Rhinegold Photo credit: Robbie Lawrence
Igor Levit will receive the 2020 Prize for Understanding and Tolerance in recognition of his political engagement against anti-Semitism

Josephine Miles

Igor Levit receives Prize for Understanding and Tolerance

11:25, 30th October 2020

Igor Levit is to be awarded this year’s Prize for Understanding and Tolerance from the Jewish Museum Berlin

Established in 2002, the annual prize is awarded to individuals in business, culture and politics who have displayed outstanding service in the interest of promoting human dignity, international understanding, the integration of minorities and the coexistence of different religions and cultures. Levit will be awarded the prize in a live-streamed event from the Jewish Museum Berlin on Saturday 31 October. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine K Albright will also receive the prize.

Levit was born in 1987 to a Jewish family in Nizhny Novgorod (formerly Gorki) in Russia. The family moved to Hanover in 1995 and Levit subsequently studied at the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media. Today he is known not only for his world-leading pianism but also for his political and social engagement against anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism.

For example, in his acceptance speech for the 2019 Opus Klassik Prize, he spoke out against increasing anti-Semitic hate speech, and dedicated his prize to victims of the Halle synagogue shooting. On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 2020, the International Auschwitz Committee presented him with the ‘Statue B’, the ‘Gift of Remembrance’ awarded annually for commitment to opposing anti-Semitism.

The jury for the 2020 Prize for Understanding and Tolerance said: ‘Igor Levit sees no boundaries between aesthetics and everyday life, between music and social engagement. The pianist not only criticises the customary apolitical contextualization of classical music, he himself is among the most important political voices of his generation. With bold statements, he positions himself clearly against racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and misogyny. Nor does he allow himself to be driven off course in his engagement, although he is the object of hostility and threats because of it.

‘For Igor Levit, it is also essential to show solidarity in his artistic activities. This spring, he streamed over 50 “house concerts” amid the corona pandemic, a gesture of togetherness. His musical style combines virtuosity with extraordinary powers of interpretation. For him, the piano is a place of freedom, and freedom means freedom from fear. With the Prize for Understanding and Tolerance, the jury of the board of the Friends of the Jewish Museum Berlin Foundation is not only honouring an extraordinary pianist, but also an extraordinary human being, whose engagement is as untiring as it is deeply humanitarian.’

The prize is traditionally presented at a gala anniversary dinner, but this year the event – including the director’s address, prize presentation speeches and winners’ acceptance speeches – will be streamed live from the Jewish Museum’s Glass Courtyard. Journalist Dunja Hayali will give the award speech for Igor Levit and Hetty Berg, director of the museum, will present the prize.



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