A new honor for the Vienna Philharmonic | Music | DW | 10.04.2014
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A new honor for the Vienna Philharmonic

The famed orchestra has earned the Birgit Nilsson Prize, one of classical music's most highly endowed awards. The official prize conferral will take place in October, attended by the Swedish royal couple.

The Vienna Philharmonic is set to receive one million dollars (around 725,000 euros) from the Birgit Nilsson Foundation, according to an announcement on Wednesday (09.04.2014) in Stockholm. The foundation said of the winning orchestra, "In the course of its 172-year history, the musicians of this most prominent orchestra of the capital city of music have been an integral part of a musical epoch that - thanks to an abundance of uniquely gifted composers and interpreters - must certainly be regarded as unique."

The award is named after the world-famous Swedish opera singer Birgit Nilsson. Clemens Hellsberg, president of the Vienna Philharmonic, said the news that his orchestra had won the prize bearing Nilsson's name filled him with gratitude.

Birgit Nilsson

After retiring, Nilsson devoted herself to future generations of musicians

Previous winners include Italian conductor Riccardo Muti in 2011 and Spanish tenor Placido Domingo in 2009 - the first year in which the award was conferred.

Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005) made her name above all as a Wagner performer. Born on a farm in southern Sweden, she was described by some as the voice of the century - shining particularly in the 50s and 60s in various Wagner roles for dramatic sopranos. She appeared at the Bayreuth Festival, in New York's Metropolitan Opera as well as in Munich, Vienna, Milan and Buenos Aires. In 1984, Nilsson retired from the stage and led a mastercourse in singing from 1983 to 1993 at the Manhattan School of Music in New York.

Heralded as a kind of "anti-diva," the famed soprano was an honorary member of the Vienna Philharmonic. Highly successful as a soloist, Nilsson and her husband led a life remarkably free of scandal. Several years before her death, she founded the Birgit Nilsson Foundation, whose purpose is to issue one of the world's most heavily endowed music prizes.

rf / gsw (dpa)

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