Zeppelin Lifts Polar Prize

Led Zeppelin has joined an ever-growing list of contemporary musicians to have won Sweden’s coveted Polar Music Prize, an annual award set up by former Abba manager Stig Anderson in 1989.

Having gained a reputation as music’s equivalent of a Nobel prize, the Polar Prize has thrown up an eclectic list of past winners and Zeppelin will be sharing the 2006 award with Russian conductor Valery Gergiev. The prize is traditionally split between modern acts and classical musicians.

Previous rock, pop, jazz and blues winners include Dizzy Gillespie, Bruce Springsteen, B.B. King, Joni Mitchell, Quincy Jones and Paul McCartney. It’s also gone to avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, Burt Bacharach and inventor Robert Moog, who all shared the 2001 award.

Led Zep’s citation described the act as “one of the great pioneers of rock” and said its “playful and experimental” music had elements of “mysticism and primal energy” and these features have come to define the genre “hard rock.”

John Bonham, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant formed Led Zeppelin in 1968. The band split after Bonham died in 1980.

Gergiev is artistic and general director of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre in Russia. He will be principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra starting in January 2007.

The winners, whose names are released in the autumn prior to the year for which the prize is being awarded, were announced at a November 7th ceremony at Stockholm’s Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

The presentation, which includes a cheque for US$123,180, will be made by King Carl XVI Gustaf at Stockholm Concert Hall May 22nd.

Gergiev will conduct Sweden’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for a lunchtime concert featuring Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 at the same venue on the same day.

The presentation, which will be broadcast on national television, attracts international media, members of the international music business, celebrities, artists, musicians, government ministers, politicians and leading figures from the business world.

Next year, the event is being expanded into a weekend of activities organised under the name of Polar Music Prize Week, which will include exhibitions, workshops, seminars, film screenings and live performances at various locations in Stockholm.

– John Gammon