Tuesday, August 08, 2006

BBC Young Musician of the Year

26 May 2006

I love the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. I think it benefits from only taking place (despite the name) every two years and I have followed it closely from the first competition in 1978. In the early years all the rounds were held at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Somewhere in the vaults of the BBC archives there is a really good close-up of me and my brother concentrating studiously in the audience at the Brass Semi-Final in 1980. (No I wasn’t taking part myself – you had to have Grade 8 with distinction just to enter the qualifying rounds!)

My memories of the concerto finals are particularly vivid: for me the Rachmaninov second piano concerto will always have dual connotations – not just Brief Encounter but also the news of the start of military action in the Falklands appearing on the screen during Anna Markland’s title-winning performance in 1982. And few who saw it would forget the moment when Guy Johnston broke a string in the 2000 final at the start of the Shostakovich first ‘cello concerto and very coolly stood up, walked off the stage and returned a few moments later to restart the piece – and win the competition.

There’s also something wonderfully indulgent about a concert of five concertos – and it’s always a good opportunity to hear some interesting and unusual repertoire. Even though the commentators were a bit sniffy about it, I was particularly taken with the trumpet concerto by Henri Tomasi played by Huw Morgan at this year’s final on Saturday.

I maintained my record of incorrectly predicting the winner of every Young Musician final but I thought Mark Simpson was a worthy winner – it’s obviously good to see a Simpson winning! and he won playing the Nielsen clarinet concerto – one of my favourite composers. If you missed it you can see Mark’s winning performance at http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctwo/ Roll on the 2008 competition …

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