BBC Young Musician of the Year 2008 - Brass Semi Final

20-Dec-2007

4BR braved the cold weather to listen to the brass contenders in the BBC Young Musician Semi Finals in Cardiff.


It was certainly brass monkey weather outside in Cardiff on Wednesday evening as a small but appreciative audience made the trip to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama to listen to the Brass Semi Final of the 2008 BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition. 

Inside the austere Bute Theatre however it soon became stiflingly hot, and warm winter padding was shed before the first of the nights eight finalists took to the stage. 

The 2008 Young Musician Competition is being held in Wales for the first time this year (the actual televised final will take place at the magnificent Wales Millennium Centre in May – now that it has received its obligatory financial lifeline after it made Northern Rock look as if it was run by Ebenezer Scrooge). 

BBC Wales also produces the Cardiff Singer of the World, BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year and the Leeds International Piano Competition, so given the high profile of those events you were left wondering why such talented young players (including the string, woodwind, percussion and keyboard semi finals) were all shunted into this poor acoustic and lack lustre venue for the week. It felt like a cheap option (parts of the backdrop looked as if it came off the 1960’s set of Doctor Who) and gave these brass performers no help at all.

The RWCMD is a fine institution, but its main building isn’t, and given that just round the corner there are plenty of more appropriate venues you felt the BBC had opted to save a few pennies on the licence fee.

Eight performers

The eight young performers more than made up for the lack of ambience however in what proved to be an enjoyable evening of recital competition.

It all got off to wiz-bang start too with local trombonist Philip Dewhurst (hailing from Porthcawl but now at Chets) bounding onto the stage to yell out (literally as the case proved to be) ‘Folke Rabe’ by Basta. Unfortunately after a brave rendition (he has also been suffering from a nasty bout of flu recently) his trigger broke and so he had to bound off (this time at a rather more sedate pace) for repairs.

With that Matthew White bridged the gap with impressive performances of ‘Sonata for Euphonium’ by John Reeman, ‘Café 1930’ by Piazzolla and Terry Camsey’s ‘A Joy Untold’. An engaging performer with a frightening technique for one so young, his 15-minute recital flowed with confidence and security, although his final choice seemed a bit of an unwarranted ‘lollipop’. 

The influence of his tutor David Thornton was very much evident in his stylish phrasing and appreciation of the musical line, although the need for a fuller and at times darker hue to his timbre was also apparent too. 

The return of Philip Dewhurst after his repair break seemed to have disturbed the talented young performers focus somewhat and a slightly under par ‘Aria et Polonaise’ by Jongen didn’t show his undoubted talents off to the full. We will hear more of him though.

Trombonist Stephen Sykes (a famous name from a famous banding family) delivered the cleanest and most secure recital of the night.

A controlled reading of the first movement of ‘Sonatine’ by Casterede, was followed by well shaped second movement from Reiche’s ‘Concerto’ and finished off with a technically proficient ‘Brasilia’ by Robin Dewhurst.

If it wanted for anything it was perhaps that touch of flamboyancy – especially in the final piece, but it was impressive playing nonetheless from a very talented musician.

Alexander Edmundson on French horn was perhaps the least secure recital of the evening, although it started with a startling opening to Krol’s ‘Laudatio’ that seemed to set him apart from the three rivals that preceded him.

With an ability to darken the timbre of the sound and a real musical presence to his playing it was a pity that the following ‘Notturno’ and the 1st movement of the Strauss ‘Horn Concerto’ didn’t quite come off as well after such a start. It was however the most mature musical performance of the night and that perhaps swayed the three judges to put him through to the Final.

After the interval

After the interval it was the turn of Tom Brady, a trombonist from Oxford, whose rather statuesque presentational style was rather negating throughout. A pity that as his performance of ‘Bluejohn’ was exemplary, although the quality of production suffered in the David ‘Concertino’ and final movement from the Casterede ‘Sonatine’.

Henry Lindsay on the other hand was a very engaging and enjoyable performer.

A darkly hued tonal quality was full and sonorous, allied to a very impressive technical ability. The opening ‘Ysano’ from ‘Tuber Music’ by Proctor was confidently laid out, whilst the 2nd movement of the ‘Concerto for Double Bass’ by Capuzzi just lacked a little in style, although it bounced along with a fine sense brio. 

Communication

It was however that sense of personality that came through with his playing – he was one of just a couple of performers who really looked as if he was enjoying the experience – something that was alluded to by the judges, who made the point about ‘communication’.

Given that each performer was so technically proficient it was disappointing to see nearly all of them rather subdue their youthful zest and sense of musical enjoyment. There ware a couple of real po-faced lads on show – their body language in particular seemingly stricken with a form of rictus.

Understandably perhaps in ones so young, but it meant that as performers they were rather un-engaging, their personalities hidden behind an invisible wall constructed 12 inches in front of their noses. 

That just left the two Swiftian performers in the shape of the diminutive Peter Moore and the rather more substantial Simon Minshall – it was like watching a musical version of Gulliver’s Travels as they followed each other onto the stage.

11 year old Peter Moore is a startlingly prodigious talent.  Although the sound projection has yet to reach maturity, it is beautifully focused and allied to razor sharp production. Close your eyes and it is hard to believe that you are listening to a player quite so young.

An intelligent selection of pieces also made the most of his talents too – the Bozza ‘Ballade’ played with a fine sense of style and control and the 2nd and 3rd movements of the Larsson ‘Concertino’ delivered with a confident sense of poise and detailed clarity of execution.

The cynic may be inclined to believe that there could be a touch of the ‘aahh’ factor involved with a player so young and cherubic, but not here. This was a hard nosed little nipper playing to the top of his form and fully deserving his place in the final.

Simon Minshall also delivered an intelligently chosen recital in the form of a powerful ‘Toccata’ by Gareth Wood, a languid ‘Nocturne’ by Gliere and a substantive ‘Allegro Maestoso’ by Koetsier.

The quality of the bass trombone tone was a pleasure to hear (rounded and velvety with a neat sense of metallic edge when required), but the tuning between performer and pianist at times was wayward (not helped by the ever increasing temperature in the hall) and it may have just cost him in the final analysis.  
 
With a further break before the announcement a quick recuperative drink to replace lost fluid gave time to discuss with others the possible outcome.

The judges, Ben Foster, David Purser and Helen Vollam had taken their time in their deliberations, and although some in the audience may have felt a little disappointed that their star perfumes didn’t get through, the four that did, Peter Moore, Matthew White, Alexander Edmundson and Henry Lindsay deserved the opportunity to progress from what had been a high standard competition.   

 
Iwan Fox

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