Léonie Sonning Talent Prize 2021

What do you do when both your piano and your violin teacher tell you to quit the other instrument? You choose both by choosing a third. That is what Magnus did when he decided to become a conductor. It was the perfect way to utilise his skills on both instruments.


He knew what it meant to play a string instrument in a symphony orchestra. Because he had achieved that level as a violinist and played in a number of orchestras before changing direction. And the piano is an invaluable tool when working as a conductor. Before he got that far he studied to be an organist, because this meant good job opportunities while he studied at the music academies in Copenhagen and Stockholm.

A bit of a nerd

Magnus himself believes he is a bit of nerd. You probably need to be when in the 8th grade at the Steiner school you choose to write a big three-month essay about composing and conducting classical music. That was when he discovered conducting.

He got his nerdy genes from his parents. As an engineer Magnus’ father represented maths and systems, and his architect mother and Steiner teacher represented the softer values. It is also because of her that choosing the right quality paper and to always use the best pencil for annotating scores – of the right quality – is so important to Magnus. The grain direction in the paper must be right so that the book does not close no matter how hard you press the spine. And the paper must be matted and not too white so that you can erase your annotations without leaving traces. A Mahler symphony was once used for lighting a fire because it was worthless as music paper. So then you have to try with another edition from another publisher.

Opera is the most excellent of art forms
Magnus’ biggest dream is to conduct works by i.a. Puccini, Verdi and Strauss in the big opera houses. Opera combines the most amazing elements of the worlds of music and art. The collaboration with the director, choreographer, scenographer and musicians makes everything come together when the big works are being staged. This suits Magnus’ emphatic temper well, and he enjoys taking part in social activities. “Being a conductor involves quite many of my interests. You need to make people have faith in you, and you need to have faith in them,” Magnus explains about his love of the opera and the whole process of setting up a production with everything that involves. “It’s psychological work,” he adds.

Magnus was introduced to opera by his grandmother. At the age of 11 he was taken to the Royal Danish Theatre to see Lucia di Lammermoorby Donizetti. It was such a great experience that after the show they just had to buy tickets for next day’s performance. As his grandmother was not able to join him the next evening, Magnus went alone and watched it all over again. “It was so great to watch Lucia go mad again within 24 hours, with the exact same thing happening again. It was a fantastic experience,” Magnus recalls about one of the cornerstones of his later passion. And to this day Lucia di Lammermoor is still one of his favourite operas.

And it is absolutely probable that one day he will be conducting this very opera at the Royal Danish Theatre. Because had it not been for the corona-related lockdowns, Magnus would have premiered at that theatre with Carl Nielsen’s Maskerade in January 2021. In addition, his CV and calendar already boast arrangements with nearly all of the biggest Danish orchestras and several international ones. This means that the path to the big opera houses has been cleared, and Magnus can already now start preparing for his dreams to come true. 

Magnus Larsson in brief
Born in 1992. Grew up in Brønshøj and Vangede with his parents and two younger sisters.

As a child he played the piano and violin in different youth orchestras until he started his studies.

Briefly studied musical science at the University of Copenhagen 2011-2012.

Graduated as a preliminary organist in 2014.

Studied orchestral conducting 2014-2021 at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen and the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.

Has made his mark on the professional scene in Denmark as well as Sweden and has – despite his young age – already conducted and assisted several orchestra and opera productions, i.a. the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and numerous Swedish orchestras.

Was assisting conductor at the production of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte”, NorrlandsOperan’s production of the musical “Mathilda” at the Malmö Opera

In August 2017 he won “The EMA First Prize” in the International Opera Conductor Competition in Prague, the Czech Republic, which won him jobs with both the North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the Opera House in Plzen.

In the 2020-2021 season Magnus Larsson will debut at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, besides performances and concerts with several Danish orchestras, including Aarhus Symfoniorkester, Sønderjyllands Symfoniorkester, Odense Symfoniorkester, Copenhagen Phil, Aalborg Symfoniorkester and the Royal Danish Orchestra.

Received the “Den Unge Kunstneriske Elite” career grant from the Danish Arts Foundation.

The scholarship from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation
Magnus will spend the money from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation on a programme where he will be following some of the leading opera conductors, chorus masters and vocal coaches in Copenhagen, Berlin, Munich, Naples, Montpellier and Vienna to acquaint himself with and get a foot in the door with the absolute world elite.

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