Showing posts with label BBC Young Musician of the Year. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BBC Young Musician of the Year. Show all posts

Monday, May 14, 2018

Young Musicians All

Lauren Zhang plays Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto with the CBSO in the BBC Young Musician final
Photo: Greg Milner

Coinciding with yesterday's apparently stunning final of this year's BBC Young Musicians Competition, oboist Nicholas Daniel and a magnificent roster of fellow past winners - Nicky Benedetti, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Natalie Clein, Guy Johnston and many more - have launched a plea for music lessons to be available free of charge to every primary school pupil in the country.

The BBC YMoY is 40 this year and has helped to inspire several generations of young people to love music and want to play it. This (along with so much else in the UK at present) is desperately under threat. 

Here's some of the letter:

"....despite some brilliant schemes, we are all deeply concerned that instrumental music learning is being left to decay in many British schools to the point that it could seriously damage the future of music here and jeopardise British music’s hard won worldwide reputation.
"Today, we are launching a campaign for every primary school child to be taught to play an instrument, at no cost to them or their families. It is crucial to restore music’s rightful place in children’s lives, not only with all the clear social and educational benefits, but showing them the joy of making and sharing music. We are especially concerned that this should be a universal right. This is an opportunity to show the world that we care about music’s future and its beneficial impact on our children.
"Musical life in the London Borough of Newham could be one example, with their excellent Every Child A Musician scheme. The programme gifts all of their primary school children a free instrument to keep and teaches them how to read and play music in weekly lessons. This at no cost to the children or their families.
"We believe that every child deserves to enjoy the benefits of Ecam and other excellent schemes, and their widespread adoption would alleviate many of our current concerns about the future of music in this country..."
Meanwhile 16-year-old pianist Lauren Zhang from Birmingham swept to victory at yesterday's final, playing Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No.2. It's not a piece you expect to pitch up in a competition final - dark, intense, tragic, as well as phenomenally challenging in technical terms - and everyone I know who heard this performance was blown away. I managed to miss it and will catch it on the much-blessed iPlayer - you can too, here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Sheku and BBCYM flying high

Lovely, that! Sheku Kanneh-Mason playing his own cello version of No Woman, No Cry, which features on his smash-hit debut album Inspiration. I don't need to remind anyone that it was the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition 2016 that launched him out of Nottingham straight into the nation's musical heart.

Now it's time once again for the BBC Young Musician of the Year, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary. Gearing up for it, a TV documentary on BBC 4 last night explored the stories of the three young stars who emerged last time: Sheku himself plus saxophonist Jess Gillam and horn player Ben Goldscheider. It also traces the competition's history with memories from those who took part - Nicholas Daniel, Natalie Clein, Alison Balsom and more - and many more. I was honoured to be among the commentators.

I well remember when it all began, and as a musical child of sorts I was much exercised to realise, thanks to my own peer group, just how far behind them I was. Seeing the likes of Nicholas Daniel, Tasmin Little and all the rest of them on the TV was a tremendous inspiration - so much so that I even insisted on trying to take up the oboe when I was 13. It was a total disaster, but got me out of hockey lessons for a year.

One hasn't always been exactly uncritical of the format and presentation of the series, which at times has veered too much towards TV for the sake of it and too little towards the actual music - but the 2016 edition was a massive improvement and I'm looking forward to seeing what transpires this year.

You can catch up with last night's programme on the BBC iPlayer here (UK only):

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Just listen to the BBC Young Musician of the Year's strings winner

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, 16, has won the strings final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year. Just listen to him play this Rachmaninoff Elégie, with his sister Isata Kanneh-Mason at the piano. I hope you're as bowled over as I was during my rushed attempt at a catch-up on the competition's progress.

Sheku will be taking his place in the grand final at the Barbican on Sunday alongside saxophonist Jess Gillham and horn player Ben Goldscheider. Three wonderful performers - I just wish all of them could win outright.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Third go for prizewinning pianist in BBC Young Musician final

The BBC has announced the line-up of category finalists for its Young Musician of the Year 2016. There are some exciting names on the list, including some we've come across before and loved hearing, in a variety of contexts, and a couple who are apparently gluttons for punishment since they are taking their second try - or, in one case, even a third shot at the contest despite having won his category before.

