2015 Junior Intercollegiate Piano Competition

Sunday 22 March 2015
Austrian Cultural Forum

Jury: Anda Anastasescu, Janet Obi-Keller, Bobby Chen, Bela Hartmann

1st prize: Damir Durmanovic, Yehudi Menuhin School
2nd prize: James Ellis, Chetham’s School of Music
3rd prize: Lauren Zhang, Birmingham Conservatoire

Damir Durmanovic (Yehudi Menuhin School) was the first prize winner at the 16th Beethoven Junior Intercollegiate Piano Competition 2015, held on Sunday 22 March 2015 at the Austrian Cultural Forum, near London’s Hyde Park. The competition attracted an enthusiastic audience to hear the eight talented competitors, each from a UK Specialist Music School or Junior Conservatoire, performing a Beethoven sonata of their choice and a compulsory Bagatelle, Op 126 No 2 in G minor, before a distinguished jury comprising Anda Anastasescu, Janet Obi-Keller, Bobby Chen, Bela Hartmann. Julian Jacobson, the BPSE UK Chairman, introduced the event, followed by Alberto Portugheis, BPSE Vice-Chairman, who thanked the Austrian Cultural Forum for their generous hospitality and use of the Bösendorfer piano, and welcomed each competitor.

First to perform was Seunghye Park (Guildhall School of Music and Drama) with a rendition of the early sonata Op 2 No 2 in A, which had much clarity and contrast. Next to perform was William Bracken (Royal Northern College of Music) with a forthright account of Sonata Op 7 in E flat, the first of two offered in the competition. We enjoyed the expressive maturity of the reading, complemented with a wide range of dynamics, and he brought out the dramatic silences in the slow movement. Arthur di Francesco (Royal College of Music), one of the youngest competitors, gave an appealing interpretation of the Sonata Op 10 no.3 in D major, his attractive tone colour creating a lyrical mood in the Bagatelle and some involving textures in the sonata. Iain Clarke (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) gave the second performance of sonata Op. 7, with intensity in the second movement, apt clarity and flow in the third movement and plenty of drama and colour in the finale, highlighting the structural contrasts effectively.

Damir Durmanovic (Yehudi Menuhin School gave an impressive interpretation of the Sonata Op. 81a ‘Les Adieux’, producing an exciting and involving account, especially on account of the tempi, with some intrepid virtuosity in evidence, as in the propulsive finale. Durmanovic delved into the structural depth of the work bringing out motivic and harmonic processes, weaving them into a reading of dramatic conviction. His Bagatelle, played before the sonata, was full of interest, as was that of James Ellis (Chetham’s School of Music), who performed after his impressive performance of the sonata Op.110 in A flat, the only ‘late’ work in the programme. Ellis’ admirable evenness and delicacy of tone was enhanced by his purposeful sense of architecture culminating in a compelling fugal finale. Lauren Zhang (Birmingham Conservatoire), one of the youngest competitors, displayed admirable technical facility and accuracy in her bright and energetic account of the Sonata Op 53 in C major, ‘Waldstein’.

Janet Obi-Keller, introducing the Jury’s decision, observed that the standard was generally very high, and congratulated all the participants. First prize winner was Damir Durmanovic (Yehudi Menuhin School), with second prize awarded to James Ellis (Chetham’s School of Music), and third prize to Lauren Zhang (Birmingham Conservatoire). As well as cash awards, the prize winners receive a chance to perform in the 2015 BPSE recital season. All participants received a copy of the BPSE Journal, Arietta no.8 in recognition of their promise and talent. Full details of winner’s concerts will appear on the BPSE website

Written by Malcolm Miller © 2015