Baritone Tom Mole wins Guildhall’s Gold Medal 2021

Congratulations to baritone Tom Mole who has won this year’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama Gold Medal, the School’s prize for outstanding musicians.

Awarded to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years, 2021 was the turn of the singers. The final was staged on Thursday 6 May and made available to watch back on Guildhall School’s website last night. It is now available to view for free for two weeks on the Guildhall website. Tom Mole’s Gold Medal winning performance is available with this deep link.

Tom’s winning performance included Rachmaninov’s V molchanyi nochi taynoy (In the silence of the secret night), Wolf’s Mörike-Lieder: Abschied (Farewell), Finzi’s The Phantom: Earth and Air and Rain, and Moss’ The Floral Dance accompanied by pianist Inês Costa. 

Baritones do as a rule leave me completely flummoxed. Such deep sonorous voices only make sense to me if they’re generated by big set men with age on their side. Mole is 22. His physical presence – he is remarkably tall stood in front of the piano – combined with a steely distant look in his eyes makes for a captivating self-assured performance. Watch him with the sound turned down and keep an eye on his face – the storytelling in his facial expressions is quite something.

The other Gold Medal finalists, tenor Thando Mjandana, soprano Laura Lolita Perešivana and soprano Olivia Boen also performed songs and arias of their choice. Accompanying the singers in the first half of the concert were pianists Josh Ridley and Toby Hession.

This year’s judges featured: Professor Jonathan Vaughan, Vice-Principal & Director of Music at Guildhall School; Huw Humphreys, Head of Music at the Barbican; Gweneth Ann Rand, soprano and alumna; Jordan de Souza, conductor; and the evening’s conductor Natalie Murray Beale.

Mole currently studies with John Evans on the Opera Course at Guildhall School of Music & Drama where he recently gained BMus in Vocal Studies. 

Such competitions are ever more important to highlight. Like the Bicentenary Prize at the Royal Academy of Music in a couple of weeks’ time, and various prizes at the Royal College and other conservatoires, prizes are the calling card for higher education establishments and the work their teaching staff do to develop the next generation of musical talent. One look at the competition alumni for the Gold Medal demonstrates that point. Jacqueline du Pre (cello), Simon Smith (violin), Susan Bickley, Bryn Terfel, Ashley Fripp, and Oliver Waas to pick out a few have all received the award. More are listed in this year’s Gold Medal programme.

Now more than ever is the time to reflect on the contribution higher education has on developing this new talent and, making the UK a location of artistic excellence. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s ridiculous plan to implement a 50% cut in higher education funding for arts subjects threatens that hard-fought reputation for artistic excellence.

In short, Tom Mole’s mastery isn’t a fluke or magic. His win is evidence of what we risk losing if higher education funding is cut.

Touching tribute to Corrine Chapelle penned by Cheryl Frances-Hoad

Composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad has penned a short piece in tribute to violinist Corrine Chapelle who died from cancer in March of this year. Corrine’s Song has been recorded in isolation by Menuhin School alumni including Nicola Benedetti, Alina Ibragimova and Alexander Sitkovetsky.

In February 2021, news broke that Grammy-nominated violinist Corinne Chapelle had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Friends rallied round to raise funds for a course of treatment in Germany, unavailable in the UK. Their efforts raised £171,000. Corinne died in March before the treatment could be completed. She is survived by her partner and six year old daughter Leila.

Described as ‘one of the most promising talents of her generation’ by Yehudi Menuhin, Corinne attended the Yehudi Menuhin School from the age of 16. As soon as her friends knew of Corinne’s illness, a large group of alumni, led by pianist Hyung-ki Joo, gathered together virtually in order to brainstorm how the huge sum for Corinne’s treatment might be raised. One idea, proposed by composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad, was near to completion when the news of Corinne’s death was announced. The alumni decided nevertheless to complete Corinne’s Song, an original piece of music for string orchestra.

It’s a heartfelt musical tribute that tugs at the heartstrings whilst keeping sentimentality at bay. In addition to the painful story the composition represents, there’s also a powerful statement about how musicians unite in a shared goal. There is community to be found in the videography, a demonstration of yet another way that music drives unity and promotes empathy. Much-needed right now.

