Sunday 18 May 2014

The BBC Young Musician of the Year 2014 is the 17 year old pianist Martin James Bartlett

This evening saw the finale of the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2014 with the three finalists, Elliot Gaston-Ross (percussion), Sophie Westbrooke (recorder) and Martin James Bartlett (piano).

Elliot Gaston-Ross, aged 15 years, chose to play David Heath’s African Sunrise/Manhatten Rave, written for Evelyn Glennie, where he showed an ability to blend his marimba beautifully with the orchestra with much feeling of expression. Occasionally, in the opening, I felt that he did not reveal a sufficient variety of colours but he showed a particularly fine sense of rhythm handling all the rhythmic changes superbly with fine subtlety of dynamics.  There was terrific precision in the second part where he moved seamlessly between the various percussion instruments in this frenetic piece, really throwing himself into his performance with great spontaneity.

Sophie Westbrooke, aged 15 years, played an arrangement for chamber ensemble by David Knotts, of Gordon Jacob’s Suite for Recorder and Strings. Quite why this arrangement was chosen I do not know but it certainly worked well particularly in this strong performance. This young artist displayed a lovely tone and produced some fine timbres and colours. In the opening she did seem occasionally short breathed but later her control was superb with some beautiful long held phrases. In the more animated sections of this work she displayed some exceptionally fine articulation with subtle little details brought out. There was faultless cadenza and some spectacularly vibrant playing in the final section where she changed to the sopranino recorder.

Martin James Bartlett, aged 17 years, seemed naturally attuned to his choice of work, Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini displaying a light touch in the opening but soon revealing that he is an immensely assured musician who allowed much freedom to his playing. There was some lovely crisp articulation and playing of superb strength. This was a particularly individual performance of great character. It is difficult enough for any artist to bring something fresh to this popular work but this young pianist did so spectacularly, showing himself to already be a fully rounded artist.

Kirill Karabits and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra gave terrific support to these fine young musicians.

The BBC Young Musician of the Year 2014 was indeed, Martin James Bartlett who must surely have a fine career ahead of him. Congratulations must be given to all the finalists who no doubt will go on to achieve fine careers.

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