Watch out for cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason - from a whole family of gifted musical he is with his violinist brother Braimah playing the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia:

Terrific saxophonist Jess Gillam was in the contest in 2014 and proved herself local heroine at last year's festival in her Lake District home town of Ulverston...

Then there's pianist Julian Trevelyan, who was also in the 2014 and won the top prize (2nd - no first awarded) in the 2015 Long-Thibaud-Crespin Competition in Paris. Here he is in some mightily impressive Shostakovich in another competition in France recently:

And the third go? Quite remarkably, the pianist Yuanfan Yang is back for yet another try for the top. Then a pupil at Chetham's, he won the BBCYM piano prize in 2012 and two years earlier was the youngest contestant in the category's final. He is now 19 and has established a very promising international career. But evidently he still wants to win this particular thing outright and over all. Will it be third time lucky for Yuanfan? Here he is in the final four years ago:

That's just small a taster of some of the amazing talent that this competition continues to attract and showcase - and I can't wait to hear all the others as well. What a shame that, in true TV talent contest style, "There can only be one winner"...

Here's the full line-up:

Jackie Campbell (15) – piano
Tomoka Kan (17) – piano
Harvey Lin (13) – piano
Julian Trevelyan (17) – piano
Yuanfan Yang (19) – piano

Polly Bartlett (17) – recorder
Lucy Driver (17) – flute
Jess Gillam (17) – saxophone
Joanne Lee (15) – flute
Marie Sato (15) – flute

Matthew Brett (14)
Hristiyan Hristov (17)
Joe Parks (16)
Tom Pritchard (18)
Andrew Woolcock (16)

Sam Dye (16) – trombone
Zak Eastop (18) – trumpet
Ben Goldscheider (18) – french horn
Zoe Perkins (17) – trumpet
Gemma Riley (17) – trombone

Stephanie Childress (16) – violin
Sheku Kanneh-Mason (16) – cello
Charlie Lovell-Jones (16) – violin
Joe Pritchard (16) – cello
Louisa Staples (15) – violin

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pianist, 17, is BBC Young Musician 2014

Huge congratulations to Martin James Bartlett, the young pianist from Hornchurch, Essex, who yesterday was awarded the title of BBC Young Musician 2014. Here's an extract from his performance in the piano final; and you can watch the whole of yesterday's grand finale on the iPlayer here if you missed it. The other finalists were percussionist Elliott Gaston-Ross (15) and recorder player Sophie Westbrooke (15).

"It's a passion that's all-consuming, even at weekends," says presenter Milos... I'll leave that little nugget of wisdom for the vocation-driven among you, dear readers, to chew over at leisure.

Martin's Liszt - the bit of it we're allowed to hear here - sounds absolutely gorgeous and the Barber Sonata is seriously impressive. He's doing his A Levels and has been offered scholarships to three conservatoires. I look forward to hearing much, much more of him in the future.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Meanwhile, it's BBC Young Musician 2014 & some of us ain't happy

I've had a sound-off in the Independent about the frustrations of TV format v. music in BBC Young Musician 2014, which reaches its final on Sunday. Concentrate on formula TV first and foremost and who loses out? The music. The competitors. And the audience. Time for a rethink, TV chaps. Stop patronising us and let us hear them play! Here it is:

Monday, December 31, 2012

And JDCMB's top ten posts of 2012 are...

Here are the top ten stories on JDCMB this year. Good to see that among the matters that interested you most were some of the world's top conductors, several exciting young artists and quite a few of the quirky JDCMB pieces that you won't find anywhere else - not least, the April Fool's Day spectacular. Below, listed in reverse order.

Thank you, everyone, for joining me through the roller-coaster highs and lows of 2012 and here's hoping that in 2013 the comets shine bright!

10.  Socks for the Lilac Fairy?                                                  
 Why do balletomanes knit socks for their favourite dancers, but Lang Lang doesn't get gloves from the pianophiles?

Life-enhancing ways to behave at a concert.


Introducing Angelo Villani.

In which I sit in on the great maestro's conducting masterclasses.

Italian romantic in cravat triumphs at the UK's premier piano competition.

