Classical review: BBC Young Musician 2014 Final, Edinburgh

BBC Young Musician 2014 concerto final at the Usher Hall. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

BBC Young Musician 2014 concerto final at the Usher Hall. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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At the end of yesterday’s BBC Young Musician 2014 concerto final at the Usher Hall, chairman of the judging panel, composer James MacMillan, made the announcement many of us must surely have expected: that the winning trophy should go to 17-year-old pianist Martin James Bartlett for his mesmerising performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

BBC Young Musician 2014 Final - Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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Like all three final competitors, Bartlett – a pupil at London’s Purcell School – had the benefit of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, under Kirill Karabits, to support his performance. And what a performance it was. Besides the complete physical composure, the sheer musicality and mastery of tone were captivating from start to finish.

Yet it was a close run thing. Fifteen-year-old percussionist Elliott Gaston-Ross was dynamic and entertaining in Dave Heath’s muscular percussion concerto African Rise/Manhattan Rave, though losing the odd stick slightly threw him.

And recorder player Sophie Westbrooke’s thoughtful account of Gordon Jacobs’ re-orchestrated Suite for recorder and strings was like a breath of fresh air, despite remaining distant in this large acoustic.

Previous winner Laura van Der Heijden’s effortless guest appearance, playing Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations was an added bonus to an uplifting afternoon.

Seen on 18.05.14

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