Léonie Sonning Talent Prize 2021
You could say that Britta is the result of a summer fling in the streets of Madrid long ago. On a train journey around Spain, Britta’s Swedish mother spotted the Argentinian-born street musician, who would later become Britta’s father. The romance was unavoidable.
As a child, Britta was mainly interested in using her hands like her mother, who is a painter and sculptor. However, her father being a flute player, he believed she should be enrolled in the local integrated elementary and music school, which happened to be located in the small Spanish town in which they lived. So she did at the age of 7.
Few children get to enjoy a school day like Britta’s. Her timetable was a mix of maths, Spanish and history on the one hand and orchestral lessons, ear training and solo instrument practice on the other. Everybody had to pick an instrument. On top of Britta’s list was the bandonéon – a variant of the accordion. However, this was not on the list of instruments to choose from, so instead she chose the next available instrument: the bassoon.
Throughout her childhood, Britta would spend her holidays in their holiday home in Sweden. Here she learnt Swedish, and at the age of 14 she applied for the Swedish “national wind team”, which is a summer camp for young Swedish wind instrument players. She spent the following 3–4 summers here and developed a taste for orchestral music.
Her school at home in Spain also had an upper secondary level, and Britta thankfully thought it would all have been a waste if – after having taken music and instrument lessons every day for 10 years – she would switch to a more “normal” educational path rather than take her music further.
In Spain, conditions for music education were not optimal, so she planned to only apply for Scandinavian music academies. This would also bring her closer to her Nordic heritage. The first admission examinations were at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, where she got accepted – so she never even got around to applying to the other academies.
A part of something big
Not many bassoon concerts or solo pieces for the bassoon have been written. Due to its characteristic sound, which can seem a bit comical, it has often nearly been more of a silly feature.
“I don’t know why because the tone colour of the bassoon is actually very rich. Almost richer than a lot of other instruments,” Britta points out roguishly, proud of her instrument.
However, it actually suits Britta fine to be part of a large symphony orchestra rather than being a soloist. And already before completing her studies, which she will do in Mannheim, Germany, in
2022, she has in fact assisted most of the large Danish orchestras in Denmark, i.a. the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Danish Orchestra and Copenhagen Phil.
And when Britta is not part of something big, she spends her time creating something small: the bassoon reeds of which she is a large-scale consumer. This gives her the opportunity to use her hands and her creative genes to prepare the thick bamboo sticks, which she, through ingenious processes, transforms into small, fine reeds that create that rich tone of the bassoon.
Britta Cortabarría Adde in short
Born in 1998, grew up in San Lorenzo de El Escorial outside Madrid in Spain.
Her Argentinian father plays the flute, and her Swedish mother is a painter and sculptor.
Started playing the bassoon at the age of 7.
Bachelor’s degree from the Royal Danish Academy of Music 2016–2019. Then a master’s degree in Mannheim, Germany.
Has assisted many Danish orchestras and ensembles, including: The Danish National Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Danish Orchestra, Copenhagen Phil, Aarhus Symfoniorkester, Sønderjyllands Symfoniorkester and Athelas Sinfonietta.
Abroad she has played in i.a. Helsingborgs Symfoniorkester, Nordic Chamber Orchestra, Deutschen Philharmonie Merk, Kammerphilharmonie Mannheim, Føroya Symfoniorkestur and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.
Active participant in master classes, selected for participation in international competitions like the Spisak competition in Poland and the Muri competition in Switzerland.
As a soloist she made her debut with the Swedish youth string orchestra in 2014.
The scholarship from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation
Britta will spend the money from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation on service and repair of her bassoon, auditions for orchestral jobs abroad, master classes and other classes abroad, audio recordings and tools for making reeds for her bassoon.