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Another big prize for Simon Rattle. Why?

He’s been awarded the biggest music prize in Denmark, worth 80,000 Euros.


Rattle’s chief connection with Denmark is pastry or bacon for breakfast. He doesn’t go there much. I often wonder what the point is of giving awards to the remotely rich and famous, except to draw attention to the giver of the awards.

In this case, Denmark.

Which is in the procfess of destroying its Royal Theatre.

Makes no sense at all. If I were Rattle, I would send back the cash in solidarity with Keith Warner and Jakub Hrusa who have quit as heads of the opera.

Will he? We’re not taking any bets.


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  1. Neil McGowan, Prozrachny Theatre, Moscow says:

    Sadly this is typical of the personality-cult pottiness which pervades the arts today.

    They’ve sent enough cash to Rattle to pay for a new opera production!! And what did he do for Denmark?


    Still, the Scandinavians like giving this sort of prize. Notorious bomb-merchant and warmongering madman Bill Clinton was nominated for the Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize today!!

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      And Maestro Abreu of El Sistema from Venezuela would have received the Nobel long ago if it weren’t for his “somewhat” eccentric President. Somehow Bill Clinton doesn’t fit that “bomb-merchant, warmongering madman” moniker (or is that spelled monica). How many wars did he declare other than a war on AIDS? Do you have him confused with his successor “Dubbya?”

      Let’s not rush to judgment on Sir Simon….perhaps he will give the prize money to Bill Clinton’s foundation.

      • Neil McGowan, Prozrachny Theatre, Moscow says:

        Clearly your darling Bill’s war in Serbia has slipped your mind.

        He declared war on Serbia, because a ‘state of war’ was the only way out of being indicted by Kenneth Starr.

        And thus an insane New World Order madman sent squadrons of bombers on raids with civilian targets in Belgrade. Maybe this will refresh your memory?

        It’s what your darling Bill did to entirely innocent people. Of course there’s a certain breed of yankee fascist loony – like John Bolton, or Billary, it’s a cross-party fascism here – who claim that massacring civilians in revenge for alleged offences by their leaders is justifiable and right. And you are clearly one of these fascists.

        So why not go to Belgrade and explain your hateful thinking to my friend Radojka? She’s in a wheelchair after you and your pals so kindly blew her apartment-block up by bombing it from the yellow-stripe coward height of 10,000 feet, because you didn’t have the GUTS to look her in the eye when you killed her husband Marko in the same raid, did you?? And by coincidence Marko was a journalist writing for an opposition newspaper, against Milosevic.

        But what would that mean to a yankee? You don’t even remember that you murdered them, so shallow is your memory, and so frequent are your attacks on foreign countries.

        Of course, you and your buddy Bill also bombed an aspirin factory in Sudan, murdering everyone who worked there. And did he apologise after he discovered they’d all been innocent employees in a pharmaceutical factory? NO, because SCUM like Bill Clinton believe in a NAZI ideology of Ubermensch, the “SuperHuman” who has a moral right to kill others with no consequences. This is usually called the theory of ‘American Exceptionalism’ – the same thing that HITLER and his cronies believed in.

        Get out of Europe, yankee. Get out, and stay out, and never come back. You are UNWANTED here.

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          OMG. I shall cash in my Euros and sell my place in Paris immediately and go back where the deer and the antelope roam. Thanks for your sage advice. I never realized that Bill Clinton could be considered a Nazi. Your intense response to my comments is truly a revelation. You’ll be relieved to know that, according Le Figaro (28 Feb 2012) there are over 230 candidates proposed for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded next December in Oslo, a few even wackier than my buddy Bill (and I am truly a fan of his work). Next thing you know, someone will propose Simon Rattle. OMG!

          • Mr. Fitzpatrick – Just look at what you started !!!!!!!!!!! I have already cashed in the Euros and
            am changing travel agents .

        • Mr. Lebrect,

          If you have a spine, you will remove this person’s racist and militant post. This type of dialogue has no place on this blog. Enough with the epithets and name-calling please!

          • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

            Since this invective was directed at me, my first reaction was to wonder why Norman printed this hate message; but, upon reflection, I realize that to refuse to publish it would play into the hands of the writer by supressing free speech. I chose to reply in what I thought was a non-confrontational way, with a touch of humor and irony. If it continues, I suspect that Norman will react in an appropriate way and he certainly has my permission to remove any items he thinks are offensive including my comments.

