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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 is endowed with 5,000 Euros.

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, Elias Grandy. 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) and Lisa Streich (2022).

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.«


The 2023 laureate is Farzia Fallah

Jury statement Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis 2023

Farzia Fallah, based in Cologne and born in Tehran in 1980, is centrally concerned with sound and time. Sounds »that swell out of nothing and fade away again« are characteristic of her current work. The composition student of Younghi Pagh-Paan, Jörg Birkenkötter and Johannes Schöllhorn relies »instead of overwhelming and multimedia overload on concentration and the precise observation of sound, which« – as Anna Ricke attests in MusikTexten 165 – »confronts the interpreters with unusual challenges«. This took shape in her work in the Tehran Group for New Music as well as in KOLLEKTIV3:6KOELN.

As the daughter of an Iranian man of letters, Farzia Fallah is strongly influenced by an awareness of culture and language. She is aware of the roots of Persian culture – and like no other composer from Iran, she is able to transpose these into our European world in her music in a very unique way: to awaken our desire to understand it – but also the perception of a difference. Without a doubt, Farzia Fallah's artistic activity is based on living and working in two cultures. For her, music is on the one hand research and on the other hand expression, i. e. »reflection of everything that belongs to liveliness.«

The prize will be awarded at the 4th Philharmonic Concert on 8 February 2023, at which Fallah's »Traces of a Burning Mass« for orchestra will be premiered.

4th Philharmonic Concert

Photo: Susanne Reichardt
Farzia Fallah

Born in Tehran (Iran), Farzia Fallah currently lives freelance in Cologne, composes passionately and works internationally with various ensembles and musicians. Her artistic path has already been supported by various prizes and scholarships. In 2022, she was awarded the »Forum of Young Composers« of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts and in 2020 she received the Oldenburg Composition Prize for Contemporary Music.

As a scholarship holder, she has worked at the German Study Centre in Venice, as well as at Künstlerdorf Schöppingen, Künstlerhaus Lauenburg and Künstlerhof Schreyahn. She was also a scholarship holder of Archiv Frau und Musik.

In 2023, a portrait CD of her will be released by WERGO in the series Edition Zeitgenössische Musik. She has given world premieres at the Acht Brücken Festival Cologne, Aldeburgh Festival (England), the Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik (Austria), the Forum Neuer Musik Deutschlandfunk, KLANG Copenhagen Avantgarde Music Festival, KlangZeit Festival Münster, NOW! Festival Essen, pgnm Festival Bremen, TRAIECT Festival Hannover, Transart Festival Bozen (Italy), as well as at the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik. She studied composition with Alireza Mashayekhi in Tehran, with Younghi Pagh-Paan and Jörg Birkenkötter in Bremen and with Johannes Schöllhorn in Cologne and Freiburg.

Farzia Fallah; Photo: Hassaan Sheidaei

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