Berlin’s #1 flute is 130k richer

Berlin’s #1 flute is 130k richer


norman lebrecht

September 19, 2023

Denmark’s 2024 Léonie Sonning Music Prize, worth 130,000 Euros, is to be awarded to the Swiss musician Emmanuel Pahud, principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Pahud, 53, joined Berlin in 1993, balancing his duties there with an international solo career.


  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Crazy – he’s as rich as Midas already. Why not give to up and coming hopefuls ?

    • Bone says:

      Because he is a superior player and earned the award by merit.
      Crazy is thinking that successful artists should not be given awards because there are up and coming players that could benefit. Let these hopefuls see the example set by Pahud and reap their own awards.

    • Peter says:

      They also have a “talent” prize section, awarding ten prizes per year to up-and-comers (each being 100,000 kr, or roughly €13,000). The main prize is always awarded to a high-profile artist.

      But I agree: I am confused by the concept of the prize. What good is served by giving such a lucrative award to the world’s most well-off musicians?

      • MATTHEW Q VINE says:

        ‘To him that has, more shall be given. To him that has not, even what he has shall be taken away.’
        Someone wrote that once

      • Anon says:

        1. Pahud is not particularly “well off” in comparison with many conductors & soloists or the top US orch principals.

        2.You give a prize like this to a guy like Pahud because he has a track record of international artistic & educational outreach which helps the global music community tremendously.

        Pahud is a musical celebrity yes, but he uses his fame to help advance many more careers than just his own. That’s why he was chosen. It’s a safe bet that this prize money will exponentially benefit many lesser careers because of the type of work Pahud is known for doing.

    • Novagerio says:

      Because the Danish Sonning is a recognition award, given to an important and influential musician/composer.
      Go ahead and check the list of former laureates.
      On a personal note, I still think Pahud is a bit too young to honour this list.

    • zayin says:

      He’s using his prize money to create Le Système or Das System, a youth orchestra for bi-lingual children from the ghettos of Lucerne.

      • Anon says:

        He used his last prize money to buy a good flute for himself. He needed it to do his job in the Berlin Phi. What a luxury, eh?

        If El Sistema is the only outdated ironic reference you can provide, do some reading. Pahud has spent his time with underprivileged young musicians in Palestine, many of them victims of war. He works with the Barenboim Said Foundation. Educate yourself.

      • Anon says:

        Zayin, I apologize for my first response here. I thought you were being sarcastic. I had no idea that there were ghettos in Lucerne & that this is an actual project. I assumed you were being snarky. So sorry, my bad.

    • Anon says:

      A working orchestral musician who’s rich as Midas?!!! What planet are you living on?

    • Anon says:

      A working orchestral musician who’s rich as Midas?!! What planet are you living on?

  • Serge says:

    Now it’s getting a bit thin. Pahud is a very fine musician, one of the finest wind players ever to grace the audience, but look at the list of previous winners – we’re talking giants.

    But the days of the legends are gone. We are left with SoMe friendly, sympatich musicians without very much edges.

  • Joel Kemelhor says:

    Sir James Galway had that Berlin Philharmonic chair in the 1970’s.

  • Tamino says:

    Strange choice. Certainly a great flutist. But being a superstar seems to be their major criteria. No other criteria are apparent from their list of winners. Would be nice, if they had some deeper sense for advancing the artform and its oureach. Just a foundation buying itself some PR. Well…

    • Anon says:

      Outreach is Emmanuel Pahud’s middle name. Where ever he goes, whatever organization or orch he affiliates himself with, he is a generous visitor.

      He learns the language (he’s a polyglot who passes easily between many languages fluently) where ever he goes. He advocates for rising composers & upcoming conductors & soloists from the host country. He commissions new works. He’s involved in educational outreach with a no. of organizations including Barenboim-Said. He is generous with his time as a teacher & colleague when he visits orchs.

      Look at his performance schedule connected with this prize. He is participating in a series of concerts thruout Denmark – some in rather small venues – emphasizing Danish works & inclusive of Danish musicians.

      If he’s wealthy, it’s must be recent. He used prize money from a competition won to purchase the flute he now plays on.

      He’s young enough now to be able to use this prize money to do wonderful things, which he’s already shown he’s inclined to do. This prize money amplifies the possibilities tremendously. He will do good with it. He always does.

  • Michel Lemieux says:

    Speaking of Berlin flutists…what is Mathieu Dufour up to?

  • zayin says:

    The prize makes ZERO sense, if you look at the history of winners, the first being Igor Stravinsky, it is a list of the most legendary names in music to people no one has never ever heard of and never will.

    Pahud falls somewhere in the nebulous middle, he’s not totally unknown, but he’s light years away from an Igor Stravinsky.

  • Jobim75 says:

    What a waste of money on already rich , wealthy and successful people.

    • Anon says:

      This is your own ignorance about Emmanuel Pahud. He’s not super wealthy: he’s a working orchestral musician & he has a history of using the money he does have for worthwhile causes in the world of music which invariably benefit other musicians internationally.

      • Althea T-H says:

        Oh, come on, now!
        Do you think that Berlin Phil. principals are paid like London principals??
        They’re in the top percentile of musical earners – especially compared with the UK (where this blog is based, I believe).

        • Anon says:

          The fact that he makes more than UK principals, who are notoriously underpaid, doesn’t make him “rich as Midas”.

          If he were truly “rich as Midas” he would have quit his orch job long ago to pursue a solo career.

  • Mike says:

    What is the point of giving an amazingly generous financial award to Pahud, an already celebrated, very well renumerated artist who has a prestigious post and several other additional interests. His prowess on his instrument has been no secret. He has been arguably the best flautist in the world for a couple of decades.

    It’s all very puzzling. Somebody has too much money. Pigs feeding at the trough.

    • Anon says:

      Please have a look at Pahud’s work before you make a judgement like this. The only thing you seem to know about him is that he plays the flute. His body of work encompasses much much more than just playing the flute.

      He is known for international outreach & education, devoting much time & energy & money to commissioning, performing & recording works by living composers & using his high international profile to support young rising conductors, soloists & promising flutists.

      Pahud uses his fame & the celebrity he’s earned as a top flutist for much more that just his own personal enrichment.

  • Eileen Caster says:

    Bravo Emmanuel, the best flautist in the world and an inspiration to us all.

  • Barbara Phillips says:

    In my opinion, Emmanuel Pahud will go down as one of the most gorgeous sounding, expressive flutists in all the Orchestras of recent time- and there have been sensational ones! Congratulations!