The Young Musician of the Year 2018 Grand Final saw nine performances from pupils who had won or been highly commended in the different sections of the school’s annual music competition. The adjudicator was Mark Messenger, Head of Strings at the Royal College of Music. He said: “The standard of music-making was extraordinary. This must be a most wonderful place to be a musician.”
Pianist Joseph Brierly from Year 13 was announced as the Young Musician of the Year 2018.
Q. How did you feel when you were announced as the winner?
A. I was of course delighted! I was pleased with my performance, so knew that regardless of the outcome I could feel I had done myself justice. With such a high quality final it was very satisfying to receive such an endorsement of my playing.
Q. How did you choose the pieces you played?
A. For the competition I played Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G# minor op.32 no.12 and Brahms’ Rhapsody op.79 no.2. Rachmaninoff is possibly my favourite composer, and having played a few of his preludes in the past, I had been planning to learn this particular one for a while. The Brahms formed part of the programme for my piano diploma last summer and was never performed outside the exam so I was keen to revitalise it for the competition.
Q. What did you enjoy most about the competition?
A. Ultimately, I entered the competition simply because I love to perform solo to an audience – it is the opportunity to showcase what you have been working on, and I find the performance process incredibly exciting and rewarding. I also enjoy the camaraderie between the performers. Everyone encourages each other and it is a really friendly atmosphere to perform in, something I would say to anyone unsure about entering. Finally, it is always a pleasure to listen to the high quality music-making of the other musicians.
Q. What piece of advice would you give to anyone entering next year’s competition?
A. I think you should always try and remember that you aren’t just playing a piece of music, you are giving a ‘performance’. Taking the time to prepare and create an atmosphere before starting each piece, and bowing properly to acknowledge the applause at the end of the programme is so important. Additionally, to use the excellent advice of the adjudicator from the final, Mark Messenger, don’t merely convey the music, let the music convey something of yourself and act as a vehicle for the composer’s intentions. Personally, I find playing from memory helps in achieving this by allowing you to more fully immerse yourself in the music, and this is something I would encourage people to try.
Q. What piece of music would you take to a desert island with you?
A. A truly impossible question! My favourite musical form would have to be the piano concerto for the unique rapport between pianist and orchestra, and my ‘favourite’ of these has changed many times over the years, but I often return to the 3rd piano concertos of Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. Perhaps these could fit onto one especially large ‘desert island disc’…?
Q. What musical instrument (that you don’t already play) would you most like to learn?
A. As well as the piano, I also play the cello which is on the bulkier side as instruments go. From a purely practical point of view, I have sometimes bemoaned the fact I didn’t choose to play the violin, a far more manoeuvrable string instrument!