Lieder prizes for Marie Hänsel and Dániel Foki

Dániel Foki won two valuable prizes at the lieder recital at the TauberPhilharmonie in Weikersheim.

The Beethoven Chamber Music Prize went to Marie Hänsel of Dresden for her lieder “Again my Lyre” from Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Scottish Lieder” (Op. 108), which she sang with the most subtle lyrical emphasis.

For the knowledgeable and very heterogeneous judging panel chaired by Swedish opera singer Anna Larsson, choosing the winners at the lieder recital was not an easy decision – but one which met with overwhelming approval from the audience.

Dániel Foki cast a spell on listeners with the spiritual depth of his rendering of “St. Ita’s Vision” from Samuel Barber’s ten “Hermit Songs” for voice and piano. Every note and every gesture clearly communicated just how perfectly the baritone had internalized the content of this poem, written by Irish monks in the early Middle Ages, and transformed it into a spiritual journey. Only through the senses can self-knowledge be achieved in solitude and inhospitable terrain.

The lieder as an art form was given far greater prominence in the DEBUT 2020 anniversary season, as Clarry Bartha emphasized during her welcome address. Lieder are considered to be an integral element of sustainable training in classical singing. To enable due recognition to also be shown to this particular art form in a competition context, the Italian composer Giorgio Battistelli composed a lieder especially for DEBUT, which was compulsory for all singers as of the semifinal. It was Dániel Foki’s awesome interpretation of Battistelli’s lieder “Ja, lauft nur” in the semifinal on the Wednesday which paved the way for his selection for the final.

Palpable integrity

Apart from Modestas Sedlevicius of Lithuania, all of the competition finalists were present on stage at the lieder recital, where their sharply contrasting temperaments were very much in evidence.  Without exception, the talented newcomers impressed with tremendous vocal expression and palpable integrity. In the contest for the Beethoven Chamber Music Prize, soprano Karolina Bengtsson chose “Oh! Thou art the lad of my heart” from the Scottish Lieder while South African tenor Katleho Mokhoabene performed the catchy song “Sally in Our Alley”. The concert hall – whose sheer size and stately character are almost overly imposing for a mere lieder recital – has magnificent acoustics which, coupled with the high quality of the singing and the chamber music with grand piano accompaniment as well as the sonorous sound of Florian Schmidt-Bartha’s violoncello and the clarity of Florian Schötz’s violin, added up to a truly unique listening experience.

Freya Apffelstaedt’s subtle alto voice performing Albert Reimann’s composition “Five songs based on poems by Paul Celan”, Niamh O’Sullivan’s dignified yet sparkling mezzo-soprano in Benjamin Britten’s “Down by the Salley Gardens”, Alexandra Flood’s radiant and beautifully controlled soprano in Britten’s “Let the florid music praise” and Katleho Mokhoabane’s silvery, shimmering tenor in Gustav Mahler’s “Im Lenz” (In springtime) all contributed to the success of the lieder competition, which was brought to a brilliant conclusion by Elizaveta Volkova’s clear and sensual soprano in Aaron Copland’s “Pastorale” and Richard Strauss’s “Cecily”.

The break taken by the judges to confer was much longer than usual, yet the four attractive chamber music pieces to which the audience were treated during the intervening period were a must enjoyable part of this rather special soiree. The program put together by the competition accompanists – Professor Michael Schütze, Gaiva Bandzinaite, Eberhard Leuser and Doriana Tchakarova (all piano) as well as Florian Schmidt-Bartha (violoncello) and Florian Schötz (violin) – proved to be highly entertaining. Thanks to the “Waltz for Four Hands”, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise“ (Op. 34 No.14), Fritz Kreisler’s “Beautiful Rosemary” and two pieces from Gabriel Fauré’s “Dolly Suite” (Op. 56), the time waiting for the panel to reach their decision simply flew by. The biggest applause of the evening was reserved for soprano Maria Hänsel, whose impromptu impressions of the competition week filled the gap very nicely.

Recital sponsors

The “Best Performance of a 20th Century English / American Lieder / Song” prize worth 3500 euros was donated by the SV Team at insurance agent Brunner GmbH. The prize for the “Best Performance of a Contemporary Lieder”, likewise worth 3500 euros, and the Beethoven Chamber Music Prize of 1500 euros were sponsored by Sparkasse Tauberfranken.

Presentation of the Victoria trophies

Clarry Bartha, DEBUT’s Artistic Director, finally put an end to the lieder recital audience’s torture with her announcement of the judges’ verdict.

Freya Apffelstaedt (South Africa), Karolina Bengtsson (Sweden), Dániel Foki (Hungary), Katleho Mokhoabane (South Africa), Niamh O’Sullivan (Ireland) and Modestas Sedlevicius (Lithuania) were overjoyed to learn that they had qualified for the gala concert on Saturday evening (September 19), once again at the TauberPhilharmonie in Weikersheim. Three female and two male voices will thus be competing for the Victoria trophies with interpretations of well-known arias from several successful operas.

No tickets went on public sale for this restricted event owing to the coronavirus. A recording of the gala concert will be broadcast on SWR2 radio at 8:03 p.m. on September 27, 2020. More information about the competition is available at:

Pictures (all ©DEBUT Concerts GmbH / photographer Ludwig Olah):

01-debut-liederabend: The winners at the lieder recital: Marie Hänsel of Dresden and Dániel Foki of Hungary.

02-debut-liederabend: Total concentration throughout Dániel Foki’s performance: the Hungarian singer was rewarded with two prizes.

03-debut-liederabend: Marie Hänsel and Dániel Foki, the winners at the lieder recital, surrounded by (from left to right): Ludwig Brunner (Branch Manager, SV Team Brunner GmbH), Dr. Manfred Wittenstein (Chairman of the WITTENSTEIN SE Supervisory Board) and Peter Vogel (Chairman, Sparkasse Tauberfranken).

04-debut-liederabend: A truly unique listening experience at the lieder recital (from left to right): Katleho Mokhoabene, Elizaveta Volkova, Karolina Bengtsson, Freya Apffelstaedt, Alexandra Flood, Niamh O’Sullivan, Marie Hänsel and Dániel Foki.  

Download: Press article Englisch (PDF)

Recent posts