Léonie Sonning Prize 2012

Jordi Savall

Jordi Savall received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 600,000 at a concert held on Thursday, 31 May 2012 in Trinitatis Kirke in Copenhagen.

The concert was attended by Prince Henrik and for the first time in the history of the Music Foundation was transmitted live on TV (DR-K). It was also broadcast directly on the radio programme P2.

The prize was presented by the chairman of the Music Foundation, editor Steen Frederiksen, who said: "Music is the best way to communicate across borders, the best way people can make contact if they do not understand each other’s spoken language. And that is one of your great merits: that you have created such strong connections and bridges between nations, cultures and people. That via and with your music you have preached mutual understanding and respect. [...] Another important aspect of your musicianship is of course your insistence on quality, your temperament and empathy when rehearsing, conducting or playing."

The programme

East and West – Dialogue and diversity in the music of the Mediterranean area

Castellón/Algier Invocation (rebab and percussion)
Israel Kamti Beivshan Layla (From The Song of Songs)
France La Quarte Estampie Royal
Occitan Song: Pos de chantar (Guilhem de Peitieu)
Bulgaria Taksim and dance (kaval)
Morocco Dance of the Wind
Turkey Makām Uzzäl Sakîl ‘Turna’ Semâ’î (from the Cantemir Manuscript)
Jerusalem Song: La Moledet shuvi roni
Armenia Ene Sarére (traditional)
Israel Song: Shaar petach Dodi
Italy Saltarello
Occitan Song: Mot era dous e plazens (Guiraut de Bornelh)
Istanbul Üsküdar
Morocco and Israel Ghazali tal jàhri
Rhodos Durme, hermosa donzella (Sephardic lullaby – instr.)
Greece Apo xeno meros


Hespèrion XXI, which consists of

Pascal Bertin, France – song
Lior Elmaleh, Israel – song
Haïg Sarikouyoumdjian, Armenia – duduk
Nedyalko Nedyalkov, Bulgaria – kaval
Hakan Güngör, Turkey – kanun
Driss El Maloumi, Morocco – oud
Dimitri Psonis, Greece – santur and moresca
Pedro Estevan, Spain – percussion
Jordi Savall, Spain – fidel, rehab and musical leadership

Interval and awarding of the Sonning Music Prize

Les Voix Humaines – in memoriam Montserrat Figueras

Karl Friederich Abel Arpeggiata
J.S. Bach Allemande
Marin Marais Le Voix Humaines
Mr. De Saint-Colombe, le Fils Fantasie en Rondeau
Mr. De Sainte-Colombe le Père Les Pleurs
J. S. Bach (and improvisations) Bourrée II


Jordi Savall, 7-stringed bass viola da gamba


The 2012 Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 600,000 is awarded to the viol player and conductor Jordi Savall both for his unique contribution in rediscovering and bringing to life early European music with passion and imagination – and for his work to ensure that the many music cultures around the Mediterranean meet, live and gain a place in our consciousness.

Selected Music by Jordi Savall

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"It is impossible to live without peace in one’s heart, and that we can only obtain via love and music. Savall’s statement seemed highly apt after having heard rare notes during the first half of the concert, which included practically all the countries around the Mediterranean in former ages – quite literally – played by Savall’s orchestra Hespèrion XXI on everything from a Greece dulcimer to an Armenian ancient oboe, with music from synagogue songs and countertenor in a surprising pleasing union. Country by country, the qualities of the nine musicians and singers were brought out in forgotten music from the place where their particular instrument originally came from. After which they joined in for an original renaissance mélange that cut across all of it.

[...] It was, among other things, that kind of arrangement which reminded one that Savall has worked untiringly to bring old music out into the light by investigating how it probably once sounded. But also, at the same time, to create present-day connections between otherwise highly divergent music. As a kind of historical world music."

(Henrik Friis Politiken)

"Also on stage were two singers from France and Israel, who excelled in virtuoso style with pure, free voices. Savall sat humbly on the sidelines and supported the melancholy solos with soft strokes on the gamba. The musical climax came when the rich voice of Savall’s deceased wife, Monteserrat Figueras, sounded from the loudspeaker system. A purling warm soprano voice that the musicians accompanied with silver bells and gentle music. Figueras died half a year ago. She was to have participated in the Sonning Prize concert. A four-voice chorale ended the concert – a more beautiful tribute could not have been given to Figueras.

[...] With his characteristic red scarf round his neck, Savall stroked a simple, serene spirituality for all those inside the lit-up church. ‘Music is the path to the highest spiritual level. It binds us together, even when we are no longer here,’ Savall said in his speech of thanks after receiving the prize."

(Christine Christiansen, Jyllands-Posten)

"Savall: ‘What we really need today is to find out what unites us, not what divides us.’"

(From the advance publicity in Berlingske Tidende)