Winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition 2021 announced

Congratulations to 23-year-old Alim Beisembayev from Kazakhstan for his Leeds International Piano Competition win. Beisembayev is the first prize-winner from Kazakhstan in the history of the Leeds International Piano Competition.

He’s secured £25,000 cash prize plus a contract with Askonas Holt, a recording deal with Warner Classics, plus a European tour organised with partners Steinway & Sons

He also gets to perform with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on 23 September and will also have future concert opportunities at Wigmore Hall and Southbank Centre.

My money was on Kaito Kobayashi whose performance of Bartok’s third piano concerto earlier this evening really took me by surprise. Twitter followers will have also noticed I’d backed UK pianist Thomas Kelly from South East London. I really enjoyed his performance of Beethoven 4. Endearing. Keep an eye out for him in the years to come.

Royal Overseas League Music Competition 2021 – Wind and Brass Final Winner announced

A tardy post about an event I attended earlier in the week – the first of a series of six competition finals staged by the Royal Overseas League in London. The competition is now in its 69th year.

There was a sense that things were back to normal. No masks. Chit chat. Hubbub. And the opportunity to rub shoulders with musicians and punters alike. Varying ages. A warm convivial atmosphere. Royal Overseas League has an easy charm about it without being too up itself, plus there’s the modest grandeur gives proceedings a bit of a sense of ocassion.

As is often the case in these situations, I failed to pick the winner form the four person line up. All provided comeplling cases for proceeding to the Gold Medal Final in November. I enjoyed  Aaron Akugbo’s depiction of a musician getting increasingly frustrated over performances (a wiley recital opener).

Scottish soprano sax players Lewis Banks nudged ahead of the pack by introducing his programme.

My money was on penultimate competitor clarinettist Lewis Graham whose unfussy but precise and rapid articulation was a joy to behold.

The winner was flautist Marie Sato with a programme concluding with Dutilleux. The Royal College of Music graduate and former BBC Young Musician competitor (2016/2018) gets £5000 from the competition plus the chance to compete in the Gold Medal Final in November.

The competition continues every Tuesday for the next six weeks.

Tickets go quickly (the first final was full) at £15 (or £20 if you’re a non-member). Dates and categories listed below.

21 September: Singers
28 September: Keyboard
5 October: Strings
12 October: Ensemble A (Strings)
19 October: Ensemble B (Mixed)
26 October: Overseas Award
24 November: Gold Medal Final

Ulla Benz calls for help for Aghanistani musicians

Incoming this morning, distressing pictures from a music department in Afghanistan where instruments have reportedly been destroyed by the Taliban.

These images and an associated statement from a German musician who works with Professor William Harvey, an emeritus professor at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, accompany a call for UK musicians and politicians to help rescue musicians from Aghanistan.

Further details about the call for help are included below in the statement sent out by Ulla Benz. Contact details are at the bottom of this blog post.

Ulla Benz is a German violinist who teaches at the Berlin University of the Arts, and is also a medical Doctor in Munich working on a voluntary basis for Cultures in Harmony ( via founder William Harvey who is concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra in Mexico and Emeritus Professor of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (

The situation in Afghanistan for musicians and artists is tragic, and extremely dangerous. In the past weeks the Taliban have been destroying instruments, and now musicians are also being persecuted, their homes burned and people killed.

A WhatsApp group of over one hundred and sixty Afghan musicians is full of cries for help which Ulla and William see on a daily basis. Some of these musicians have also been victims of previous ISIS bombings. Ulla is personally connected to one young musician – seventeen years old – who’s violin was burnt by the Taliban and then she was seriously injured in the Kabul airport bombing, and is now in hospital. Two of her friends were among the fatalities.

This story is representative; other musicians had their houses searched by the Taliban and have had to flee and spend the night in the open, others have already been killed :


The hoped-for solution is to rescue these musicians from Afghanistan and offer them a safe country to live in. Ulla has a compiled a list of more than three hundred musicians and, currently, this list is available from the foreign ministries of Mexico, Italy, Germany and the USA. We know that not one government can take them all these musicians in, so we want to try to get help from everywhere.

Musicians and politicians from the UK are needed to help support this project to rescue musicians from Afghanistan – can anyone help?

Contact for more information :

Ulla Benz

Tel: +49 170 5988913

Who are the Leeds International Piano Competition 2021 Semi-Finalists?

10 pianists representing nine countries through to the semi-final of the world-renowned piano competition.

Announced this evening, ten pianists are through to the semi-finals of the Leeds International Piano Competition. I’m especially clapping my hands together excitedly because UK pianist Thomas Kelly is through. Kelly is something of local celebrity in the Thoroughly Good Catchment Area. He was born in Bromley, South East London, just a 10-minute bus ride from TG HQ.

The Leeds International Piano Competition 2021 Semi-Finalists are:

Alim Beisembayev (23, Kazakhstan)
Dmytro Choni (28, Ukraine)
Thomas Kelly (22, United Kingdom)
Elizaveta Kliuchereva (22, Russia)
Kaito Kobayashi (25, Japan)
Ariel Lanyi (23, Israel)
Yuzhang Li (22, China)
Priscilla Navarro (27, Peru)
Hyunjin Roh (20, South Korea)
Xiaolu Zang (21, China)

When are the Leeds International Piano Competition 2021 Semi-Finals and Finals?

The Semi-Finals and Finals of The Leeds will take place at the University of Leeds and Leeds Town Hall between 12-14 Sept and 17-18 Sept respectively. All rounds have so far been streamed worldwide by, with the Semi-Finals and Finals broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and the Finals aired live on BBC Four from 7pm BST.

The Concerto Final performances take place at Leeds Town Hall with The Leeds’ new orchestral partners, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Manze, alongside an enhanced programme of activities during the Competition in Leeds.