          • We try to moderate with a light hand. In this instance, it seemed necessary to include the violent rhetoric to disable the rest of the argument. A subsequent post from the same source was deleted on ground of personal abuse.

  2. Greg Hlatky says:

    Adults neither seek nor accept awards.

  3. Would we even pay attention to this Danish prize if they didn’t award it to Rattle?

    There is your answer.

    EVERYTHING these days is driven by hunger for money and power, even in music.

    • Good point.

      I’ve won half a dozen composition awards, and at best the prize money is only enough to pay airfare out to receive the prize.

      I don’t consider myself a starving artist, even still, at my current income 80k euros is more than I would make in 10 years time (and I support a family of 4).

      Nothing against Rattle of course, but perhaps awards like this aren’t the best way to further the arts? Of course I’m sure that isn’t their goal here, and maybe there’s nothing wrong with that?

  4. I don’t want to get into the discussion of whether or not S.Rattle should be awarded the prize from an artistic point of view, he has been awarded it by the committee and I support, respect and acknowledge that decision.
    But if I may just point out the following:-
    -”doug”, in regard to your comment, yes, people (“we”) do pay attention to this prize, here in Scandinavia, and indeed in cultural and musical press across the world since the first award was given.
    - The Sonning award is given by a private foundation, the Leonie Sonning’s Music Foundation, which has nothing to do with the Danish government funding (the funding that was reduced in the National Theatre)
    - This award is given on what the committee believes to be artistic merit, NOT on how rich, successful, famous, etc. the recipient is (as stated in fact on the english version of the website – “It is solely the artistic quality which is decisive when choosing who should receive the prize. No matter how well paid and famous the prize’s recipient is , the prize’s list of the last 50 years will always constitute the strongest argument for accepting.”).
    -A lot of recipients of the Sonning Prize do donate their prize money to foundations for young musicians etc.

    And finally I would like to add, and a very important point – the the same foundation supports young artists in Denmark substantially, by awarding “mini” Sonning prizes each year. This and the Tarby prize are the most prestigous in DK helping young artists at the beginning of their careers.

    So therefore I don’t think it is fair to mention the discussion of the National Theatre in the awarding of this years Sonning Prize.

    An alternative suggestion to giving the money back – Simon Rattle should stay an extra day here in Copenhagen in February 2013 when he receives the prize and conduct a concert in support of the National Theater, Warner, and Hrusa.

    • No, Jacob, he should return it in solidarity with Warner, Hrusa and the Royal Theatre.

      • Who knows what he is going to do, or indeed what he feels is right to do. It is up to him.

        But there are surely only 3 outcomes
        1) He accepts the award, takes the money / donates it to charity
        2) We get a surprise with his acceptance speech as he shows his support of the Royal Theatre and donates the money to them
        3 or the perfect outcome) The government budget changes by this time next year and the whole issue will become irrelevant..!!!!!!

    • Thanks, Jacob, for this illuminating post.

      I saw Sir Simon conducting the Berlin Philharmoniker a couple of days ago, which only confirmed my opinion that should a private foundation choose to award him a prize solely for artistic quality, he would richly deserve it.

      Beyond that, judging from Jacob’s explanation, I have to say I can’t see the point of telling the winner of this award not to accept it. For example, here in the US, if an artist were awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant, it would be at best misguided, at worst utterly counterproductive for he or she to return it in order to protest cuts in US government arts funding.

  5. To speculate on why the Danes gave Mr. Rattle a prize is pointless – they gave it for their own reasons .
    Most people receiving awards find good enough explanations as to why they accept especially if $$ is involved .
    To ascribe ones own sense of morality to others is an empty exercise . If this all displeases the Danish people
    I am positive their voices will be heard and mercifully will save us from further comments by travel agents
    commenting on this and on who is or is not worthy of the Peace Prize .

  6. Yes, of course he should return it – he’s paid a fortune in Berlin. Doesn’t need more cash….

  7. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    I believe that Simon Rattle should graciously accept the prize. To do otherwise could be considered an affront to the donor and to the Danish people who love and support music. He should, however, consider redirecting the cash award to organizations in Denmark that supports musical causes especially for young musicians. It would be unwise to meddle in the political situation at the Opera, in my opinion. I know for a fact that he has donated his services as a conductor to many organizations (mostly youth and school groups) over the years in the USA among other places. Yes, he is very well paid for his work in Berlin and elsewhere. I think he has and does earn it.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      And conducting an event without fee during his stay in Denmark in solidarity with its Opera would certainly be a noble gesture.

