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Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis

City of Heidelberg Music Prize for female composers

The Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis is one of the state's most important cultural prizes and the only award in the world to be given exclusively to female composers.

The Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2017. It was founded by Roswitha Sperber in 1987, and since 2007 the prize has been awarded as a municipal music prize by the City of Heidelberg and celebrated by the Theater und Orchester Heidelberg, which performs one orchestral work by each prize winner as part of one of their Philharmonic Concerts. Deutschlandfunk, the long-time media partner, records the Preisträgerinnen-Konzert and transmits it throughout Germany at different times together with a feature on the prized composer.

The prize was doubled in March 2024 from 5,000 to 10,000 Euros. The Heidelberg Theatre and Orchestra covers the increase from its budget. »I am delighted that the municipal council has followed our request and agreed to double the prize money. Honouring and promoting artists is always important to us, as is awarding the world's only prize exclusively to female composers,« stated Holger Schultze, Director of the Heidelberg Theatre and Orchestra.

It is awarded by a jury composed of persons with expertise in the field of contemporary music, who are appointed by the mayor and the chair of the jury. Permanent members by dint of their position are the director of the Theater und Orchester Heidelberg, Holger Schultze and the general music director of the city of Heidelberg. Further members are Frank Kämpfer (New Music editor, Deutschlandfunk), Prof. Walter Nussbaum (KlangForum Heidelberg), Ulrike Schumann and Thomas Böckstiegel (Directors of Opera at Theater and Orchester Heidelberg) as well as Heike Hoffmann (Director of Schwetzinger SWR Festspiele) and the concert dramaturge of the Philharmonisches Orchester, Stefan Klawitter.

The prize has in the past been awarded to recognized artists including Adriana Hölszky, Sofia Gubaidulina, Olga Neuwirth, Kaija Saariaho, Isabel Mundry and Jamilia Jazylbekova. The latest recipients of the Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis were Lucia Ronchetti (2014), Iris ter Schiphorst (2015), Chaya Czernowin (2016), Ying Wang (2017), Zeynep Gedizlioğlu (2018), Elena Mendoza (2019), Bettina Skrzypczak (2020), Karola Obermüller (2021), Lisa Streich (2022), Farzia Fallah (2023) and Kathrin A. Denner (2024).

Musicologist Prof. Dr. Ludwig Finscher has called this award one of »the most important cultural prizes of the country... The thought-out choice of recipients has helped to open borders, to set quality standards, to raise awareness of the stylistic diversity found in contemporary composition, to honour established female composers and encourage young female composers, to make repairs for injustices that have been suffered, where that is at all possible.«


Preisträgerin 2025 ist Sarah Nemtsov

Statement of the Jury Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis 2025 for Sarah Nemtsov

»Sarah Nemtsov has undoubtedly found her place - in herself and in the contemporary scene in our country. Nevertheless, her work always resembles an experiment, or rather a field of experimentation. The composer's preferences include percussion, performance and multimedia, playing with objects and her curiosity about instruments from worlds far removed from contemporary music. Not forgetting the Jewish tradition of thought and culture with which she grew up in Oldenburg and which now forms a strong root for her work in Berlin. The artistic results are stubborn, convincing, powerful and touchingly fragile in their own way. Projects such as ›Mekomot‹ or ›Roses for my Funeral‹ or her operas ›Ophelia‹ and ›Sacrifice‹ are exclusive proof of this. Sarah Nemtsov provokes emotions, sometimes she incorporates autobiographical moments into her works - with both she authentically stands for diversity, for participation, for the acceptance of and for the other.«
Frank Kämpfer, in October 2023


Sarah Nemtsov; Photo: Camilla Blake

Sarah Nemtsov's »Tikkun« will be performed as part of the 4th Philharmonic Concert on 5 February 2025 under the direction of Mino Marani to mark the awarding of the Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis 2025. The concert will be recorded by Deutschlandfunk and broadcast as part of the »Konzertdokument der Woche« series.


Photo: Susanne Reichardt

Laureates from 1987 on

1987 Myriam Marbe, Romania
1990 Adriana Hölszky, Germany/Romania
1991 Sofia Gubaidulina, Russia/Germany
1992 Galina Ustwolskaja, Russia
1993 Ivana Loudová, Czech Republic
1994 Ruth Schonthal, USA/ Germany
1995 Younghi Pagh-Paan, Germany/ South Korea
1996 Ruth Zechlin, Germany
1997 Babette Koblenz, Germany
1998 Annette Schlünz, Germany
1999 Christina Kubisch, Germany
2000 Elzbieta Sikora, Poland/ France
2002 Olga Magidenko, Germany/ Russia
2003 Carolyn Breuer, Germany
2005 Roswitha Sperber, Germany
2007 Unsuk Chin, South Korea/ Germany
2008 Olga Neuwirth, Austria
2009 Kaija Saariaho, Finland/France
2010 Misato Mochizuki, Japan
2011 Isabel Mundry, Germany
2012 Jamilia Jazylbekova, Kazakhstan
2013 Maria Panayotova, Bulgaria
2014 Lucia Ronchetti, Italy
2015 Iris ter Schiphorst, Germany
2016 Chaya Czernowin, Israel
2017 Ying Wang, China
2018 Zeynep Gedizlioğlu, Turkey
2019 Elena Mendoza, Spain
2020 Bettina Skrzypczak, Poland/Switzerland
2021 Karola Obermüller, Germany/ USA
2022 Lisa Streich, Sweden
2023 Farzia Fallah, Iran/Germany
2024 Kathrin A. Denner, Germany