Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Young Musician Prize 2012

I don't very often get the chance to watch the BBC Young Musician competition when it's on but I did catch the end of it this year. The finalists were pianist Yuanfan Yang, cellist Laura van der Heijden and recorder player Charlotte Barbour-Condini.

Charlotte Barbour-Condini performed the Vivaldi Recorder Concerto. This was a fantastic -if unusual- performance. Barbour-Condini had incorporated cadenzas of her own which at times made the recorder sound not unlike a Japanese shakuhachi. The concerto movements themselves were played with a passion. I'm not up-to-date with current thinking on how music of that period should be played but I suspect it was not a performance for the purist. Not that I wanted it to be. She managed to make the piece into something people not otherwise into classical music might flock to listen to.

Yuanfan Yang gave an excellent account of the Grieg Piano Concerto. I think it is often the case that overplayed,"hackneyed" pieces start their lives as masterpieces and it is good sometimes to reclaim them, to try and listen to them as if they hadn't been played a million times before. However, I think he would have done himself a favour had he chosen a different work. If you want to let the world know that yours is a voice to be listened to then make the listener curious.

Which brings me on to Laura van der Heijden's winning performance of the Walton Cello Concerto. This was a very judicious choice of work, I thought. To use an overused word for the second time, it's a masterpiece of 20th century music and (unlike the Grieg) it doesn't get played enough. This wasn't just a winning performance - it was a masterly, illuminating one. Van der Heijden brought an insight to it I'd expect from an exceptional cellist twice her age (she's 15).

It's hard to imagine a better advert for classical music. The prize? £2,000. And in the week when Britain's got Talent is won by a dog. The prize? £500,000. OK, I'm not comparing like with like - the Walton is about enlightenment, while Pudsey's act is about entertainment. Both, in different ways, involve hard work.The point is I'd have given both prizewinners about £20,000 each and done a bit more to encourage viewers to turn on to Young Musician. BBC4 is a great thing. However, the space a preponderance of digital channels creates for coverage of the arts can also have the effect of sidelining the arts, as only those who know they want to watch a programme change channel and watch it.



13 comments:

Sandy's witterings said...

I have to admit quite liking the dancing dog and I wish the two of them all the best but...
You're quite right, half a million against £2000 for a competition which unearths some of the real talent in the country seems ridiculous.
Thanks for posting this. Walton's cello concerto (infact most stuff from Walton - I've got his 2nd symphony somewhere and that's it) is completely new to me and I'm sure I can listen to Elgar's cello concerto whenever I want.

Rachel Fox said...

BBC prizes vs ITV, I'm afraid. Reminds me of the Blankety Blank cheque book and pen...

We saw some of the Young Musician... totally amazing!

x

Jenny Woolf said...

I don't think the incongruity of this has escaped many of us. I wish I'd seen this and will try to find the whole thing on Listen Again.

Argent said...

Let's hope that young cellist has a lifetime of glorious music-making ahead of her. Can't imagine the dancing dog act will be anything more than a passing - albeit adorable - fad.

I was hugely impressed by the apparent serenity with which Laura van der Heijden played.

Alan Burnett said...

I suspect if the BGT show had been recorded 300 years ago, Handel would have been writing the music for the dancing dog.

patteran said...

I'm with Argent on this (although resistant to the adorable factor).

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments, everyone.

Sandy: Of all the Walton I know, his cello concerto is my favourite.

RF: Dear old Blankety Blank. Perhaps YM should simply award a golden tuning fork. Only old plated, of course, in case anyone gets any ideas.

JW: It's well worth a watch.

Argent: Serenity, or icy composure. What I liked was the way she didn't let the music carry her away - while at the same time playing very expressively.

Alan: Haha! Spot on.

patteran: similarly resistant here.

Jessica Maybury said...

........that's fucking sick.

A Cuban In London said...

I have to admit that I have problems pronouncing Laura's surname but have no qualms at all with her performance. LIke you, I was very impressed with her take on this piece, which, by the way, was unknown to me.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Get Off My Lawn! said...

You have to admit... that's a pretty cute dog.

£2,000 is a ridiculous sum even when not compared to the dog show. How can we expect to produce artists of any note if they can't earn a living?

Rachel Fenton said...

Just lost my comment...I think it's unfair to compare the dog trainer (the dog didn't train itself) and the cellist - snobbish, too - but agree the prize for BGT was ridiculously high and the YMP too low. No need to be mean to anyone though.

Gwil W said...

Dominic I'm convinced the world is nuts and we are all barking mad! Last weekend there was a dog show in Salzburg involving the attendance of 19,000 dogs from far and wide, including (for example) Russia, according to a radio report.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

Mean? I didn't intend to be. However, I've reread the post and changed it slightly. Any annoyance I felt was meant to be directed at the organisers of talent shows, (who often, in the earlier rounds, want people to laugh at incompetent acts) not the participants.