Audio-mixing by Emmy-nominated composer Halli Cauthery, video-editing by Deniz Kavalali, creative direction by Oli Langford and creative production by Hyung-ki Joo.

through the noise launch crowdfunded classical events ‘noisenights’

Acknowledging the audience’s role in helping create an electrifying classical experience

You may not have heard of through the noise. It’s a new crowdfunding platform specifically built for live classical noisenights events, trialling with a couple of events, one in July featuring Laura van der Heijden and Max Baille; the other with members of Chineke! in August.

A glimpse at the website this morning shows how through the noise creators Jack Bazalgette and Jack Crozier have deftly positioned the brand for the audience they’re looking to target.

First, it’s hosted in a club space in the heart of Hoxton famed for nights curated by people I’ve literally no idea about because I’m twenty years too old. The performers are referred by their first names. Performances are referred to as ‘sets’. And the last set has a bonus late performance thrown in too.

The call-to-action is evocative – ‘back this event’. Audience members are being invited to invest in an ocassion (even if the button to back the event also includes ‘get tickets’).

“We propose ideas for concerts, where the venue, artist dates and everything’s secured,” says Jack Bazalgette when I speak to him early last week. “Then we check it out there and see what happens. I mean, we intend for everything to actually happen. We intend for every concert we propose to happen. But should there be a less than great response, we wouldn’t just put on a bad concert with a 50% attendance. We want all our concerts to be amazing.”

The difference here for me is the importance of the audience creating the atmosphere as well as the musicians themselves. through the noise wants to shift the expectation from the performer to the audience member, empowering the audience to create the audience.

Standing at the front of the venue will demand an £8 investment, seated at the back for £10, with ‘premium’ table and chairs at the front for £22. Drinks on top of that. That makes a night out with live music in a cabaret-style space something in the region of £60-65 for two people if you want a premium seat., £32 if the pair of you are happy to stand. The Laura/Max event is at the point of launch 43% funded.

“I think people feeling like they can see how much backing a concert has got in real-time,” adds Jack. “We want them to feel like when they buy a ticket, when they back it, they’re getting more than just getting their seat to watch the thing that’s already happening. They’re sort of part of making it happen. This potentially has a positive impact on the event itself, influencing the atmosphere of those concerts by bringing together a group of people audience and performers who are invested in it.”

It’s an interesting idea. Ticket-buying but not ticket-buying. A subtle shift in thinking, a modest change in marketing in order to reach out to a different (additional) audience, reminscent of the the OAE Night Shift gigs. The apparent simplicity of the change reminds me learning about David le Page and Orchestra of the Swan’s words and music digital streams, an idea in development prior to lockdown in March 2020.

I ask Jack about where the idea for noisenights had originated.

“We’ve been talking to lots of musicians about ways that we might sort of get into helping the music industry in one way or another. We’d had lots of ideas before lockdown but nothing really solid. Then lockdown happened, and we thought that this was our time to germinate a plan. We spoke to musicians about what they’d be willing to do. And I think it’s gone through a lot of different permuations.

“I suppose it’s just over a year of conversations and talking to loads of people about what they think would work. This is the one so far, seems to make the most sense. We’re just on a mission, really to get as many people going to concerts and enjoying them, and to help make our industry a success. If it doesn’t work, then we’ll do something else.”

“I think we need to get people talking about classical music at the moment,” says Jack. “We need them to talk about it before it actually gets underway. We need to get as much press for classical music as possible. And we need to get that message beyond the classical music network.”

“What matters most to me is, is the actual concerts, the music that’s played in them how good the music is, and what the experience of listening to music is like that and getting the audience in to have that experience. That’s what I care about.”

Through the Noise is gently shifting the responsibility for an electrifying classical experience onto the audience with their noisenight crowdfunding project. A very interesting prospect brought about by the smallest of changes. One to keep an eye on.

noisenights are on 9th July and 28th August 2021 – more information on the through the noise website

And the winner of BBC Young Musician 2020 is …

Percussionist Fang Zhang has secured the 2020 BBC Young Musician title

17-year-old percussionist Zhang was born in China’s Henan province and is a recent student of Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.

