Just in: Stockholm decides that Sting is classical

Just in: Stockholm decides that Sting is classical


norman lebrecht

February 07, 2017

When they get it wrong up north, they go right off the radar.

First the Nobel Prize for Literature is awarded to a songwriter, Bob Dylan.

Today, the Polar Music Prize was given to the British rock musician Sting and the American jazz musician Wayne Shorter.

The rules of the million-crown ($120,000) prize, founded by Abba’s Stig Anderson in 1989, is that one half goes to a contemporary musician the other to a classical personality. Last year’s winners were Max Martin and Cecilia Bartoli.

This year, Sting wins the classical slot. ‘As a composer, Sting has combined classic pop with virtuoso musicianship and an openness to all genres and sounds from around the world,’ said the prize committee.

Off the radar.

Sting, with a classical acquaintance


  • Nik says:

    He made an album of Dowland songs once. It sounded like everything else by Sting.

    • Elene Gusch says:

      Um, no. It was quite different from most of his previous work, partly in terms of using the lower register of his voice much more than he typically has.

      I am a lutenist and singer who has done a great deal of Dowland, and I greatly appreciate the fact that Sting put this repertoire in front of a new audience. The lutenist Edin Karamazov, who aided and abetted him, is a monster virtuoso who played Dowland solo works on the album in addition to accompaniments. While Sting may not be a classical performer overall, this album was very much classical (that is, Renaissance). The songs and lute solos were in their original state, with some improvisation, as would be appropriate for their time, but nothing “modern” added.

      Sting has also done some Schubert, Purcell, and Bach, as well as a televised presentation about the Schumanns along with his wife and pianist Natasha Peremski.

  • Peter says:

    These prices in Scandinavia are usually just a hidden fee, so artists, who normally wouldn’t give a rats behind about performing there then come and perform for outrageous sums, which otherwise could never be afforded. The price committees like to gratify their mediocre existence with big names basically, making themselves feel important by buying the world’s biggest names to hang backstage selfies with them at their living room walls.
    Same happen with Bob Dylan and the Literature Nobel Price. It’s just pure decadence and mediocrity.

    • MacroV says:

      I don’t doubt you’re correct as a general matter, but hard to imagine that Sting wouldn’t play in Sweden as a regular gig (and that he hasn’t); Stockholm, Goteborg, and Malmo can probably all fill an arena with his well-paying fans.

  • Alexander says:

    Lady Ga-Ga is not alone , Polar prize company goes ga-ga too . They can sing together in a classical manner , but something deeply inside me tells that Lady Ga-ga will reject that collaboration cause she is wiser than them 😉

  • sweedmusic says:

    A Nobel price in literature to Bob Dylan and now a classical music price to Sting! That says a lot about cultural education and the standing of culture in Sweden.
    The worst thing is that the people awarding those prices really do believe that Dylan is a poet and Sting a classical musician.
    On the contrary, high-level culture as classical music, literature etc is seen as elitist.
    Sweden is on a path of cultural regress falling back behind the days of king Gustav III (1746-1792) who tried to import European Culture into the taiga of Sweden.

  • Ungeheuer says:

    Just threw up. Disgusting.

  • Novagerio says:

    Actually it’s Wayne Shorter who will cover the Classic Category…

  • Maria says:

    OMG, this will only encourage him. Does it mean that some large scale, pretentious, orchestral work is in the pipeline? Or is he planning a Beethoven cycle?

    Has Carl Davis been booked yet?

  • Stefan says:

    Before more readers making strange conclusions about the Polar Prize 2017 I’d like to state that the writer of this article has misunderstood the criteria of the Prize. Please check some facts on http://www.polarmusicprize.org
    Abbas manager Stickan Andersson, who founded the prize, never constituted a prize exclusively for classical music: “The Polar Music Prize celebrates the power and importance of music and is awarded to individuals, groups or institutions for international recognition of excellence in the world of music.” Although the jury through the years usually has picked one from the classical field and one from the pop does not mean that it is a rule. Yes, one can say that the jury broke their own tradition – like any inventive artist should do. (And yes, so did the Nobel Prize Committee for literature)

    • Maria says:

      I don’t think that is quite the damning revelation that you think it is. Traditions are not without value, and often arise for very good reasons.

      The fact remains, the award moved away from classical towards something else. As it appears that classical is being squeezed out all over the place, it is perfectly reasonable to criticise the decision.