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Kronberg Academy Announces Inaugural "Pablo Casals Award" Recipients

Presented at the 2022 Kronberg Festival, in Germany, the prize was given to Marie-Elisabeth Hecker and Martin Helmchen


As the Kronberg Festival drew to a close this week, the Kronberg Academy presented its “Pablo Casals Award - For a Better World” for the first time in the history of the institution. The award is based on cellist Pablo Casal's philosophy: “I am a man first, an artist second. My first obligation is to the welfare of my fellow man.”

To that aim, the award supports artists who follow the humanitarian example of Pablo Casals and are actively involved in assisting or protecting music, people, and the planet. Initiated by the Cologne-based asset management company Flossbach von Storch, the prize of €10,000 will be given on an annual basis.

The inaugural prize was given to husband-and-wife team cellist Marie-Elisabeth Hecker and pianist Martin Helmchen for their social engagement and tremendous personal commitment to supporting musical life in Rwanda, Africa.

Hecker and Helmchen have been working to improve access to music education in Rwanda for over ten years — since music is taught in few schools and there are little to no tertiary music study opportunities. The pair will invest the prize money of €10,000 in the training and development of courses for local music teachers.

Their charity, "Music Road Rwanda," established the Music School Kigali in March 2019 in collaboration with the Presbyterian Church. The school is open to children, teenagers, and young adults. Classes are free of charge for students from low-income families and only local teachers teach — offering weekly instrumental lessons and music theory courses. The organization also develops training courses for local teachers in addition to presenting classical concerts in the community.

“As artists, we are uniquely privileged, and so we feel obliged to engage in social issues," the couple said. "The universal language and healing power of music play a key role in facilitating this.”

The jury members in charge of selecting the winners include Marta Casals Istomin (chair), the widow of Pablo Casals, as well as Christoph Eschenbach, Gidon Kremer, Sir András Schiff and Raimund Trenkler. They are supported by the “Artists for a Better Future” initiative launched by Christoph Poppen.

At a ceremony at the Kronberg Festival, the prize was given by publicist and historian Professor Michael Wolffsohn and by Kurt von Storch, founder and proprietor of asset management company Flossbach von Storch.

"There are so many different opportunities to become involved in social projects – including here in Germany," Kurt von Storch said. "We are delighted to be able to support Kronberg Academy in furthering the social engagement of artists in such a special way.”

Raimund Trenkler, Founder and President of Kronberg Academy, gave this additional emphasis: “Very much in keeping with Pablo Casals’ thinking, the practice of social engagement forms an integral part of our educational philosophy. I am therefore extremely pleased that we are today sending out an important message through this award.”


The philosophy of Pablo Casals — that art, humanity and respect for nature are inextricably linked — is the guiding principle for all training and musical activities that take place at Kronberg Academy's new venue, the Casals Forum. The Casals Forum opened to the public during this year's Kronberg Festival, welcoming audiences to its two concert halls, study center, and administration center.

The Violin Channel recently had the chance to catch up with Raimund Trenkler, Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Kronberg Academy Foundation, to discuss what the new Casals Forum means to the academy.

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