The final (along with the semi-final recorded last year but broadcast on Friday) was impressive. A musically strong programme, horn player Annemarie Federle playing Ruth Gipps: Horn Concerto , Op. 58 was an entrancing introduction to a work I’d not heard before, while Ewan Millers performance of Oscar Navarro’s “Legacy” Concerto with its cinematic vibe (whilst still making for a demanding play for the soloist) made for a theatrical conclusion to proceedings.

The winner was, perhaps, easy to spot. Even in the semi-final. Zhang plays with a remarkable assurance that belies his seventeen years.

Perhaps more importantly, the broadcast messaging was reassuring. Previous winner oboist Nicholas Daniel reinforced the importance of live music. Jess Gillam provided a heartfelt sincere perspective that validated a genre that often gets short shrift from cynical types. Anna Lapwood shone without comprising on knowledge and experience.

There is a sting in the tail however. The finalists tonight represent some of the UK’s music conservatoires. The same higher education establishments who will probably see their funding cut by 50% because the current Education Secretary Gavin Williamson regards humanities subjects like drama and music as low priority.

Those who compete in BBC Young Musician are at the beginning of their development. One of the finalists is first year at the Royal Academy of Music. We celebrate these marvellous musicians, but we do so with caution: the Government doesn’t acknowledge the importance of music education at any level.

Will there be another BBC Young Musician competition. Yes. Will it be tougher for the next winner: undoubtedly. We owe it to all of the participants past, present and future to change that.

The English Concert’s Alfonso Leal del Ojo: on being a player-manager

Alfonso Leal del Ojo, CEO of The English Concert reflects on his role as a player-manager in a guest blog for Thoroughly Good

As a player-manager, my journey in the performing arts has probably been slightly unconventional, although by no means unique. I started filling a gap at the Irish Baroque Orchestra in 2007. I led the Dunedin Consort during tremendous growth between 2010 until 2019, when I took on my current role at The English Concert.

There are some notable examples of successful musicians that have made a career as managers; Clive Gillinson (Carnegie Hall), Marshall Marcus (European Union Youth Orchestra), Alasdair Tait (YCAT), Julia Desbruslais (London Mozart Players), Giulio d’Alessio (Il Pomo d’Oro) and others.

Non-player managers have the same passion for the art form as those that have been successful as musicians. What differentiates us is that we have known for longer and in closer quarters what players tend to think about managers which at times can be negative. I have been playing with The English Concert as principal viola since 2007, so when I joined as chief executive, I knew the group well, its people, our audience and supporters. I have continued performing alongside my management career, and I think that being on stage with my colleagues has allowed me to forge a more trusting relationship with them than would otherwise have been possible.

Sometimes, they will disagree with me, it’s only natural, but I would like to think that fundamentally, they understand more readily that I have their best interests at heart and that I am doing my best for the success of The English Concert as a whole. This has been particularly important in the context of what we have all lived through since March last year.

There has been so much upheaval for all of us working in the performing arts. Working in the current environment has been a constant battle, hours of planning and coming up with contingency plans, finding out that the contingency plans were not even close to meet our worst expectations, replanning again and finally, sometimes, being able to come above the parapet and present some work.

When I joined in as Chief Executive, I wanted to ensure the live performances that were reaching thousands of people on tour remained alive for longer, and those that could not make it to the concert hall could experience some of the magic and put in place a strategy to record our Handel operas (either in video or commercial recording).

The English Concert’s recording of Handel’s Rodelinda featuring Iestyn Davies, who in this video introduces the character he plays in ‘Who is Bertarido?’

In March 2019, we should have toured Handel’s Rodelinda to the USA, Europe, and the UK, but it could not be, so I am particularly pleased we could rescue the recording plans, which will see the light of day later this month.

Last month we were meant to tour and record Handel’s Tamerlano. All performances we had planned were cancelled one by one, but I kept pushing to ensure the scheduled recording could happen. Unfortunately, strict quarantine rules for non-UK based artists meant some of our soloists were unable to join us, and with one of them contracting the virus just before we were about to start, the project could not move forward.

