The Norah Sande Award is one of Eastbourne’s many musical treasures. It has strict terms of entry. Competitors must be between 18-25 years of age, and must have been born in Sussex, Kent, Surrey or London, or be resident, training or working in one of those counties. All must have passed Grade Eight with Distinction in piano.
There is never a shortage of applicants, so there are several stages, culminating in a weekend where three pianists are chosen on the Saturday to perform in the Final on Sunday, introduced by artistic director Spencer Freeman MBE.
First on was Maria Luc, 20, from Chichester, of the Royal Northern College of Music. She gave us a Beethoven Sonata, a Study by Ligeti and three Rachmaninoff Preludes. One was struck immediately by the sensitivity of her playing and her ability, as it were, to “make the music her own.”
23 year-old Jonathan Ferrucci studied in Florence, and is presently at London’s Guildhall. With considerable performing experience in London, Australia, Denmark, Hungary and Japan it was no surprise that his phenomenal technique enabled him confidently to present such varied music as a Schubert Sonata movement, a complete Bartok Sonata and some Scriabin.
The last finalist, Misa Saka, was born in Tokyo in 1993. Like Jonathan she is working on a Master’s Degree at the Guidhall. She began with a Haydn Sonata movement, then Thea Musgrave’s Snapshots, and finally Schumann’s Opus 20 Humoreske. As she concluded, many listeners felt they knew who would win the £2000 prize and the opportunity to give a complete recital in Eastbourne. I confess to having no idea, and, interestingly, only one person I quizzed in the interval correctly named the eventual winner.
Spencer introduced judges Timothy Barratt, Richard Deering and chairman David Patrick, who announced that Jonathan had won third prize, Misa was placed second, and the winner was Maria. My one (and truthful) comment is that I should be very happy to see any one of the finalists onstage in the future; and that they each have fine careers ahead of them. By Robin Gregory.