This year, the fourth edition of the International Helmut Deutsch Lied Competition rounded out its accustomed emphases on the works of Franz Schubert, Gustav Mahler, and Hugo Wolf with a focus on the composer Alma Mahler-Werfel. Scintillating and impressive performances were delivered by all finalists, amongst whom Florian Störtz ultimately emerged as the winner.
It was a truly intense competition week that saw 22 young Lied singers present themselves to a hand-picked jury. The initial two rounds were held at the Future Art Lab, the multifunctional centre for the arts and academic pursuits on the mdw Campus. Ensconced in the outstanding acoustics of its concert hall, the members of the jury chaired by the legendary Austrian Lied accompanist Helmut Deutsch were able to devote their full concentration to the performances and the task of determining the six finalists.
The musicians who prevailed in the final round, which took place on 16 September in Vienna’s magnificent Ehrbar-Saal, included not only the competition’s best Lied singers but also those pianists who had delivered the most convincing accompaniments. This year, five of the six main prizes were sponsored by the mdw itself—and Rector Ulrike Sych was on hand to congratulate all of the awardees as well as the organisers: “I’m extraordinarily pleased that the mdw has been privileged to join its cooperating partner, the organiser WCN – World Culture Networks, in this competition’s artistic conception and to work closely with Helmut Deutsch to ensure excellence and the highest level of artistic qualification in terms of the disciplines involved here.”
Competition namesake Helmut Deutsch was among those who highlighted the focus on a renowned Austrian woman composer in the competition’s portfolio: “Alongside Austria’s most prominent Lied composers Franz Schubert, Hugo Wolf, and Gustav Mahler, we wanted to take this edition as an opportunity to also present the Lied output of a female composer who, I think, should be appreciated more and above all performed more: Alma Mahler-Werfel.” WCN’s general manager Hyo Sook Song likewise highlighted Mahler in her remarks and went on to emphasise her network’s vision of supporting “young talents and up-and-coming artists. I’m confident that this competition, the fourth edition of which has now taken place, has also left a lasting impression with our audience.”
The popular moderator and music and theatre expert Thomas Dänemark provided the participants and audience with assured guidance throughout this evening of great romantic Lied repertoire, at the conclusion of which the jurors reached their decisions. German baritone Florian Störtz, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London, was the final competitor to take the stage and ended up winning both the first prize and the Audience Prize. He impressed the jury and the audience in equal measure with his interpretations of such disparate Lieder as Hugo Wolf’s dramatic and threatening Feuerreiter followed by Gustav Mahler’s introverted and delicate Urlicht.
Following Störtz in second place was the baritone Jusung Park from South Korea, while bass-baritone Jeeyoung Lim (likewise from South Korea) and tenor Ted Black from the United Kingdom shared the third prize. The special prizes for pianists as Lied accompanists went to Richard Fu (USA), Rafael Salas Chia (Spain), and Gyeongtaek Lee (South Korea). The Ehrbar Saal Prize was claimed by Jeeyoung Lim, and the Zell am See International Music Festival awarded its own special prize—a performance with the Festival Youth Orchestra at the 2024 festival’s final concert—to the mezzo-soprano and mdw student Hannah Fheodoroff (Austria). Warmest congratulations to all awardees!