What could we do? We owed it to our musicians to support them financially and maintain our sense of purpose, but equally to our audience and to our donors who had very generously supported our plans. Earlier in March, Lady Linda Davies from the KT Wong Foundation had approached us to film Handel’s La Resurrezione for Sky Arts. There was something especially poignant about recording a piece of music that spoke of resurrection after the performing arts had experienced such a devastating loss. 

Tamerlano was off the table, but discovering La Resurrezione left us wanting to explore the piece in more depth. The constraints of TV production meant we had had to cut the piece, so here we had our opportunity to work on the piece in full. We had to make some changes to the cast to honour our commitment to the artists we had booked for Tamerlano, but the decision felt right.

There have been various moments in my career when, as a performer, I have felt we were creating something exceptional. These last few weeks of being involved in La Resurrezione have felt that way, and I am sure that the recording will capture some of the extraordinary excitement we all felt.

I have been very fortunate to have experienced some wonderful moments on stage with my colleagues. In 2017, at the last performance of our tour of Ariodante at Carnegie Hall, after the second break (already three hours into the concert!), we came on stage before Harry and the soloists, and the audience went wild for the orchestra. It made me feel so proud!

Of course, the soloists were exceptional and the music stunning, but it was very special to be on stage. I certainly didn’t envisage when I was an awkward teenager living in Seville, buying CDs of all these fantastic musicians that I would end up doing just that, let alone running one of the most celebrated chamber orchestras in the world.

SKY ARTS and the KT Wong Foundation present a brand-new production of Handel’s rarely performed sacred oratorio – La Resurrezione broadcast on Sky Arts on Monday 3 May at 7pm.

Handel’s Rodelinda is released on 14 May and is the first Handel title The English Concert is releasing as part of its association with Linn Records.

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?

Music’s biggest problem

Last night I posted a screengrab on Facebook of the Cameron Mackintosh quote that’s doing the rounds at the moment in response to the news about musicians being cut from Phantom of the Opera.

Responses were mixed. Some were shocked. Some highlighted how they knew already Cameron had a tendency for dickishnesh,

One individual (a friend of a friend) outlined how sorry he was that people had lost their jobs, adding that one shouldn’t blame Cameron Mackintosh ‘for wanting to safeguard his business’. This from someone commenting on how much he had enjoyed one of Mackintosh’s productions after receiving a complimentary ticket from the man himself.

I’m not angry with the individual who posted the comment (well, not that much). In a way I’m grateful. The exchange has deepened my understanding.

We are a society made up of multiple generations who demand music, entertainment, and maybe even art, but don’t appreciate, recognise, or even acknowledge that human beings are involved in making it. For the majority, it’s inconceivable that people should even derive livelihoods from their talent.

We do not value music. We don’t value the talent required to make it. We don’t even appreciate it. To dismiss valuing it is seen by some as fun. Sport perhaps. That is our biggest problem. That’s what we need to change.

Southbank Centre’s Summer Reunion starts 28 May with concerts from Chineke!, Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia

Very pleased to receive a press release this morning detailing a whole range of indoor, outdoor and broadcast events the Southbank Centre has planned for the coming months up until August of this year. I’m counting down the days.

There’s a fair range of indoor classical events in the Royal Festival Hall including some well-chosen works that make for fitting musical statements that document the return of live music. Vaughan Williams 5 in particular will be a must-attend.

Chineke! kicks off the Summer Reunion with soloist Sheku Kanneh-Mason performing Dvořák’s Cello Concerto (28 June). The following day, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra brings families together for its popular format, ‘Noisy Kids: Heroes & Villains’ (29 June).

The following week in June Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Esa-Pekka Salonen bows out with two unmissable concerts with the Philharmonia Orchestra after a disrupted final season; he is joined by Yefim Bronfman (4 June) and Mitsuko Uchida (10 June), two of his long-time collaborators.

The re-opening of the Southbank Centre coincides with the venue’s 70th anniversary. In May 1951 the Royal Festival Hall opened its doors for the first time as part of the ‘Festival of Britain’ – billed then as a post-war ‘tonic for the nation’.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Royal Festival Hall, a specially-commissioned poem about the beloved venue by Theresa Lola is to be filmed and released worldwide on 3 May. Theresa Lola is a British-Nigerian poet based in London and was appointed the 2019/2020 Young People’s Laureate for London.

