Currently presented for the tenth time, the award is open to conductors aged 35 or under. Although the award was held annually in the past, it was newly reconceived this year and will now be hosted biennially.
Sandelson won out of three finalists from a total of 250 applicants. In addition to the cash prize, Sandelson will conduct a recorded Salzburg Festival concert in August 2022 with an emerging soloist and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. The concert will be released on CD as part of the edition of Salzburg Festival Documents.
The jury was chaired by Manfred Honeck and comprised Peter Alward, Gary Hanson, Markus Hinterhäuser, Brian McMaster, Alexander Meraviglia-Crivelli, Pamela Rosenberg, and Florian Wiegand.
Born in 1994, Sandelson began his career as a cellist. A graduate of Cambridge University, he later studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Sian Edwards. He held the Leverhulme Conducting Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and was assistant conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard.
"The decision was not easy, but we finally agreed on Joel Sandelson because he put his naturally joyful musicianship at the service of the music and clearly conveyed his musical ideas," said Honeck during the announcement of the 2021 winner.
"I am overjoyed to have received this wonderful prize from an institution such as the Salzburg Festival," said Sandelson in a statement. "I enjoyed working with the Camerata Salzburg incredibly, and I wish to thank the orchestra especially, just like the Salzburg Festival and the jury," he continued. "I also learned a lot from my two colleagues. Winning was a wonderful surprise."
Previous winners include Gábor Káli, Kerem Hasan, Aziz Shokhakimov, Lorenzo Viotti, Maxime Pascal, Ben Gernon, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Ainārs Rubikis, and David Afkham.