Heinz Holliger

léonie sonning music prize 1987

The Swiss oboist Heinz Holliger received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of 100,000 Danish kroner at a concert on 20 May 1987 at the Tivoli Concert Hall. The concert was broadcast live on the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s P2 radio channel, and the first part, including the prize ceremony, was also broadcast on television.

The prize was presented by Poul Jørgensen, a member of the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation’s board.


The Léonie Sonning Music Prize 1987 is awarded to the oboist Heinz Holliger in recognition of his superb and collaboratively creative interpretations of works of music literature. Constantly striving to expand his musical consciousness and find new paths, Holliger is an inspiring role model of far-reaching significance in the world of music.’

In his speech of thanks, Holliger included the following remarks:

‘I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the prize committee for awarding me this honour, which is also quite frightening when you look at the list of who has received it in the past. I feel honoured, but also a little embarrassed to receive an award for something I have done all my life, perhaps without having a choice in the matter. Music is, not least for an introverted musician, a means of communicating with the outside world. So I have actually been awarded a prize simply for living, as I’m doing now.’


You can listen to the speeches from the concert here:

The programme

Mozart Symphony in A minor K16a, Odense Symphony

Mozart Oboe Concerto in C Major

Bruno Maderna Oboe Concerto No 3

Stravinsky The Firebird, Suite


Heinz Holliger, oboe

Danish National Symphony Orchestra

Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Heinz Holliger and Denmark

Heinz Holliger first performed in Denmark in 1965, at a performance of Mozart’s Oboe Concerto with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. In 1970, he gave a master class at the Danish National Academy of Music in Jutland, in which oboe students from all over the country participated. He lectured on his own compositions, on performance practice and also gave solo oboe recitals. As a teacher, he has had a direct influence on several Danish oboists. In 1975, Holliger gave two concerts with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. In the first he was a soloist in oboe concertos by Marcello and Schnittke, and in the second he conducted contemporary works. Since that time, he has performed several times in Denmark, mostly as a chamber musician.

In connection with the prize concert in 1987, Holliger gave several concerts in Copenhagen. The day after the prize concert, on Holliger’s 48th birthday, he rehearsed with the Royal Danish Academy of Music’s orchestra. A concert followed on 24 May, with Holliger as a soloist and conductor. The programme included works by Holliger himself and by Mozart, Richard Strauss and Gounod.

The next day, a reception was squeezed into Copenhagen City Hall, at which mayor Egon Weidekamp offered traditional City Hall Pancakes, and the same day Holliger began rehearsals with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. At the concert on 27 May, Holliger conducted his own Scardanelli cycle for flute, chamber orchestra and chamber choir with Aurèle Nicolet as soloist. Then Nicolet played a solo piece by Holliger, T air(e), and finally Holliger and his harpist wife Ursula were soloists in Lutosławski’s Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp and Chamber Orchestra. The concert was also broadcast on television.

During the eight-day visit to Copenhagen, Holliger also had time to meet with three student composers at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. The prize money and his other fees from the eight-day visit to Copenhagen were donated by Holliger to charity.


The daily press wrote, among other things:

A sound of indescribably beauty suddenly filled the room. It was alive, relaxed and intensely narrative at the same time. It was apparently created on an oboe just like any other oboe. But the notes did not resemble other oboe notes. You felt them through your body, taking a hold of your soul, and you surrendered to their power. Poetry was allowed to reign.

(Teresa Waskowska, Politiken, 22 May 1987)

Holliger has brought the oboe into the spotlight, with formidable technique and exceptional musical intelligence. He masters the whole spectrum of musical expression with similar sovereignty. […] He is the epitome of self-effacing modesty. But with the oboe in his mouth, Holliger becomes another person entirely. Here he expresses himself with an authority that communicates with other musicians like telepathy.

(Jan Andersen, Land og Folk, 2 June 1987)

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