Entertainment & Arts

Vienna Philharmonic wins prestigious Birgit Nilsson Prize

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
(Dieter Nagl / AFP/Getty Images)

The Vienna Philharmonic has become the first orchestra to win the prestigious Birgit Nilsson Prize, one of the highest honors in the classical-music field.

Organizers of the Nilsson Prize, which carries a $1-million award, made the announcement on Wednesday, saying it will be handed out at an Oct. 8 ceremony in Stockholm hosted by arts journalist Pia Lindstrom, the daughter of Ingrid Bergman.

The prize, which was established by the late Swedish opera singer to be awarded after her death in 2005, is handed out approximately every three years. Past winners are conductor Riccardo Muti and tenor Placido Domingo.

This year’s prize was chosen by a panel of classical-music professionals from Europe and the U.S. In the past, the panel included Clemens Hellsberg, president of the Vienna Philharmonic. Organizers said he recused himself for the selection this year.


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The Vienna Philharmonic, considered by many to be among the greatest orchestras in the world, has come under scrutiny in recent years over its ties to the Nazi Party in the 1930s and ‘40s and for the relatively few female and non-Caucasian musicians in its ranks.

Late last year, the orchestra decided to retroactively revoke honors that it bestowed on several members of the Nazi Party during World War II. 

Recent research carried out by an independent group of historians and published on the orchestra’s website revealed that in 1938, all of the orchestra’s Jewish musicians were dismissed. Five of those musicians died in prison or concentration camps.


Sixty of the 123 musicians in the Vienna Philharmonic in 1942 were identified as members of the Nazi Party, according to the study.


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