The 2015/16 Herbert von Karajan Music Prize goes to the German conductor, described as a "model maestro for modern times" and lauded for his music education activities.
The cash award of 50,000 euros is earmarked for the education and promotion of young musical talent. Pleased with the distinction, Hengelbrock said to public broadcaster NDR that he would invest the sum in scholarships.
The conductor is being honored for his intensive education activities, said Clemens Börsig, Chairman of the Arts Association of the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, continuing, "Hardly any another conductor so publically and clearly asks the question, 'What is my duty as a musician today?'"
Noting Thomas Hengelbrock's infectious enthusiasm and sense of discovery, the Arts Association called him a truly modern maestro who "has a command of the repertory of music from four centuries, yet always critically assesses himself and the manner of musical performance."
Having founded music academies affiliated with both of the orchestras he leads, the North German Radio (NDR) Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg and the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble in Freiburg, Hengelbrock explained his holistic approach with musicians-in-training: "They come to terms with early and modern music: String players also take lessons with singers and pianists. And we have an ongoing dialogue with them, asking: What is my responsibility as a musician today? What do I seek to achieve?"
A hands-on, holistic approach to music education
Born in Wilhelmshaven, Germany in 1958, Hengelbrock has been principal conductor of the NDR Symphony since 2011, a successor to Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Günter Wand, John Eliot Gardiner, Herbert Blomstedt, Christoph Eschenbach and Christoph von Dohnányi in the position.
This year's Karajan Prize is officially awarded to the conductor at a gala event in Baden-Baden on Sunday (30.01.2016) in which Hengelbrock conducts a performance of Felix Mendelssohn's oratorio "Elias."
Past winners of the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize include violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, pianist and author Alfred Brendel, vocalist Cecilia Bartoli, pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.