Isserlis, Vengerov, Daniel Hope, Danielle de Niese, and Andreas Ottensamer to appear at the InClassica Music Festival in Dubai

Getting underway this weekend with an impressive line-up of soloists is the InClassica Music Festival in Dubai.

Chamber and orchestral concerts feature in the four-week programme including performances from cellist Steven Isserlis, and violinist Maxim Vengerov. Russian pianist Mikhail Pletnev makes an appearance too, plus Daniel Hope, clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer, and US violinist Gil Shaham. Some of the concerts will be available live via Medici.TV.

Concerts will be staged in both Dubai Opera and the nearby Coca Cola Arena from 28th August until 26 September.

It’s a tantalising possibility after an extended period of digital streams and the opening up of live real-life performances in the UK. Classical music in the searing 36.5C heat jars with my northern European assumptions too.

Concerts live on Medici.TV from Tuesday 31 August 5pm BST. Full concert listing on the InClassica website.

Suzy Klein takes on role of Head of Arts and Classical Music TV in October 2021

News arrives at Thoroughly Good of the appointment of Suzy Klein as Head of Arts and Classical Music TV at the BBC.

BBC Radio 3, TV and Proms presenter Klein takes on her new role in October 2021.

Thoroughly Good can’t think of anyone better to take on the role. Suzy’s path has taken in a range of roles in TV and radio in production, direction and presentation. Her knowledge and experience is considerable and her authority and sincerity on air (and in real-life) makes the appointment as exciting as it is reassuring.

“If my appointment represents something,” said Suzy Klein in the BBC press release, “it is a long-term commitment to the transformative power, inspiration and joy that the arts bring. That’s something I can’t wait to share with my brilliant commissioning team, as we work together to create the most compelling, unmissable programmes for audiences across the UK.”

Cellist Abel Selaocoe signs to Warner Classics

South African cellist Abel Selaocoe has signed to Warner Classics, building on the critical acclaim he’s received for electrifying genre-defying performances given across the UK over the past couple of years. He’s also the recepient of the Paul Hamlyn Composition Award and the PRS Foundation ‘Power Up Award‘.

Selaocoe is currently preparing his debut recording featuring a line-up of jazz, world and baroque artist collaborations.

Thoroughly Good learns from the press release announcing the singing that the debut album will feature “a music about learning to understand different ways we seek refuge, not always a place of comfort but one of empowerment that allows potential to live a fulfilled life.”

Last month Selaocoe appeared at the Ryedale Festival in two programmes – one solo, the other with members of the Manchester Collective. Both were moving experiences to be in attendance at and give a taster of the kind of material to come. Selaocoe is undoubtedly committed to his art, and in its fantastic to see his career develop at the rate it is.

This video uploaded to his YouTube account gives a sense of the early days (it was broadcast on South African TV in 2013) and the journey he’s been on over the past eight years.

Later this month, Selaocoe makes his BBC Proms debut this August 15 with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Clark Rundell in a special programme entirely curated by Abel, which celebrates the journey between African and Western Classical music. He will be joined by his trio Chesaba, Simo Lagnawi and Gnawa London and small choral forces.

What are the four mystery Proms in the 2021 season?

Back at the launch of the BBC Proms season, four dates were billed as ‘Mystery Proms’ – events with music and performers to be announced. Today, the Proms team has announced the details of those four mystery Proms.

Friday 20 August
Mozart’s Requiem
Excerpts from operas by Jean-Philippe Rameau and an orchestral work by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Britten Sinfonia and National Youth Chamber Choir
David Bates conductor

Monday 23 August
Catrin Finch harp and
Seckou Keita kora

Wednesday 8 September
Mahler Symphony No.5
Proms Festival Orchestra

Friday 10 September
Bach Goldberg
Pavel Kolesnikov piano

The Proms Festival Orchestra – a new creation consisting of freelance musicians – on Wednesday 8 September catches my eye in particular, casting my mind back to the Parliament Square demonstration last October highlighting how the Government had failed freelance musicians in setting up the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

David Pickard, Director of the Proms said of the formation of the ensemble, “We are very pleased to be able to engage so many outstanding freelance musicians to form our first Proms Festival Orchestra. Coming together for Mahler’s Fifth Symphony will be an extraordinary and moving experience given the tremendous challenges faced by freelance musicians throughout the pandemic.”

East Lothian’s Lammermuir Festival to run 7-20 September 2021

Royal Philharmonic Society Award-winning Lammermuir Festival returns to East Lothian later this year with a programme of events for distanced audiences.

There are 37 concerts across the two-week festival, with a residency from pianist Jeremy Denk, choral music from Tenebrae, Gesualdo Six, and Marian Consort, plus performances from Dunedin Consort, Roderick Williams, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Chloë Hanslip, Danny Driver, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra,

In addition to selected performances from the festival being made available online, there will also be a series of filmed ‘Secret Places’ performances – made available in November 2021. The series will consist of selected performances from the live festival programme, juxtaposed with new concerts featuring artists performing in secret East Lothian places inaccessible to live concert audiences.

The Lammermuir Festival was founded in 2010 by artistic directors Hugh Macdonald and James Waters. It now presents concerts in September each year in one of Scotland’s East Lothian. 

The full line-up for this year’s festival (available via the Lammermuir website) is a rich and varied affair, including Bach, Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Monteverdi madrigals, and a Dennis Brain tribute to composer Huw Watkins from the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective.

On the final day one concert especially catches my eye. Thoroughly Good Classical Music Podcastee pianist Clare Hammond appears with Richard Uttley paying tribute to the great British inter-war piano duo in Bartlett & Robertson with music by Bach, Debussy, Rachmaninov and Granados.

For more information, listings and to buy tickets, visit the Lammermuir Music Festival website.