Chopin and Beethoven were popular choices for our many pianist finalists and there were a range of timbres explored, including some magical pianissimo poise and atmosphere from Harvey Xiang, Tom Levy and Max Macmillan. Technical control was plentiful, including impressively smooth semiquaver runs from Yuchao Fan, quick crossing of hands from Ben Jarman in a fiery Gershwin and an enormous orchestral sound from Marcus Laver and Max Li in the Junior category, both commanding and in full control of their instrument. Many of the performers played from memory, demonstrating their complete affinity with their chosen works; Yuqi Cheng and Henry Lewis looked like they were an extension of the piano, fully immersing themselves in brisk Beethoven and Bach respectively.
Three violinists also made the final across the ages. All three showed real intensity in the bow contact with the string and a variety of vibrato speeds to colour their performances. Laurence Yip showed off some highly accomplished double stopping in Wieniawski, Theo Akande playing a gypsy dance exploring the extreme ranges of the violin and Aden Yip taking on Saint-Saëns’ Third Violin Concerto with some impressive opening sul G tone; this piece is often used to examine third year undergraduate students (rather impressive for a 17 year old!) Izaak Stanley played a less familiar piece, ‘In Ireland’, by Hamilton Harty; his sweet flute tone skipped with agility above the thick textures of the piano (superbly played by Mr Hofkes, as ever).
It was a shame that there had to be any winner, as it was such an enjoyable and vibrant concert with each performer bringing something different to the stage. It was almost an impossible task to judge for Mr Matthew Bale, this year’s adjudicator. His overall feedback was overwhelmingly positive about the boys’ accomplishments and he stated that they were all winners.
However, the result was:
Junior: Theo Akande (winner), Max Li (runner up)
Intermediate: Yuqi Cheng (winner), Ben Jarman (runner up)
Senior: Izaak Stanley (winner), Henry Lewis (runner up)
Congratulations, not only to the winners, but to all of the boys on putting on a spectacle and keeping us on the edge of our seats throughout. As an audience we explored a full spectrum of emotions through their playing. Many thanks to our receptive audience who helped put the boys at ease. Bravo to all involved!