Leonidas Kavakos

Leonidas Kavakos awarded the Léonie Sonning Musik Prize 2017

The Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of €100,000 during a concert on Thursday 12 January at the DR Concert Hall in Copenhagen. The concert was broadcast live by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s P2 radio channel. On 26 March 2017, it was broadcast on the corporation’s television channel DRK.


Bach Violin Concerto in D minor
Berg Violin Concerto
Richard Strauss Don Juan
Brahms Violin Concerto


Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Fabio Luisi, conductor


Esben Tange, chairman of the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation’s board, presented the €100,000 prize money and gave a personal speech that included the following words:

‘The 2017 Léonie Sonning Music Prize of €100,000 is awarded to Leonidas Kavakos in recognition of decades enriching a large audience with illuminating interpretations delivered with vibrancy and technical mastery. With a tireless desire to search for the truth in the classics of the violin literature, Kavakos has revitalized the legacy of his instrument. With great personal integrity and a sense of the new, he has always placed the music first, guaranteeing that nobility continues to have a strong voice in the world of music.’

Leonidas Kavakos in Denmark

Leonidas Kavakos has performed many times in Denmark, as both a soloist and a chamber musician. In 2006 he gave his first concert as a soloist with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, in Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto. He returned in 2015 with the concerto by Jean Sibelius.

On 29 January 2016 Kavakos appeared for the first time as a conductor with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, during a concert in which he was also the soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 3. 

The prize concert at the DR Concert Hall was the climax of a mini festival during which Kavakos participated in a number of performances around Copenhagen. 

10 January, Mogens Dahl Concert Hall
Leoš Janáček Violin Sonata
Franz Schubert Fantasy in C major
Olivier Messiaen Theme and Variations
Ludwig van Beethoven Violin Sonata in G major, Op 96

Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Enrico Pace, piano
The concert was broadcast live on the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s P2 radio channel 

On 13 January, Kavakos led a master-class with violin students from the Royal Danish Academy of Music, which was open to the public

On 14 January, Kavakos was the soloist in a performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto in a concert given by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fabio Luisi.

The daily press wrote the following about the prize concert at the DR Concert House

The combination of the orchestra’s sound and Kavakos’s clean, sleek violin tone made for a rare and fantastic performance. It was as though an intriguing universe of strange harmonies was moving slowly and meticulously through a series of psychic states, with Kavakos as a guide. In his speech, Kavakos described his ideal concert as “a community in silence without conditions,” and he may have been referring to our experience of the Berg concerto. Some gestures were clinically simple, some trembled with sadness and some were teasing and grotesque. But all were wonderful. In the second movement of the concerto, the music thinned into pure violinistic invention before the sound thickened and solidified in a bang. This is where Kavakos, for the first time, snapped out of his intense concentration and allowed himself to indulge the music’s fervour. It was a gripping interpretation that ended in contemplation, with Kavakos having examined every nuance and delicacy on his Stradivarius.

(Henrik Friis, Politiken, 14 January 2017)

The sound he channels on his Stradivarius shines clean and colourful, with the spirit of the storytelling poet in every note. He shaped the technically challenging passages in the concerto’s outer movements with superhuman precision and brought the listeners into a trance state in the gentle second movement. In addition to the violin, Kavakos wields the conductor’s baton and you felt the conviction of his beat when he steered the orchestra forward like a spinning musical engine. Under the Greek’s cool and crystalline sound the Danish National Symphony Orchestra added colour to Brahms’s lyrical phrases.

(Christine Christiansen, Jyllands-Posten 16 January 2017)

Play the silence a bit louder,’ Leonidas Kavakos said to the music students selected for his master-class this week. The prize concert itself ended with Brahms’s Violin Concerto in D major. It is picturesque in every way but pure abstraction. The strings of the violin wander free as the orchestra tries in vain to evoke a fairytale forest. In form, the concerto may seem like a counterpart to Beethoven’s, but from the strict and imperial to the blossoming fin-de-siècle, there is a world of difference. Kavakos uses his bow as a sword, Luisi his baton as a harpoon. But we heard a storm when this music was played by a real Brahms orchestra with the acidity of late summer in its sound that has become quite unique in our standardized times.

(Peter Johannes Erichsen, Weekendavisen, 20 January 2017)

Please share this post

Other recipients

Unsuk Chin

The composer Unsuk Chin receives the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2021 at a concert on June 5, 2021 at the DR Concert Hall.

Read More »