For 29 years Eastbourne’s own orchestra has organised a competition to discover young musicians capable of performing with a full orchestra. There were over 30 entrants this year, and the five finalists played at the Birley Centre on Sunday February 7.
Competitors came from far and wide. The finalists this year included, for example, a cellist from Turkey and a pianist from Rumania. All are required to offer two contrasted works in order to display true mastery of their instruments.
Emma Halnan (flute), graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, had won second prize last year, and entered again playing Mozart and Khachaturian. Offering Mozart and Chopin was Cristian Sandrin (piano) from the Royal College of Music, as was Thomas Isaac (cello) who gave us Haydn and Dvorak. From the Junior Department of the same college came Ben Goldscheider (horn) who offered Mozart and Richard Strauss. During the period when the judges came to their conclusions, 16-year-old flautist Hambel Goodchild from the Purcell School (who had already been awarded the St Cecilia Bequest) played pieces by Godard, Fauré, Piazzolla and Mouquet.
So who took the main prizes? This year two performers won the opportunity to return to perform with the ESO, and I shall certainly look forward to hearing them again. One was Ben Goldscheider, already mentioned, and clearly rated highly by the judges. The other was Jamal Aliyev (also studying at the RCM) who had been the first on stage. He took the first prize and, in my humble opinion, is already a cellist of enormous talent. His phenomenal attack on the opening movement of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto was staggering, and he gave a romantic performance of Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations that surpassed any I have heard, even on disc. Be sure to hear him when he returns on June 19 in St Saviour’s Church. Before that, another date: the ESO’s annual choral concert is Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius on April 24. More from www.eso.org.uk or 07780 993801. By Robin Gregory