You're a pragmatic lot, dear readers, and you know when you're on to a good thing.

Or can there? A look at this year's finalists.

1 April, and it looked like we might all have to play to Gergiev. Delightfully, a few of you fell for this, lock, stock and subsequent red ears.

And in first place...

The maestro gets it all off his chest.

Monday, May 14, 2012

There can only be one BBC Young Musician of the Year...

Thought for Monday: for every musician whose lifelong public career is launched in the arena of BBC Young Musicians, there are maybe 100 more, at least, who vanish. And if there's one thing more dangerous than that, it is to be the BBC Young Musician of the Year - and find you are still BBC Young Musician of the Year when you're 40.

(Above, l to r, this year's "semi-finalists": Charlotte, Alexander, Laura, Yuanfan, Hyun-gi) 

If the BBC YM 2012 contest has left me a tad underwhelmed, that is not the fault of the YMs. Certain other commentators have been applauding the fact that there weren't any screaming audiences and other commodities wheeled out for TV talent shows. But really, the polite, packed, Sage audience aside, the resemblance to The Apprentice was all too obvious.

"...but there can only be one BBC Young Musician of the Year..." Sounds familiar?

Now, look. The Tchaikovsky and Chopin International Competitions manage it. They don't award a first prize if nobody merits it. They sometimes give two silver medals instead of a gold and a silver. Very occasionally they've given a joint gold. Even Dragon's Den lets more than one contestant get an investment. There can be more than one winner; there can be no winner. Someone makes the rules. Perhaps someone can remake them.

And obviously someone already has, because all five section winners of BBCYM used to play a concerto. This time, they had to do a semi-final "play-off". "...but now they must compete against each other!...Two of them will be going home today..." So the final only contained three concertos instead of five, and, shorter.

The trombonist Alexander Kelly and percussionist Hyun-gi Lee had no business being kicked out. They were both fabulous. As purveyors of niche instruments on which a solo career is rare, perhaps they started off at a disadvantage. Occasionally a brass instrument or a percussionist does win BBCYM. Just not very often.

The most daring choice as outright winner would have been Charlotte Barbour-Condini, who made history by being the first recorder player ever to reach the final. Talk about a natural musician: Charlotte has everything - charisma, confidence, tremendous musicality, the bearing and spirit of a mature artist. At least she can reap the benefits now of national TV exposure without the pressures of having won outright; she is apparently just as good at the piano and the violin (!), so she has a little time to choose her direction. Yesterday was her 16th birthday. She will be fine - and will probably remain the most interesting of them all.

Another finalist clearly couldn't wait to get out there and deliver the goods, and was assured enough to perform a (rather engaging) composition of his own in the semis, then, for the big final, the Grieg Piano Concerto, which he seemed to find a piece of cake. I first encountered Yuanfan Yang in 2007 when he was all of ten. He was in the Chetham's International Piano Competition for Young Musicians and he'd already attracted considerable attention. He will be fine, too, no matter what happened yesterday. He'll probably be in the Royal Festival Hall before you can blink.

The 15-year-old cellist Laura Van Der Heijden from Forest Row scooped the award, playing the Walton Cello Concerto. She's lovely, of course: advanced, mature and aware for her age, and that Walton is no small ask. But is she "ready"? When Nicky Benedetti won the prize aged 16, she was "ready" to the point that she'd already been signed up by IMG. Laura has tremendous potential, but it bothers me - through issues such as occasionally insecure intonation - that she may be where she is two years too soon? Time will tell, though, everyone seems to have adored her, and we wish them all the very, very best of luck.

This competition, as Norman Lebrecht has already noted, has failed to ignite attention in the national press. Would it have done so if, instead of being shoe-horned into that Apprentice-like style, it had stayed truer to the nature of its beast within? Then it could have retained, just like a recorder player, its individual niche. But by repositioning itself in too much the vein of other "reality" shows, it's landed itself as a fringe member of a club that doesn't really want to admit it, instead of holding the centre ground of that rare phenomenon, classical music on mainstream TV. 

Next time, please, a reconsideration of what BBCYM really is; and of what it is not; and of how it can maximise its power to assist these gifted young people. You can watch the final for the next 6 days here (UK only).