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The prestigious Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 600,000 will be awarded to Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. Since its inception in 1959, the Léonie Sonning Music Prize has established itself as a paramount event in Danish music life. The prize is awarded annually to an internationally acknowledged composer, musician, conductor or singer.

Saariaho will be presented with the award at a concert on May 5 2011 at the DR Concert Hall in Copenhagen, with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Storgårds. In addition, a Saariaho concert will be held on May 4 2010 at The Black Diamond in Copenhagen, with the Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen conducted by Pierre André Valade.

Saariaho is the eleventh composer who is awarded the Léonie Sonning Music Prize – and the second female composer. Previous laureate composers include Stravinskij, Lutoslawski, Britten, Sjostakovitj, Messiaen, Boulez, Ligeti, Nørgård, Gubaidulina, Kurtág and Arvo Pärt.Saariaho has received several honours and prizes for her music: In 2000 Saariaho received the Nordic Council Music Prize for the work Lonh. In 2003, she received one of the most prestigious composition awards in the world, the American Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition; also the Prix Italia, Musical America Composer of the year 2008.

On receiving the award, Kaija Saariaho quotes:

I am very happy to receive the prestigious Sonning Music Prize, and honoured to follow those prestigious predecessors. I am especially glad that this honour comes from a Nordic country, as I feel that my music is not there as much - except in Finland – compared to other European countries or North America.

May 4 2011, The Black Diamond, Copenhagen

Composer portrait of Kaija Saariaho
Die Aussicht (1996)
Je sens un deuxième cœur (2003)
Solar (1993)
Miranda's Lament (1997)
L'Aile du songe (2001)
Camilla Hoitenga, flute
Signe Asmussen, vocal
Kaija Saariaho, sound engineer
Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen
Pierre André Valade, conductor

May 5 2011, DR Concert Hall, Copenhagen

Saariaho: Adriana Songs for mezzo soprano and orchestra
Saariaho: Laterna Magica (premiered in August 2009 by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle)
Stravinsky: The Firebird
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo soprano
The Danish National Symphony Orchestra
John Storgårds, conductor

Previous Winners
1959 Igor Stravinsky, composer
1965 Leonard Bernstein, conductor and composer
1966 Birgit Nilsson, soprano
1967 Witold Lutoslawski, composer
1968 Benjamin Britten, composer
1969 Boris Christoff, bass
1970 Sergiu Celibidache, conductor
1971 Arthur Rubinstein, pianist
1972 Lord Yehudi Menuhin, violinist
1973 Dmitri Shostakovich, composer
1974 Andrés Segovia, guitarist
1975 Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
1976 Mogens Wöldike, conductor
1977 Olivier Messiaen, composer
1978 Jean-Pierre Rampal, flutist
1979 Dame Janet Baker, mezzo soprano
1980 Marie-Claire Alain, organist
1981 Mstislav Rostropovich, cellist
1982 Isaac Stern, violinist
1983 Rafael Kubelik, conductor
1984 Miles Davis, composer and jazz musician
1985 Pierre Boulez, composer and conductor
1986 Svjatoslav Richter, pianist
1987 Heinz Holliger, oboist and composer
1988 Peter Schreier, tenor
1989 Gidon Kremer, violinist
1990 György Ligeti, composer
1991 Eric Ericson, conductor
1992 Sir Georg Solti, conductor
1993 Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor
1994 Krystian Zimerman, pianist
1995 Yuri Bashmet, violist
1996 Per Nørgård, composer
1997 András Schiff, pianist
1998 Hildegard Behrens, soprano
1999 Sofia Gubaidulina, composer
2000 Michala Petri, recorder player
2001 Anne-Sophie Mutter, violinist
2002 Alfred Brendel, pianist
2003 György Kurtág, composer
2004 Keith Jarrett, jazz pianist
2005 Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conductor
2006 Yo-Yo Ma, cellist
2007 Lars-Ulrik Mortensen, harpsichordist
2008 Arvo Pärt, composer
2009 Daniel Barenboim, pianist and conductor
2010 Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo soprano

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