About the foundation
The foundation was established in 1965 by Léonie Sonning (née Rothberg, 1894-1970), the widow of editor Carl Johan Sonning. As early as 1959, however, before the foundation had officially been established, a music prize had been awarded to the composer Igor Stravinsky. The composer Knudåge Riisager handed over the prize at a concert given by The Royal Danish Orchestra at Tivolis Koncertsal, where Stravinsky conducted his own works.
Where does the money come from?
The foundation’s assets originally derived from the income from three properties that belong to Léonie Sonning. The executive committee of the foundation has administered these assets since it was first set up, and the present-day economic basis of the foundation is the income from five residential properties in and around Copenhagen.
The Léonie Sonning Music Foundation & The Sonning Foundation
These are two different funds. Editor Carl Johan Sonning, who died in 1937, decided in his will that part of his fortune should go to a foundation called the Sonning Foundation. Its purpose is partly to award the Sonning Prize to Danish or foreign cultural personalities, and partly to support “non-profit cultural purposes, in particular to support the restoration or reconstruction of historic buildings and for musical purposes”. In contrast, the purpose of the Music Foundation is to award the annual Music Prize and the above-mentioned talent prizes to young musicians. ”
The foundation's distribution policy
According to the foundation’s, the foundation’s main purpose is to annually award a music prize as a gift of honor that cannot be applied for. At the award ceremony, “purely musical qualifications can only be taken into account, and all questions of nationality, race, religion, political opinion or economic position must be disregarded”.
The board has the classical music in focus, and award recipients must primarily be from here. However, this does not preclude awarding the prize to a recipient whose primary focus is on other areas, if there is one completely unique capacity that also has a connection with classical music.
The price pt. of DKK 1,000,000 can thus be given to international artists and composers within classical music in all its diversity.
In addition, the Foundation awards annual scholarships, p.t. ca. 10 pcs. of DKK 100,000 in accordance with the foundation rate
to young composers, conductors, musicians or singers from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, so that only purely musical qualifications are taken into account. However, if these qualitative requirements do not stand in the way of this, candidates from Sweden and Denmark must have priority.
From 2021, scholarships have been increased to DKK 100,000, corresponding to 1/10 of the music prize.
The scholarships can not be applied for and awarded on the basis of a recommendation from the music expert board members after a thorough search for talents from the countries in question who need continued artistic development. Final allocation does not take place until the research fellow has submitted a plan that can be approved by the board.
The music prize and the talent prizes
The charter of the foundation sets out its aim: Each year a mark of distinction is to be awarded to an internationally recognised composer, musician, conductor or singer. This prize amounts at present to DKK1,000,000. In addition, the foundation awards talent prizes in order to further the artistic development of young composers, conductors, musicians or singers from Denmark and the other Nordic counties. The prizes cannot be applied for.