The 14-year-old annual prize, which is awarded to a classical musician and a pop or jazz musician, is worth one million Swedish kronor (currently about $125,000). Founded in 1989 by Stig Anderson, the late publisher and manager for the pop group ABBA, it recognizes a lifetime of musical achievement.
In its citation, the Academy of Music said Gergiev's "unique, electrifying musical skills have deepened and renewed our relationship with the grand tradition," and that he "has managed to develop and amplify the importance of artistic music in these modern, changing times."
Born in Moscow in 1953, Gergiev grew up in Ossetia and studied at the Leningrad Conservatory. He won the Karajan Conducting Competition in 1976 and joined the staff of the Kirov Theatre a year later. After four years as principal guest conductor of the State Symphony Orchestra of Armenia, he was named artistic director of the Kirov Opera in 1988; in 1996 he was promoted to artistic and general directorship of the entire theater, now called the Mariinsky.
Gergiev is credited with helping the venerable theater survive the collapse of the Soviet Union, and, in the years since, expanding its repertoire and its collaborations with Western opera houses.
Gergiev also holds the positions of principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, and also runs the Stars of the White Nights festival in St. Petersburg, the Moscow Easter Festival, the Gergiev Festival Rotterdam, and the Mikkeli International Festival in Finland. Starting in 2007, he will be principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.
King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden will present the prizes at Stockholm Concert Hall on May 22, 2006. As part of the festivities, Gergiev will lead the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11.
Previous winners of the Polar Music Prize have included Dizzy Gillespie, Pierre Boulez, Isaac Stern, Bruce Springsteen, and Sofia Gubaidulina. The 2005 winners were baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Brazilian singer, guitarist, and composer Gilberto Gil.