Elitsa Desseva

Elitsa Desseva

Pianist & Collaborative Artist

“When I play, you are the co-autor. You listen to the music, but in fact you are hearing your own voice, feelings and experiences. You are the protagonist and I am the mediator between the dream world and reality.“


Bulgarian pianist Elitsa Desseva specialises in the collaboration with singers and is recognised as a leading song pianist of her generation.





Elitsa attracted international attention after winning some of the world's most renowned Lied competitions in just two years. In a duo with her regular partner baritone Mikhail Timoshenko, she reached the final of the Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera Song Competition (United Kingdom), where Mikhail was awarded 1st prize. Furthermore duo Timoshenko-Desseva received 1st prize at the International Art Song Competition Stuttgart (Germany), 1st prize at the Franz Schubert and Modern Music International Competition in Graz (Austria), 2nd prize and Audience Award at the International Schubert Competition Dortmund (Germany), 3rd prize and Audience Award at the Concours International de Musique de Chambre de Lyon (France) and the 18. Nordfriesischer Liedpreis des Ministeriums für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur des Landes Schleswig-Holstein.


In the early stages of her international career, alongside mezzo-soprano Polina Artsis Elitsa won 1st prizes at both the International Student Lied Duo Competition in Groningen (Netherlands) and the Internationaler Karl-Adler-Jugendmusikwettbewerb in Stuttgart (Germany). As a soloist Elitsa received several awards including the Bela Bartok Prize at the Ile-de-France International Piano Competition in Paris (France), the 1st Prize at the Liszt-Bartok Piano Competition in Sofia (Bulgaria), DAAD Prize and Deutschland-Stipendium.





In 2022 Elitsa was invited by Thomas Hampson to become an official pianist and Studienleiterin of the Heidelberg Liedakademie, thus making her the first female song accompanist to hold this prestigious position. There she accompanies masterclasses led by Thomas Hampson, Wolfram Rieger, Susan Manoff, Graham Johnson, Hartmut Höll, Malcolm Martineau, Gerold Huber, to name but a few, and gives coaching in programming and concert design. In collaboration with Thomas Hampson, Elitsa guides the scholers of the Liedakademie on the quest to discover their unique artistic voice, empowering them to create innovative programs that will be showcased at the Schubert-Week in Pierre Boulez Saal Berlin and the Heidelberger Frühling Liedfestival. 


Elitsa had the opportunity to enhance her skills by completing a practicum at the Opera Studio of the renowned Vienna Staatsoper. Additionally, she has developed a strong professional bond with voice teacher KS Angelika Kirchschlager, where she actively participates in playing for singing lessons at the mdw – Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien. Through these experiences, Elitsa has gained a deep understanding of vocal technique and has honed her ability to provide valuable support and guidance to singers as a coach.





Elitsa is a frequent guest at major music centres including Wigmore Hall in London, Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, Musikverein in Vienna, Festival Heidelberger Frühling, Hitzacker Music Festival, Grachten Festival in Amsterdam, Festival Young Artists in Bayreuth. Her performances alongside various singers and instrumentalists have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Radio France, NDR, Südtirol Radio, SWR, Bulgarian National Radio, Dutch Radio 4, NHK World Japan and during the pandemic, together with Mikhail Timoshenko, she started the youtube channel “Voice & Keys” where they upload creative and humorous music content. 


This season features appearances at the Musikverein in Vienna, Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, Heidelberger Frühling Festival, Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse, Brucknerhaus in Linz,  as well as her debut in Japan as part of the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival.





Passionate about programming and concert design, in her work Elitsa strives to break the stiff barrier between audience and performers and forge new emotionally charged and authentic connections that bring a younger and wider audience to song recitals.


Together with Mikhail Timoshenko, she curated a series of concerts for the Académie Orsay-Royaumont in dialogue with the collection of the Musée d'Orsay Paris (2021). For IHWA Stuttgart, duo Timoshenko-Desseva created “Über die neun Stationen der Kreativität” (2021) - a program meant to depict the backstage life of classical musicians and at Wigmore Hall in London they presented “Don Quichotte - Despite and Still” (2021), confronting the relation between individual and society. On the occasion of renowned composer Jorg Widmann’s milestone birthday and commissioned by Heidelberger Frühling Liedfestival, they created the recital “Alaverdi” (2023), where the whole stage transforms into a vibrant Georgian birthday celebration and performers and audience members alike exchange heartfelt toasts in poetry and songs, fostering unity through music.


In 2021, as part of her mission to revive lesser-known and underappreciated art songs, she collaborated with Mikhail Timoshenko to record a CD (“Aimer À Loisir”) for B Records including the rarely performed “Quatre chansons de Don Quichotte” by Jaques Ibert. Looking ahead, in early 2024, they are set to release their new CD, featuring the premiere of songs by Eduard and Irene Erdmann and Philipp Jarnach.





Elitsa received her Master’s Degree in piano performance and chamber music with Balazs Szokolay and Thomas Steinhöfel at the Hochschule für Musik FRANZ LISZT in Weimar (Germany). She then pursued her Master’s Degree in piano accompaniment at the mdw – Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien (Austria) under the tutelage of Charles Spencer and Markus Hadulla, where she received a distinction for an outstanding performance on her final recital. 


Elitsa's inspiration, mentors and teachers include distinguished musicians such as singers Thomas Hampson, Mitsuko Shirai, Véronique Gens, Angelika Kirchschlager, Brigitte Fassbaender and pianists Piotr Anderszewski, Dalton Baldwin, Graham Johnson, Susan Manoff, Malcom Martineau, Hartmut Höll, Helmuth Deutsch. She is a former scholar of the Heidelberg Lied Academy, the Académie Orsay-Royaumont, the Yehudi Menuhin LIFE Music Now Foundation, the Yordan Kamdzhalov Foundation and is a member of the International Hugo Wolf Academy.  


Elitsa is currently based in Vienna.


Elitsa Desseva
“I am constantly turning life into music“
Brigitte Fassbaender, mezzo-soprano opera singer and a stage director

“Eine Bombenbegabung! Sowas habe ich lange nicht gehört!”

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contact: from the verb contingere, con- ‘together with’ + tangere ‘to touch’