Award winners 2021
The Scorpions – goose bumps in the Bonn Opera House
If you let your thoughts drift back to the year 1990, you cannot ignore their anthem: „Wind of Change“. A song for freedom, for weeks and months that changed every personal life and society. The Scorpions have been on stage for over 50 years, over 50 years full of hits. „Wind of Change“ seems to be the best known, but the hit „Rock You Like a Hurricane“ or the ballad „Still Loving You“ still get hundreds of people humming and singing along to this day, all over the world. For the band, popularity is not just the culmination of an exciting career, but also an obligation. Namely the one to get involved for and with society. For more moral courage, against diseases like cancer, for music therapy, in the service of UNICEF. In the Bonn Opera House, the Scorpions received the European Culture Award 2021 in recognition of their life’s work spanning more than five decades. Laudator Heinz Rudolf Kunze attested to the band having „earned their popularity with indomitable will, perseverance and diligence“. In a newly created arrangement, lead singer Klaus Meine performed together with the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn and gave the audience goosebumps.
Tobias Moretti – at home all over Europe
Border crosser between the worlds: Cinema, television, theater – a phalanx in the cosmos of acting. To Beethoven’s music, the exceptional actor recites from Goethe’s „Egmont“ – a fascinating balancing act between language and music. Again and again new tasks bring him into the public eye, whether at Salzburg’s Domplatz or at Vienna’s Burgtheater. Tirelessly he enters new roles, tirelessly he explores new frontiers. He shows the soul of his characters and gives them his very own personality. An essential unifying element in a body of work spanning decades – including, but of course not limited to, last year’s ARD adaptation of Beethoven’s biography. ARD program director Christine Strobl not only highlighted his great achievements, but above all praised Moretti as a political figure who gets involved and can also be uncomfortable. „Art and artists must be free,“ Strobl said. The honoree was particularly pleased with the European aspirations of the award, as „I would like to see Europe continue to be perceived as a synonym for diversity and no longer just the synonym for the lowest common denominator.“
Standing ovation – the Bonners celebrate their orchestra
In Bonn, Dirk Kaftan took up the post of General Music Director with the ambition of setting out for new musical shores with Beethoven, with the audience firmly in his sights. This is exactly what he has achieved with the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn. In newly created arrangements they performed together with the orchestra – award winners Katie Melua, the Scorpions and Till Brönner. The Beethoven Orchestra was honored for its participatory concepts. Laudator Timotheus Höttges, Chairman of the Board of Management of Deutsche Telekom AG, praised the orchestra’s joy in experimenting with new forms of music communication. „Beethoven already admonished us that art can only ever be measured by art and not by commerce. In the truest sense of the word, we must have something left over for it.“
Diana Damrau is the queen of the night
The unique soprano Diana Damrau thrilled the audience in Bonn with her parade role as the Queen of the Night, with which she recommended herself on all international stages. „I am very proud to be here because Europe should be a model like an orchestra: composed of the most diverse states and ways of thinking, but cooperative with a common goal,“ Damrau said. „We need to make our European orchestra a global orchestra!“ In her laudatory speech, Ilona Schmiel, artistic director of the Tonhalle Society Zurich, underscored the exemplary passion with which Diana Damrau inspires an audience of millions worldwide with her performances as a cultural ambassador for Europe, thus contributing to cultural understanding in Europe and beyond to a special degree.
Till Brönner – one of the greatest of his profession
Tones of crystalline clarity, utmost importance for the smallest nuances, intoxicating virtuosity – all this makes Till Brönner one of the world’s best in his field. In an interview he once said, „Music is an expression of how you feel. And it’s almost like a therapist that always travels with you.“ As a photographer, he uses a very different kind of art to look into people’s souls. Building cultural bridges is his trademark: bringing the inner magic of music and art to shine and delight people with it. Laudator Katarina Witt emphasized Till Brönner’s versatility and his strong-voiced commitment to the fate of his artistic colleagues in times of pandemic.
Katie Melua – an exceptional singer with a lot of heart
If one were to search for a synonym for sensuality, one would very quickly find her name: Katie Melua. Passion and affection, but also sadness and anger are part of the keyboard of emotions in her songs. Never intrusive, always touching. In 2016, she caused a musical sensation with the record „In Winter“: a bridge between West and East, offbeat songs with the Gori Women’s Choir, an ensemble of more than 20 Ukrainian female singers. „Katie Melua is being honored for her extremely changeable and holistic musical personality, which helps to overcome the division in Europe,“ said laudator and fellow musician Leslie Mandoki.
