Six young conductors to watch out for in the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition 2021

Twenty young European conductors will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in the 16th biennial Donatella Flick Conducting Competition from 21-23 May 2021 in London. This year’s event marks 30 years since the first Competition in 1991. The winner receives a £15,000 cash prize from Donatella Flick and becomes Assistant Conductor at the London Symphony Orchestra for one year. 

The competition was originally billed to take place in February 2021 but was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s now taking place in a Covid-secure environment with a number of changes in place. 

For the first time all 20 candidates will have the chance to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra which now takes part in all three rounds of the Competition, rather than performing only in the Final. A new jury has been assembled, and each competitor entering the UK will arrive early to quarantine according to UK laws.

The jury consists of conductors Sian Edwards, Carlo Rizzi and Andrew Constantine, winner of the first Competition in 1991 and from the LSO, Principal Bassoon Rachel Gough and David Alberman, the Orchestra’s Chairman and Principal 2nd Violin. The soprano Danielle de Niese and the composer and conductor Sir James MacMillan are also on the panel, which is chaired by Lennox Mackenzie, former Sub-Leader of the LSO. 

The 16th Donatella Flick Conducting Competition takes place from 21-23 May at LSO St Luke’s on London’s Old Street and the Final will be broadcast live on Medici TV (www.medici.tv) from 18.30 BST on Friday 23 May. 

I’ve done a completely unscientific, fairly light touch scoot through the twenty competitors biogs and introductory videos on the competition website to see which competitors draw my attention. One has to a dog in the fight, so to speak. So I’ve hedged my bets and plumped for seven.

Teresa Bohm (Spain)

Not all of the competitors have submitted videos for this year’s competition. Of those that haven’t my eye is drawn to Teresa Riveiro Bohm‘s conducting CV. Already a Conducting Fellow with the BBC Scottish Symphony, Teresa is at the older end of the age range and will undoubtedly maturity and experience to the podium. She is already signed to Intermusica agency. Her digital concert with RCS and SCO winds last November shows her to be a compelling watch with great physical presence, a graceful baton technique, and in the case of Errolyn Wallen’s glorious Cello Concerto last year, a strong assertive beat which is rather pleasing to follow.

Chloe Rook (UK)

Twenty-three year old Chloe Rooke from the UK is currently studying in The Netherlands. She has a remarkable presence for someone who – in my eyes at least – seems so very young. She has remarkable presence and a solid sense of poise. Even in this video her gesticaticulations are strong. It will be fascinating to see how that sense of confidence translates in front of the LSO.

Paul Marsovszky (Germany)

Paul Marsovszky is the twin brother of another Donatella Flick competitor Johannes Marsovszky. There is a calmness to his delivery and stillness his face in this video introduction which makes the prospect of seeing both Marsovszkys conducting in the competition. It will be interesting to see how his range of expressions changes on the podium and what impact that brings about in the players.

Victor Jacob (France)

Victor Jacob is on the list not because he’s a namesake (I’m not that superficial) but because in the line-up of pieces to cameras, Victor’s maturity is reflected in a slightly stronger, warm style of delivery. There feels as though there is experience and perhaps a little more maturity (as a result of being older). His eyes are even in this video remarkably expressive conveying a sense of excitement and anticipation.

Gabriel Venzago (Germany)

But especially interesting is Gabriel Venzago who out of all the videos posted on the Donatella website, there is a dry wit and a healthy dollop of self-deprecation too (“at 31 years of age and the oldest in the competition that makes me the grandfather”) that makes me wonder whether this will be part of his rapport building skills when first working with the LSO.

Felix Benati (France)

I’m especially struck by Felix Benati’s presence on camera. I’m anticipating grand gestures that coax, graceful movement, and precise beats. There is too a rythmic lilting quality to his delivery that makes me want to listen more to what he’s saying. Perhaps his natural expressiveness like that of Victor Jacob makes him worthy of keeping a close eye on too?

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