Ruhr Piano Festival Prize

“Ebullient, infectious energy“ Ruhr Piano Festival Prize

2 Jun 2023 – In recognition of her long-standing work on behalf of young musicians and her championing of new works, the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter has received the 2023 Ruhr Piano Festival Prize. Its director, Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, presented her with the award after a concert by the internationally celebrated artist on Friday, June 2, at the Philharmonie in Essen, during which Anne-Sophie Mutter joined pianist Lambert Orkis and cellist Maximilian Hornung in performing works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann and Sebastian Currier’s “Ghost Trio”, which the composer dedicated to her in 2018.

Ohnesorg praised the violinist as an outstanding initiator of new music who has given world premieres of 31 compositions during the 47 years of her career, including several works by André Previn which she co-commissioned with the Ruhr Piano Festival. Ohnesorg also praised her faithfulness to the Ruhr Piano Festival, where this was her 15th performance since her debut in Gelsenkirchen in 1995. Furthermore, in the spring of 2022, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Franz Xaver Ohnesorg jointly took the initiative to present a benefit concert for Ukrainian children, during which she performed Beethoven’s Triple Concerto.

The Ruhr Piano Festival Prize includes a scholarship which the winner can award to a pianist of their choice: Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis chose the 32-year-old Madalina-Claudia Danila, a Romanian pianist living in the USA. She will give her debut concert at the 2024 Ruhr Piano Festival.

In a laudition honouring Anne-Sophie Mutter, the composer Jörg Widmann praised the “unique career” of an artist who has been giving concerts “for such a long time at the spectacularly highest level”. Mutter’s championing of contemporary music has “long been legend, but is by no means to be taken for granted”. He added that her unflagging curiosity, the will to make music in the moment, also illuminates great works of the past anew and differently every time. Anne-Sophie Mutter is always seeking out the challenge of novelty: “The most important composers have written for her, creating outstanding works which will remain in the repertoire.” Widmann quoted Anne-Sophie Mutter, who has spoken openly about her own “vulnerability and sense of exposure vis-à-vis the demands and challenges the new works make of her – as an artist, violinist and human being – many of which seem insuperable at first”. The violinist, who celebrates her 60th birthday in June, calls this “a way of remaining alive artistically”.

The Ruhr Piano Festival also honours the artist’s long-standing work on behalf of young musicians with the Prize. For many years, her Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation has been supporting highly talented string players financially, artistically, by purchasing valuable instruments and by commissioning new compositions.

Anne-Sophie Mutter called the Prize, which is embodied by a print by Günther Uecker, a “stimulus for me”. She emphasized the extraordinary importance of the Ruhr Piano Festival for the region, which is visible not least in its education efforts: the Festival manages in exemplary fashion “to integrate children through music in Duisburg-Marxloh, to lend them a voice, to encounter them respectfully as human beings and give them opportunities”. This achievement “should set us aflame and also demonstrate to politicians the power music develops, and what a great gift it is”. At the end of the evening, Anne-Sophie Mutter dedicated the German premiere of “The Long Good-Bye” by the film composer John Williams to the Festival’s departing director Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, also thanking her enthusiastic audience with a trio arrangement of a melody from Williams’ score for “Schindler’s List”.

Photo: Peter Wieler

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