In the world of music, Swedes may be best-known for their peerless pop savvy — but they have a fine ear for classical music too, as they demonstrated yesterday by awarding Polar Music Prizes to mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli and to superproducer Max Martin.
"With a vocal range of three octaves and a unique ability to live a role with fullness of expression," wrote the prize committee, "Cecilia Bartoli has developed song as an art form."
At Thursday night's award ceremony in Stockholm — attended by the king and queen of Sweden — Bartoli said, "I'm deeply honoured and I am very proud. For me, music is emotion, passion and humanity. I strongly believe in the power of music and I'm here to share my belief."
Over the past two decades, Martin has become one of the most successful musicians in the pop landscape: writing and producing massive hits for Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, the Weeknd, the Backstreet Boys, Adele, and Katy Perry, among others.
"You blew my cover!" said Martin, accepting his award. "I've managed to hide between two speakers in a basement for over 20 years, but you got me!"
Martin, a Stockholm native, is often described as the heir of ABBA — the band, founded 50 years ago, who made Sweden synonymous with sublime pop. ABBA's late manager, Stig Anderson, founded the Polar Music Prize in 1989 to recognize exceptional musicians irrespective of nationality or genre. The prize comes with a cash award of 1,000,000 Swedish krona — about $120,000.
The night before the ceremony, the BBC reports, Martin taught a masterclass at which he shared some of his tricks of the trade — including one he said he learned from Prince's music, "using the same melody in the verses as the chorus, to shortcut familiarity of songs."