Léonie Sonning Music Prize pays tribute to Martin Fröst as “one of the most visionary musical artists of our time”
On Saturday 10 May, Martin Fröst became the first clarinetist and third Swede to receive the Léonie Sonning Music Prize in Copenhagen. First awarded in 1959, winners of one of the most prestigious prizes in classical music have included Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Birgit Nilsson, Dmitri Shostakovich, Per Nørgård, Sviatoslav Richter, Cecilia Bartoli and Simon Rattle. In the spirit of the annual award Martin Fröst participated in a week’s programme of music making in both Copenhagen and Aarhus where he gave chamber music concerts and master-classes before joining the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Thomas Søndergårdon on Saturday night at the Copenhagen Konserthus for a further full programme of music before being presented with the DK 600 000 prize. In giving the prize the jury paid tribute to Fröst’s “sublimely musical interpretations of both the classical and modern repertoire for his instrument. With his superb musicianship, Martin Fröst has inspired a large number of contemporary composers to create innovative works for the clarinet. By virtue of a quite exceptional stage presence in which auditory and visual impressions are united in a wonderful way, Martin Fröst has shown himself to be one of the most visionary musical artists of our time.” Reviewing Saturday night’s prize concert in Copenhagen Berlingske national paper commented: “Martin Fröst is 43 years old and one of the eight wonders of the world on the clarinet … And when he delivers a two hour show in this manner at the Concert Hall on Saturday evening, yes: he is the obvious recipient of the Léonie Sonning Music Prize … Fröst plays with a unique feeling for the present. Soulful in the slow parts and unbelievably virtuosic in the quick parts. Marvellous, simply matchless. He embraces it all and masters almost everything. “Even the marble values of Mozart (Clarinet Concerto) are communicated to everyone and he receives the first of four standing ovations. He underplays the main melodies and gives the smaller strands all the more space, a new embellishment here, a surprising interlude there. The whole fantastic focus on the magic of the moment takes your breath away.” Politiken agreed: “Nothing at the Sonning prize concert was left to chance. This is a musician with very high and rare demands for intensity, precision and luxury in every single note … “Raise your hats, ladies and gentlemen, to the clarinet genius of our time.” Photo © Nikolaj Lund / Léonie Sonning Music Prize
On May 10, the Swedish clarinetist Martin Fröst received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize in Copenhagen making him the third Swede in the history of the prize to be awarded. First given in 1959 to Igor Stravinsky, subsequent recipients have included Birgit Nilsson, Eric Ericson, Leonard Bernstein, Olivier Messiaen, Miles Davis and most recently Sir Simon Rattle. The entire list of winners reads as the whose who of musical history and for Martin Fröst to receive the award is an immense honour. Coinciding with the prize, BIS will release Martin Fröst’s new Brahms chamber music CD featuring the Clarinet Quintet, Trio and songs arranged for clarinet by Fröst himself. Partnering him are his regular collaborators Janine Jansen, Boris Brovtsyn, Maxim Rysanov, Torleif Thedéen and Roland Pöntinen. Fröst’s 2013 release of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, recorded with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, was chosen amongst the Top 10 CDs of the year by the Sunday Times which commented “arguably the world’s greatest clarinetist … reveling in the virtuosity, wit and pathos of Mozart’s last orchestral work”. Following his Carnegie Hall performance of the Mozart concerto in December 2013, the New York Times wrote “Mr Frost exhibited a virtuosity and musicianship unsurpassed by any clarinetist – perhaps any instrumentalist – in my memory”. Martin Fröst will give two concerts of repertoire ranging from Mozart to the Danish composer Bent Sørensen as part of the Sonning Prize celebrations in Copenhagen, following which he joins members of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra for performances of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet in Oslo (May 13 & 14),concluding his season as Guest Artistic Leader with the ensemble. On May 28 Fröst will perform Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto at the Vienna Konzerthaus together with Jonathan Nott and the Bamberger Symphoniker and on August 4 he returns to New York for the Mostly Mozart Festival at the LincolnCenter. With the start of the 2014 / 15 season Martin Fröst embarks on three new year-long residencies at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Göteborg’s Konserthus and London’s Wigmore Hall and in February 2015 he will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Vinterfest – the immensely successful chamber music festival which he founded together with the Dala Sinfonietta in the heart of Sweden, set against the vast expanse of the frozen Dalarna, winter landscape.
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