

On Thursday, 24 September at 8pm the prize-giving concert took place (transmitted live on radio) in a closely packed Tivoli Concert Hall. Solti had a number of Danish friends he had invited along to the concert, including the singer Aage Haugland and his wife. The Royal Orchestra musicians were raring to go, and rehearsing was going on in various sections of the orchestra right up until the last moment, until Sir Georg Solti came out to conduct.

Poul Jørgensen gave this speech to Solti:

"Dear Sir Georg,

You conduct concerts and operas all over the world [...] and we know how privileged we are to also have you here in Copenhagen. You can pick and choose among the very best orchestras in the world and we are glad and honoured to have you here to conduct The Royal Danish Orchestra. You represent a great musical tradition, partly through your work as chief conductor in Munich, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Chicago and Salzburg, and partly – more than anything else, perhaps – through your incredibly extensive gramophone recordings. One could say that you not only represent a tradition but are and have been this tradition. Because of your intense strength of will you leave your mark behind on the music, and thanks to your deep respect of the will of the composers, we – your audience – experience a Solti performance as a true Strauss performance, a true Haydn performance, a true Bruckner performance. All Danish musical life is in your debt, and we hope very much to see you here again before long. We congratulate you on your forthcoming 80th birthday and pay tribute to you for the unique, genuine artist that you are."

You can listen to the speech here:

Selected Music by Georg Solti

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"There was considerable, warm enthusiasm after the first symphony concert of the season for The Royal Danish Orchestra, which had one of the greatest living conductors, Sir Georg Solti at the rostrum. Standing ovations that lasted for minutes, cries of bravo, the stamping of feet, curtain calls galore – people were unwilling to let go of the maestro, the almost 80-year-old Hungarian/British conductor [...]"

(Peder Kaj Pedersen, Aalborg Stiftstidende, 25 September 1992)

"[…] Solti’s coup was in finding a completely harmonious balance between lofty enchantment and childlike innocence (in the Bruckner symphony). [...] He raises up the mighty cathedral architecture of the great surfaces, where the skyward gaze is repeatedly brought back to a touching or even quizzical wondering at ‘the smallest leaf on a nettle’, but he also retains a consoling tenderness in the passages of the adagio that hark directly back to Mozart. And he retains the humour, the good humour which is a crucial ingredient of Bruckner’s rapt devotion. [...]"

(Jan Jacoby, Politiken, 26 September 1992)