  8. It never ceases to amaze how people can be so generous with time and money especially if it is others time
    and money . There seems to be no end to the “feel good ” morality crowd in directing how the celebrated should live out their lives . Mr. Rattle has won an award – leave it at that .

    • Garth Winter says:

      I rather agree. There are some curmudgeons round here! I don’t begrudge Rattle getting an award. I don’t suppose he asked for it, and he may not know why he’s got it, but he’s got it. There could be far less deserving recipients. Arguments about how good he is are all “high end” arguments: he has been a great champion and publicist for music for many years now, and has given pleasure to millions. By all means discuss which conductors may be “better”, but don’t belittle what he has achieved. I expect he will handle this deftly: he must be used to handling the politics of the music business by now. I don’t hear too much clamour for Nobel Laureates to give back or give away their prizes because the thing was founded on the proceeds of explosives, and similarly I don’t see why Rattle should decline this award simply because something is rotten in the state of Denmark (ho ho), or at least in its opera setup.

      • I don’t think anyone was trying to belittle him or his accomplishments. I think it’s the same idea that’s been discussed with other big awards – that, however good the “star” is, there are others who may benefit more.

        Personally, I don’t begrudge him the award; I simply wish there were comparable awards for those with less well-known names.

        • Janey – life just ain’t fair – perhaps Mr. Lebrecht could help out – could we start here a listing
          of “Less well known names deserving awards “column and then a committee to decide which
          of the less well known deserve an award . For those left out we could start another column for
          the 2nd. round left outs and so down the line until we all receive awards . Or to look at it another way just
          inform the “left out ” their rewards will come in heaven{ making sure your eyes are looking
          skyward } and the rewards of heaven are far greater than anything on earth . Be assured there are
          far greater conductors who receive little recognition compared to Mr. Rattle and there
          are also some awful ones who receive more . It is all musical chairs and that ever elusive “luck “.

          • Dafydd Llywelyn. Composer in Munich. says:

            Dear Norman , you’re absolutely right. These ” award givers” are only drawing attention to themselves,back slapping each other,making themselves more important than they actually are in reality. Charles Ives when awarded a Prize through i think Henry Cowell, who sent Ives’s composition anonymously into a competition,was furious & turned down the Prize with the explaination ” Competitions & prizes are for ” Horses & Athletes ! ” The case of Simon Rattles money award sounds typical & very trendy. I wonder if he is embarrassed by this monetry award as he doesn’t really need the money or such awards for that matter. Here in Munich there is the Ernst von Siemens prize for Composers, Conductors etc. eg: Henze, Boulez, Brendel, Kurtag, Ferneyhough, Gielen,just to name a few. It is a type of ” Amigo ” tradition to allways give the Money prize of 200,000 Euros to millionaire Musicians who are more often than not the ” Fashionable Musicians ” of the day who are continually in the public eye through the Press & ” Opinion Manipulators ” of the PR & aggressive Marketing machines. Such prizes to such illuminaries i consider to be strange & Perverse. They should be awarded to musicians, young deserving & talented ones, & older & elderly ones who have been unjustly & successfully ignored,passed by the wayside by the establishment & powers that be. Musicians without private means, who are struggling to make ends meet unable to promote themselves. It’s History repeating itself. Consider well the many cases in the UK, for example as in the case of Havergal Brian amongst others, & also in the case of poor Bela Bartok who was forced to teach untalented housewives piano in exile in his tiny flat in New York, not even being offered a Professorship at an Academy of Music or University, & at the end of his life couldn’t even afford to pay for his own Hospital Bills whilst dieing of Leukaemia, & his own Funeral ! All very macabre,unjust & perverse. Where were all those millionaire Conductors & Musicians who could have helped him financially by performing his music regularly,& giving him paid commissions during his lifetime, instead of capitalizing on his music & death a few weeks after him dieing in poverty ? ! Greedy Monsters are wielding the power in the music profession for far too long. I don’t think the situation will change. We need actions,& not just words. Leopards never change their spots, & there are too many of them hovering in the background.

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