Vienna Philharmonic receives Birgit Nilsson Prize

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was awarded the $1 million Birgit Nilsson prize Wednesday in a ceremony attended by Sweden’s king and queen. The ensemble said the money — nearly 800,000 euros — would go toward expanding its archives and making them more open to the public.

The Philharmonic was picked earlier this year, becoming the first orchestra chosen for the prize — endowed by Nilsson, the late Swedish soprano — since it was launched in 2009.

Earlier winners have been opera star Placido Domingo and conductor Riccardo Muti.

Wednesday evening’s ceremony, which was attended by King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia of Sweden, included performances of works by Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner by the orchestra, under Muti’s direction.

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A multiple Grammy winner and nominee, the Vienna Philharmonic was chosen as Europe’s finest orchestra by a panel of experts in 2006. Gramophone Magazine listed it third in the world in 2008.

The orchestra has tried to right some past wrongs from the Nazi era.

Last year, it stripped six former senior Nazi officials of honors awarded them — a late act of contrition for the Philharmonic’s embrace of Hitler’s rule, including the purging of Jewish members from its ranks.

Under the Nazis, 13 musicians with Jewish roots or relatives were fired by the orchestra and five died in concentration camps. By the end of World War II, about half the Philharmonic’s members had joined the Nazi party.

After refusing to accept women to permanent membership for more than 150 years, the orchestra gave in to protests from women’s groups and opened its ranks to them in 1997.

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