Surprise guest for David Garrett
He performs like a pop star, but his home is classical music: seemingly effortlessly, David Garrett bridges the gap from Beethoven to Michael Jackson. As a virtuoso of the violin, he attracts to his sold-out tours on huge stages a great many people who previously had almost no idea about classical music, thus paving the way for them into an area of music hitherto unknown to them. With this, David Garrett may calmly be called a musical wall striker, who tears down the boundaries between genres. Against manifold oppositions of the record industry, he asserts his music, in which he combines classical music with rock, pop and jazz. The great success of his crossover style is reflected in his immense popularity. After a touching laudation for her brother, David Garrett receives his prize from the hands of his sister Elena Marie Malischek.
Fair Fashion Award goes to Barbara Meier
In a loud voice, Barbara Meier asks the textile industry and consumers alike why clothing has become a disposable product in our society. As an ambassador of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Barbara Meier publicly supports the cause of producing fashion under fair conditions for all people in the world. Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation Gerd Müller recognized Model Barbara Meier as this year’s award winner for her commitment to minimum ecological and social standards in the production of clothing in Africa and Asia. The mathematics graduate is also an ambassador for the federal ministry and was pleased to have a big stage for her message: „Fashion is actually something very beautiful, but also a very dirty industry, both in terms of waste and the slavery of textile workers.“ Meier therefore promoted the purchase of fairly produced fashion that evening.
Gottfried Helnwein – Art without Rules
Gottfried Helnwein is one of the most internationally successful painters and photographers, a man of performance, stage design and installation. At the Albertina in Vienna, his exhibition becomes the most visited by a living artist. He is an artist who – conquering social conventions – dares to tackle taboo subjects and thus not only sets an inner discourse in motion. He is one who shares Beethoven’s ideals: strong, revolutionary, committed to art, opposing art, advancing art. The European Culture Award for Visual Arts was presented to the Austrian Gottfried Helnwein, who fills much-visited, sometimes uncomfortable exhibitions all over the world. He promised the audience that „despite the prize, he will continue to follow no rules and remain committed only to people.“ Laudator Klaus Albrecht Schröder of Vienna’s Albertina attested that his works „make often suppressed creatures visible and thus move us deeply.“
Nico Rosberg – no culture without sustainability
What is to be part of human life in the future must be prepared in the present. Since 2018, the European Culture Award honors people and institutions that invest in the future and are thus an important part of cultural life. Sustainable technologies are essential for a future worth living. Nico Rosberg has made this insight his own, in addition to his successful racing career. With his own Team Rosberg – Extreme Racing (RXR) he started in Formula E. As co-founder of the Greentech Festival he gives innovations a stage, brings experts together with startups. He has summed up the aspiration to give meaning to his actions in one word „sustainability entrepreneur.“ Prince Albert II of Monaco who was honored in 2018 with the European Cultural Award for Environmental Protection, sent a message of greeting to Nico Rosberg, the 2021 laureate in this category. The evening’s laudation was given by the well-known climate researcher Johan Rockström.
European „Next Generation“ Award for the Digital Classroom
Innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and daring to try something new – that was the focus of this year’s European „Next Generation“ Award competition. Given the challenges around pandemic distance learning, the best startups, startups or project initiatives for the digital classroom 4.0 were sought. Among a total of 21 applications from all over Europe, the Finnish company „Curious Technologies“ from Helsinki was awarded the prize in the Bonn Opera House with its speech robot Elias. The startup, led by CEO Johanna Hemminki, developed an interactive learning program that lets students learn languages through play by having conversations with human-like robots. Thanks to the concept of „learning by speaking“, the software is not only suitable for school children, but can also be used in adult education, pre-school age or for illiterate people.
Culture as a common ground
Especially in times of crisis for Germany’s unique cultural landscape, partners are becoming increasingly important. It is therefore particularly gratifying that, despite the pandemic, Vienna-based HALLMANN HOLDING, the main sponsor and presenting partner, is remaining loyal to the European Cultural Award for the second year. „Ludwig van Beethoven described art as a means of uniting the world. Culture connects, creates identity and gives strength, even in difficult times,“ says entrepreneur and investor Klemens Hallmann. „On this common ground, a society can continue to develop with a promising future and a joy of life. It is therefore a particular pleasure for me to present the European Cultural Award in Bonn and, as the main partner, to make a contribution to the preservation and further development of the European cultural landscape.“
Cultural Award with the support of the Beethoven Jubilee Society
„It is as if every tree spoke to me,“ Beethoven enthused during his sojourns in the countryside. At a time when environmental and climate issues are more topical than ever, Beethoven Jubiläums GmbH is also taking a new look at the relationship between people and nature. Malte Boecker, Artistic Director: „The motto of the anniversary is: Rediscover Beethoven! The awarding of the European Cultural Prizes in Bonn fits this in a special way. It draws attention not only to personalities, but also to initiatives that contribute to sustainability in society and are also inspired by Beethoven.“