Saturday 28 June, 7.30pm
Chineke! with Sheku-Kanneh Mason
Dvorak Cello Concerto

Wednesday 2 June, 7.30pm
Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Haydn Cello Concerto
Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5

Thursday 3 June, 7.30pm
Alina Ibragimova and Friends
Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time

Friday 4 June, 7.30pm
Esa Pekka Salonen with Philharmonia Orchestra
Beethoven Symphony No. 1
Lizst Piano Concerto No. 2
Sibelius Symphony No. 7

Thursday 10 June, 7.30pm
Philharmonia Orchestra & Mitsuko Uchida
Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3

Friday 25 June, 7.30pm
Philharmonia Orchestra & Bach Choir
Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius

Sunday 4 July, 3pm
Nicola Benedetti with Aurora Orchestra
Beethoven Violin Concerto

Tickets go on sale to Southbank Centre members on Tuesday 27 April, and to non-members on Wednesday 28 April. Seating is limited in accordance with COVID guidelines but is anticipated to return to normal capacity on 21 June. More information on the Southbank Centre website.

Last week the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra also announced a programme of concerts running from May to July 2021.

Review: Andreas Ottensamer makes UK conducting debut with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Last night Andreas Ottensamer made his UK conducting debut with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in a programme of Mozart and Mendelssohn. The concert ran to just over an hour, was performed to an empty auditorium due to current COVID-restrictions, and streamed live via the BSO website.

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with Andreas Ottensamer is available to watch on-demand until 21 May.

Ottensamer & the BSO

Ottensamer is a youthful presence on the stage with a long frame and more than a whiff of Hector Berlioz about him. Bold gestures and long sweeping movements spanning a near 180 degrees, with a smooth and precise baton technique that caresses and cajoles, are where Ottensamer thrives.

Broadly speaking, Mendelssohn’s music – both the Hebrides and ‘Italian’ symphony felt like a better fit for him in terms of physical expression, where Ottensamer appeared more at ease with a greater range, and more flexibility in his upper body.

There were occasions during the Mozart Haffner when his communication felt a little like he was appeasing rather than directing, as though there was a need to manage the transition from player to conductor.

Similarly in the ‘Italian’ when viewers saw him readying the orchestra before embarking on the final movement. Naturally, the band needs to be ready before they can start playing music, but maybe some of the excitement about the work as a whole is the energy that is maintained throughout. In order to achieve that does the transition between third and fourth movement need to be commanded rather than guided by consensus? I’m not 100% sure. What I appreciated was how the performance made me pose the question to myself.

There were ensemble discrepancies between wind and strings, and in the strings in various places, notably in the second movement of the Haffner – a case of distancing amplifying slightly ambiguous direction. I even wondered whether the strong beats were at the eye line for the front desk but not necessarily visible by those at the back.

But one has to be mindful that these are not exactly the best conditions for a relatively inexperienced conductor. The important point here is that a musician with a considerable worldwide reputation was doing something live amid difficult circumstances.

All this said, there were some touching moments throughout, notably in the third movement minuet of the Haffner which was warm, expansive and, where called for in the score, had a gratifyingly chamber-like feel.

Sound

The sound mix from the BSO is by far the most authentic of the digital streams I’ve watched over the past few months, partly because it’s a live relay. This provides a true reflection of the some of the challenges faced by distanced playing, noticeable in ensemble between the strings and winds at the beginning of the Haffner and Mendelssohn’s Hebrides. That unintended consequence is an authentic trigger for in-person concert experiences where not every performance is perfect.

But that authenticity comes at a cost. The lack of an audience means a boomier auditorium ambience. That created moments in the Hebrides Overture (where the tempo necessarily adopted so the detail wasn’t overlooked) that felt like heavy weather (forgive the pun). In loud-tutti sections the first violins felt distant and overpowered.

Visuals

When BSO began their live streams (in September of last year) they did well to establish themselves as one of only a handful of orchestras that truly performed as live. This made the visuals less of a problem for me because I was experiencing a live moment. A few months later now that other orchestras have used their ACE funding to create more polished pre-recorded ‘as live’ and patched digital concerts, so the visual discrepancies in BSO’s live relay are more evident and, in some cases, interrupt the viewing experience.

