What an enjoyable feast of music the BBC Young Musician of the Year has been this year. I have listened to most of the category finals as well as the main finals held over the past weekend. It’s a wonderful example of the talent that exists in this country and, in my humble opinion, should be broadcast with far more regularity on our TVs and radios. The final on Sunday proved to be an exciting climax and the BBC excelled themselves, presenting a really well produced programme which was held at The Sage in Gateshead.
All three finalists proved to be worthy winners. I was delighted to see two females in the final – it’s great to see women taking centre stage. The recorder player Charlotte Barbour-Condini, made history as this was the first time a recorder player has ever been in a Young Musician of the Year final. She performed Vivaldi’s Recorder Concerto in C minor with conductor Kirill Karabits and the Northern Sinfonia, who accompanied all three finalists.
Charlotte produced the most beautiful sound demonstrating that the recorder is more than a fairly whimsical instrument that most children learn at school. I enjoyed the improvisation that opened the piece which Charlotte had written herself. Although not entirely in character with Vivaldi, it did illustrate Charlotte’s perfect breath control and musical prowess. The closing movement was full of vivacity, clarity and impressive fingerwork – the balance of sound between the soloist and orchestra was also well judged.
The second competitor, pianist Yuanfan Yang , was already a Young Musician of the Year veteran having made the category finals two years ago at the age of just 13. He presented Grieg’s ever popular Piano Concerto in A minor. Yuanfan powered through this work with masterful speed; he has ample technical ability and a deep understanding of this style. I enjoyed the impressive cadenza in the first movement which was played with plenty of drama and spirit. The slow movement was beautifully phrased although I felt a greater sense of lyricisim was needed but the last movement was particularly effective being played with great panache and rhythmical clarity. I am sure we will be hearing lot more from Yuanfan.
The final competitor was cellist Laura van der Heijden who bravely chose to play William Walton’s Cello Concerto. There is no doubt that Laura has a very special talent – from the very first note I was captivated by her rich sound, total command of the instrument and mesmeric musical ability. The two slower outer movements were played with beautiful lyricism and such expressivity, and the virtuosic second movement glittered with colour and sparkle. The moving ending was enchanting.
Lara Melda, the winner of Young Musician of the Year 2010 gave an expressive performance of the slow movement of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto whilst the judges made their decision.
All three finalists will go on to have wonderful careers, but the overall winner, Laura van der Heijden, certainly deserved the title. Many congratulations to her and I am looking forward to hearing her superb playing for many years to come.
Here is a clip of Laura playing in the Strings category final.