Friday, May 18, 2018

BBC Young Musician 2018

18 May 2018

2018 is the 40th anniversary of the BBC Young Musician competition, making me feel very old as I can remember the first one in 1978 (and most of the subsequent biennial competitions). I have written here about the past six finals (see: and I think the 2016 Concerto Final (reviewed here in May 2016) may have been the best ever. It was always going to be difficult for this year’s Concerto Final, at Symphony Hall in Birmingham last Sunday, to match the level of its predecessor but it did feature another astounding winner. Most of my writing about BBC Young Musician seems to relate to my own degree of success in predicting the winners. This time I must admit I initially misjudged the eventual winner Lauren Zhang. She didn’t even feature in my top three of the five competitors in the keyboards category final as I mistook her shyness and intensity for a lack of musical personality. By the time I had seen her perform again in the semi-final last Friday I realised my mistake and became convinced she would emerge as the overall winner of this year’s competition. Her performance in Sunday’s final of Prokofiev’s ‘Piano Concerto No 2’ was astounding: I think she could have won on the basis of the remarkable first movement cadenza alone. It was a good example of how the competition often seems to unearth someone really special. After a few years in the wilderness the BBC has now got its coverage of Young Musician just about perfect – restrained, respectful and very focussed on the music. So it was a real shame to end the final by pointing a microphone at Lauren Zhang at her moment of triumph to ask her “how do you feel?” – just don’t do that. But otherwise it was a lovely final with excellent performances by ‘cellist Maxim Calver and saxophone player Rob Burton before Lauren Zhang’s Prokofiev took us to a different level.

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