Some small adjustments only need to be made to improve the look and feel. Specifically, using hard cuts between shots rather than cross-fades (cuts reduce the pixellation caused by compression when two shots blend). This would help compensate for the challenges of distanced playing, especially in the faster seqeunces. The final movement of Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ would undoubtedly have benefited from fast cuts at the end of phrases in order to increase the excitement articulated in the chuntering string lines.

There are fixed shots that might benefit from being adjusting in order to improve the focal point in the image. Sometimes there were shots where the focal point was a microphone on the stage. This jarred when transitioning from the previous close-up of the principal second.

There are also moments in time when cutting back to the conductor for the upbeat (or a split second before the beginning of a new phrase) needs to be tighter so as to now crash the previous musical idea coming to an end. This would limit visual interruption.

The image contrast in the wide shots probably drives the current orange bias in the shots, hence why I wonder whether a spot of colour grading (or changing the white balance) might help create a more cinematic feel, reducing the gap between BSO’s output and say the OAE’s.

User Experience

Where BSO is consistently reliable is undoubtedly in their digital user experience. Page design is uncluttered projecting a fresh unpretentious image of the band. The copy is clear, informative and useful, and bold navigation with clear white space guides the user. This establishes a perception of product reliability, and brand openness and accessibility.

Leeds International Piano Competition second round participants for 2021 announced

In what feels like a stream of announcements about live events returning, news from Leed International Piano Competition about its second-round in September 2021 is very welcome indeed. If there is a must-attend in the calendar it has to be ‘The Leeds’. My jaunt to hear Eric Lu was a very special affair indeed.

The twenty-four shortlisted competitors are from 18 countries: three from China; two from Britain, Russia, South Korea & Ukraine and one from Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Germany, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Peru and Poland.

Finalists will compete for generous cash prizes, worth over £90,000, in addition to a selection of industry packages that support young artists at the beginning of their careers, including artistic management from Askonas Holt, a studio recording with Warner Classics, a major European tour organised with partners Steinway & Sons, plus concert and recording opportunities with London’s Wigmore Hall, Southbank Centre and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Who are the competitors in the second round of the Leeds International Piano Competition?

Those competitors with Spotify tracks available are linked below.

For full biographical details visit the Leeds Piano website.

1. Nour Ayadi (21, Morocco)
2. Alim Beisembayev (22, Kazakhstan)
3. Dmytro Choni (27, Ukraine)
4. Federico Gad Crema (21, Italy)
5. Galyna Gusachenko (28. Ukraine)
6. Arseniy Gusev (22, Russia)
7. Tyler Hay (26, British)
8. So Hyang In (29, South Korea)
9. Thomas Kelly (22, British)
10. Elizaveta Kliuchereva (21, Russia)
11. Kaito Kobayashi (25, Japan)
12. Maximilian Kromer (24, Austria)
13. Lucas Krupinski (28, Poland)
14. Ariel Lanyi (23, Israel)
15. Ying Li (23, China)
16. Yuzhang Li (21, China)
17. Lovre Marusic (28, Croatia)
18. Priscila Navarro (26, Peru)
19. Hyunjin Roh (20, South Korea)
20. Arash Rokni (27, Iran)
21. Victoria Vassilenko (28, Bulgaria)
22. Tony (Yike) Yang (22, Canada)
23. Gabriel Yeo (22, Germany)
24. Xiaolu Zang (21, China)

Who is on the jury of the Leeds International Piano Competition?

Imogen Cooper (England)
Artistic Director Adam Gatehouse (England)
Silke Avenhaus (Germany)
Inon Barnatan (Israel/ USA),
Adrian Brendel (England)
Gaetan Le Divelec (France)
Ingrid Fliter (Argentina)
Ludovic Morlot (France/ USA)
Steven Osborne (Scotland)

When is the Leeds International Piano Competition?

The second round of the Leeds International Piano Concerto runs from 8-10 September.

The semi-finals will be staged from 12-14 September. The Finals will run from 17 – 18 September.

All stages will be screened on Medici.TV

Live audience tickets available via the Leeds Piano website.