Yuri Bashmet

léonie sonning music prize 1995

The Russian viola player Yuri Bashmet received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of 250,000 Danish kroner at a concert on 21 April 1995 at the Radio House Concert Hall. The concert was broadcast live on the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s P2 radio channel.

The prize was presented by Tivoli’s Head of Music Lars Grunth, a member of the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation’s board. His personal speech included the following comments:

‘You have taken up the fight to have the viola recognised as a solo instrument alongside the violin and cello. And thanks to your musicianship and charisma, that fight has very nearly been successful. By commissioning and premiering more than 50 new works, you have undertaken the Herculean effort of expanding and renewing the instrument’s repertoire. As an artist you are unusually open-minded and constantly on the lookout for new challenges and ways of expressing yourself. You master the viola with great sensitivity, playing with incessant colour and life. We are very happy to present the award to you – a great viola player and a great musician.’

citation

The Russian viola player Yuri Bashmet received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of 250,000 Danish kroner at a concert on 21 April 1995 at the Radio House Concert Hall. The concert was broadcast live on the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s P2 radio channel.

The prize was presented by Tivoli’s Head of Music Lars Grunth, a member of the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation’s board. His personal speech included the following comments:

‘You have taken up the fight to have the viola recognised as a solo instrument alongside the violin and cello. And thanks to your musicianship and charisma, that fight has very nearly been successful. By commissioning and premiering more than 50 new works, you have undertaken the Herculean effort of expanding and renewing the instrument’s repertoire. As an artist you are unusually open-minded and constantly on the lookout for new challenges and ways of expressing yourself. You master the viola with great sensitivity, playing with incessant colour and life. We are very happy to present the award to you – a great viola player and a great musician.’

The programme

Carl Nielsen Helios. Overture
Poul Ruders Laudate. Concerto for Viola and Orchestra. First performance. Commissioned work
Bela Bartók Concerto for Orchestra

The Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Ulf Schirmer

Yuri Bashmet and Denmark

Yuri Bashmet appeared several times in Denmark before he received the Sonning Prize. As a soloist, he played in the country for the first time in 1982, when he was a soloist in William Walton’s Viola Concerto with the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra. There followed performances with the Royal Danish Orchestra and in 1992 with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, with which he played Schnittke’s Viola Concerto. For several years he gave concerts at the Tivoli Concert Hall with his ensemble the Moscow Soloists.

In connection with the prize concert, Yuri Bashmet held a master-class at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, during which six young Danish viola students worked with him on pieces including Bartók’s Viola Concerto and Brahms’s Sonata in E flat major. The students were Katrine Bundgaard, Stine Hasbirk, Eva Katrine Dalsgaard, Rasmus Nørby Hansen, Rita-Maria Olsen and Ida Speyer Grøn.

The daily press wrote, among other things:

First, the little man got four big, beautiful flower bouquets and a lot of applause. Then praise was showered upon him with beautiful words, and then he received 250,000 kroner, another bouquet and even more applause. This is how it happened that the Russian viola player Yuri Bashmet received this year’s Sonning Prize on Friday night at the Radio House Concert Hall. And Bashmet was happy – partly because the premiere of Ruders’ difficult work was over, and partly because he received a great award in the Copenhagen he loves.

(Peter Thygesen, Politiken, 23 April 1995)

After this experience, nobody could doubt that it was a real virtuoso who received the honor and 250,000 kroner. Not because the evening’s work was newly composed and demanded the utmost of the elegant technician, not even for his external virtuosity, but more because of the inner expressive power that is Yuri Bashmet’s hallmark.

(Steen Chr. Steensen, Berlingske Tidende, 23 April 1995)

Four months after the prize concert, in August 1995, Bashmet and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra presented Ruders’ viola concerto, commissioned by the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation, at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The British press commented:

The fascination of the instrument has always lain in its ambiguity, its elusive, mysterious timbre. But its expressive potential, its reach, its powers of persuasion and command are there for the unlocking. Limitations? What limitations? In his recent Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1993-4) – here receiving its UK premiere) – Poul Ruders will have none of it. He begins as he means to go on – in extremis. The viola hasn’t had an entrance like this since… well, ever? Solo and centre stage, his opening soliloquy-cum-confessional is already at a high pitch of intensity when we join it. The tone is forceful, impassioned. This most private, inward-looking of instruments is going public. Yuri Bashmet’s big, open sound suggests no more secrets. […] Ruders’ Concerto is surely now as taming as any in the expanded viola repertoire. The effusive solo line barely pauses for breath. But then, stamina was always Yuri Bashmet’s middle name.

(Edward Seckerson, The Independent, 28 August 1995)

 

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