Thursday, July 11, 2013

A gift to remember

Last week I was lucky enough to be one of the adjudicators at Whitgift School's inaugural International Music Competition. This historic public school in Croydon - which has quadrangles, peacocks and wallabies on location, and amazing facilities all round, including a Fazioli grand piano - has started a contest in which exceptional young musicians have the chance to win full scholarships.

Please note that the intention is for this competition to be a regular event - and though the reach is international, the school would love to have more contestants from the UK!

A panel of the school's own dynamic musical leaders Rosanna Whitfield and Philip Winter and "external jurors" - violinists Ivo Stankov and Remus Azoitei, cellist Guy Johnston, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra development director Huw Davies and myself - listened entranced to a cavalcade of young talents from Romania, Moldova, Kosovo, Bulgaria and the UK, looking for three young string players whose lives are about to change...

The standard was quite extraordinary. Our three grand prize scholarship winners were eventually two candidates from the senior class and one from the middle. Dan-Iulian Drutac (17) from Moldova; Hristo Dunev (16) from Bulgaria; and Ion Mosneaga (15) from Moldova. Left, Guy Johnston, pianist Simon Lane and Ion Mosneaga at the reception after the prizewinners' concert. Ion, having excelled in his virtuoso repertoire, then astonished us even more with his mature and poetic Mozart G major Violin Concerto.

Right: team Kosovo, three youngsters who are working hard in testing circumstances to follow their dreams of becoming musicians. Cellist Arian Zherka (left) and violinists Arsim Gashi (the little one) and Bardh Lepaja touched our hearts very much with their natural musicianship and infectiously spirited playing.

In the meantime, Dan-Iulian joined the orchestra of Whitgift students, parents, music teachers and guest pros in the Dvorak 'New World' Symphony to close the event on a high. I've now found a Youtube video of him performing (in Moldova, about 18 months ago) the Vitali Chaconne, one of the pieces which won him the prize. Below.

I'd venture to hope that we found some young men of whom we'll be hearing a lot more in the future; and we want to encourage each and every one of the competitors to build on their experience at this competition, have faith in the irreplaceable combination of talent, hard work and big dreams and really apply themselves to fulfilling their very considerable potential. It was fabulous and a great privilege to meet and hear all of you and we wish you the very, very best for the future.

And here is Dan-Iulian Drutac (uploaded early in 2012):