Léonie Sonning Prize 2018

Mariss Jansons

Video: Cubus Film

Maris Jansons awarded the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2018

The Léonie Sonning Music Prize of EUR 100,000 was awarded to Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons at a concert held on Friday, 9 March 2018, at the Royal Opera House.

The concert was broadcast directly on DR P2.


Mahler: Symphony no. 2 Resurrection

Genia Kühmeier (soprano)
Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano).
The Royal Danish Opera Chorus
Malmö Opera Chorus
The Royal Danish Orchestra
Conductor: Mariss Jansons


Katrine Ganer Skaug, member of the board of directors of the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation, presented the Prize of EUR 100,000 and held a personal speech, which included the following official motivation:

The Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2018 of EUR 100,000 is awarded to Mariss Jansons for his intense artistic efforts for the symphonic orchestra and its repertoire.
For decades, Mariss Jansons has made the highest demands for himself and his musicians for the sake of music and has opened the score with precision and passion, thus making music clear, powerful and meaningful. He has formed and developed his orchestras into the most finely tuned organisms which our civilisation is able to create, thus conferring on the classical orchestral culture a sublime voice of our day.

Photo: Camilla Winther

Mariss Jansons and Denmark

Mariss Jansons gave his first concerts in autumn 1972 in Scandinavia with Copenhagen Phil. And he returned for several concerts in the 1970s and the early 1980s conducting Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben and Rachmaninov's Symphony no. 2, among others. Mariss Jansons also conducted the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra at several concerts, including in Symphony no. 6 Pathetique in 1981.

In February 2011, Mariss Jansons visited the Concert House as head of the Dutch Concertgebouw Orchestra. The programme included Brahms' Piano Concerto no. 2 with Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist and Beethoven's Symphony no. 7. The Danish newspaper, Kristeligt Dagblad, wrote that Mariss Jansons presented himself as "a true master with a brilliant perspective, clear direction and determined presence."

Thursday, 8 March 2018, at the Royal Danish Academy of Music

Mariss Jansons participated in a session with the conductor students of the Academy.

The daily press wrote the following about the prize concert at the Royal Opera House

Why all that hype about conductors and their white baton? And why is Mariss Jansons worth all that attention plus the fee and the extra 100,000 Euro?

Well, after having spent only five seconds in his company, you know. The celebrity would be an excellent supervisor at any workplace.

In the important preparation phase before the concert, Jansons saw his staff as a gear wheel composed of 180 different sizes and created the perfect combination.

He perceived the different violins and wind instruments of wood and metal as 180 individuals with each their own mentality and made them interact without even the slightest haze. This was topped with a glare of comfort and tolerance, thus inspiring the singers to induce a very audible joy of music and the atmosphere as a whole...

Mariss Jansons provides vitamins for all on such an evening; both to those who know the music inside out, and to all the new members of the club.

Just look at the famous waltz in the third movement: the movement is quiet and rattling for a long time and then bursts into a very powerful harmony with shrieking sounds.

When the Latvian is on the podium, there is nothing unsightly in the sound - only a sentiment which is controlled throughout and is almost even enchanting.

While the fourth movement entitled “Urlicht” has always been Mahler’s most delightful movement and thereby the cornerstone of the work, something even more indefinably beautiful happened towards the finale last Friday: the star of the evening is capable of keeping that movement cultivated. In such a way that you almost hear it backwards and recall all tones throughout the evening as being equally important.

In other words, the best Mariss Jansons in the world is the quintessential conductor: he prepares everything down to the slightest detail and, in this regard, he thus bears resemblance to his colleague Arturo Toscanini. However, he is also capable of being caught by the moment of magic, thus resembling e.g. Wilhelm Furtwängler.

(Søren Schauser, Berlingske Tidende)


Mariss Jansons is the best orchestra mentor in the world. This was evident when the Royal Danish Orchestra performed Gustav Mahler’s powerful 'Resurrection Symphony' under Jansons' Olympic leadership. The concert has undoubtedly secured its place in history as being among the most remarkable in recent years with the Royal Danish Orchestra.

It was as if the orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony no. 2 was brought to such a consistent technical level that it surpassed any previous performance I can recall.
With his Russian schooling, enormous experience, his acute radar vision and sympathetic nature, Jansons is known for being the most formidable and sought-after orchestra mentor.
It takes time to reach such level but it is still incredible how profoundly he and the orchestra were capable of mastering Mahler’s score in only one week ...

The most spectacular aspect of Janson’s work with the orchestra was the degree of precision and loyalty with which the orchestra followed Mahler’s myriad of indications of pace, phrasing and dynamics, and the magnificence of the music created in this demanding reading; as in the first movement’s death music with funeral marches and flashbacks to suffering and remembrance. Indeed at a truly majestic pace, utterly earnest and solemn. So brilliantly sophisticated in the deep strings' opening, sombre climbs.
So subtly transparent and devotedly dimmed in the violins’ phrasing of the remembrance theme. So impressively chiselled in 3D in the catastrophic scene halfway through the movement.
And it continued along the same path under Janson's Olympic leadership.

(Valdemar Lønsted, Information)


The Latvian maestro Mariss Jansons received the Sonning Music Prize and helped us all ascend into heaven in Mahler’s Symphony no. 2 ...

The work releases immense sound power. On the big stage at the Royal Opera House, the musicians formed the potent phrases shoulder to shoulder, and from the wings yet another arsenal of trumpets were calling with melancholic brittleness.

The choir conveyed with heartfelt passion the poetic words on the end of life and the light that embraces us in heaven: »I shall die, so as to live«, the singers chanted convincingly in the final verse of the fifth movement.

The soloists - a light soprano and a dark alto - gave starry lustre to the orchestra with their voices.

With slight, supple movements, Mariss Jansons unified the many individuals to form a balanced unity.

(Christine Christiansen, Jyllands-Posten)


These photos may be used free of charge in relation with Mariss Jansons being awarded the Léonie Sonning Music Prize. Photographer: Camilla Winther

For additional information


Bente Legarth
tel. +45 3334 4232
e-mail: bl@horten.dk


Torsten Hoffmeyer
tel. +45 3334 4231