Catalan Jordi Savall receives music’s ‘Nobel Prize’, awarded by the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation

Savall is awarded the world’s most prestigious prize, offered by the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation in Denmark, for his entire artistic career. The jury recognised Savall as “one of the most important forces behind the renaissance of early music and the discovery of forgotten music”. The Catalan musician is one of the world’s most important researchers of ancient music and interpreters of viol. He developed his career with his wife, the soprano Montserrat Figueras, with whom he founded several ensembles and carried out research. Savall dedicated the prize to her, who passed away in November. Savall told ACN: “When I’m performing at a concert it’s when I am at my most happy”.


June 1, 2012 01:43 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- Catalan Jordi Savall has been awarded the world’s most prestigious music prize, awarded by the Danish Leonie Sonning Music Foundation and known to be the music’s ‘Nobel Prize’. Savall received the 2012 Léonie Sonning Music Prize on Thursday evening in Copenhagen, in recognition of his entire music career devoted to early music. In fact, the Catalan musician is one of the greatest interpreters of this musical genre, famous for playing viola da gamba (viol). Furthermore, Savall is a very much recognised researcher of early music, a passion he shared with his life companion, soprano singer Montserrat Figueras, who passed away in November. Savall and Figueras founded several music ensembles, carried out music research and often performed together. The viola da gamba maestro dedicated the prize to Figueras and offered a concert at Copenhagen’s Trinity Church. The jury recognised Savall as “one of the most important forces behind the renaissance of early music and the discovery of forgotten music”. They also praised Savall’s “study, interpretation, direction, and approach to diverse musical traditions, in an intercultural dialogue with a great meaning, which has passed all borders”. ACN interviewed Savall on Thursday. “When I’m performing at a concert it’s when I’am at my most happy”, he said.

Jordi Savall, born in 1942 in the Catalan town of Igualada, located in Central Catalonia near the cava wine region, is the first Catalan to ever receive such a distinction, considered to be the ‘Nobel Prize’ of music. Savall received the prize in the framework of a concert he offered on Thursday evening in the Danish capital. In the first part of the concert, the Catalan musician directed the orchestra he founded together with his wife, Hespèrion XXI. In the second part, he played several viola da gamba solos.

Savall becomes one of the few artists who have received such a prestigious award, recognising careers in diverse musical fields, such as interpretation, conducting, research, or teaching. In fact, Savall’s career is a combination of all those fields. He studied in Switzerland, together with Montserrat Figueras in the 1960s. In 1974, they both founded Hespèrion XX, which later became Hespèrion XXI. They also founded two other orchestras, the Capella Reial de Catalunya (1987) and Le Concert des Nations (1989), as well as a music label, Alia Vox (1998).

The Léonie Sonning Prize has been awarded since 1959 to the greatest interpreters, conductors, and composers. Some of the past winners have been Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, György Ligeti and Arvo Pärt, or orchestra directors such as Sergiu Celibidache, Pierre Boulez, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, John Eliot Gardiner or Daniel Barenboim. Among the interpreters, some of the laureates are Andrés Segovia, Dietrich Fischer-Diesckau, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Keith Jarret or Cecilia Bartoli.

“When I’m performing at a concert it’s when I am at my most happy”

Jordi Savall was interviewed by ACN on Thursday morning, hours before receiving the prize. Receiving the Léonie Sonning Music Prize means being able “to show that all of us can get to make things in life, the culture we belong to does not matter”. Savall emphasised that “Catalonia has a potential as any other country and culture; we simply have to fight for the things we believe in and to defend the world in which we have lived, because it has the right to be recognised as such”. “One of humankind’s wealth is diversity, and in a world that each day is more global, it’s important that we fight to defend the things that define us and allow us to be who we are”, he said.

The Catalan musician said he was “very touched and impressed” for receiving this award, with figures such as Igor Stravinksy, Leonard Bernstein and Benjamin Britten have already received it in the past. “I feel I’m very far away from that level of genius. I consider this award a recognition to everything that I’ve done together with Montserrat during these last 50 years. This is what I will talk about tonight, when Montserrat should have been next to me”, said Savall, who talked to ACN hours before receiving the prize.

“Montserrat helped me get a viola da gamba when I was looking for one. It is thanks to her”, he explained. It was the time when a young Montserrat Figueras was singing at the Ars Musicae. When the group’s director announced he was looking for a solo interpreter, she said she knew a guy “who played Bach very well”. This was how Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall “got to know each other in a deeper way”.

“Throughout my life, Montserrat has been my companion, and not only in the sentimental aspect, but as a source of inspiration of the most important projects we did together”, ensured Savall. “We shared everything, and it’s really special to have such a deep connection with another person”, he added.

“Music brings us so much energy that makes you face the world”. “When I’m performing at a concert it’s when I’am at my most happy because I share marvellous music, which very often has been forgotten, and I share it with an audience that is almost always interested and warm. It is a gift being able to enjoy the company of musicians who are now friends, and an audience that follows us loyally around the world”, he concluded.