Chuck Berry, Peter Sellars win Sweden’s Polar Music Prize

By Daniel S Levine,

Rock ‘n’ roll icon Chuck Berry has been picked as the latest recipient of the Polar Music Prize, an award presented by Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf in Stockholm. Berry will share the 2014 prize with another American, although one in a very different sphere of the music community - theater director Peter Sellars.

Of course, Berry is one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock. Without him, there might have been no Beatles, Rolling Stones or modern rock as we know it. The committee that picks the recipients acknowledged that in their citation.

“In the course of three minutes he conjures up an image of the everyday life and dreams of a teenager, often with the focus on cars,” the citation reads.

Sellars is from a different musical background. According to The New York Times, he is best known for directing productions of Mozart with modern settings and even works by John Adams.

Although the awards usually honor composers, the committee still said that Sellars is “a living definition of what the Polar Music Prize is all about: highlighting the music and presenting it in a new context.”

Sellars’ citation adds that he “shows us that classical music is not about dusty sheet music and metronomic precision, but that classical music, with its violent power and complexity, has fundamentally always been and will continue to be a way of reflecting and depicting the world.”

The ceremony is set for Aug. 26. The award was founded by ABBA’s Stig Anderson and went to Kaija Saariaho and Yossou N’Dour last year. Paul McCartney and The Baltic States received the first prize in 1992.

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