I didn’t manage to catch many of the programmes charting the progress of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2010, but I’m proud to say that I did pick out the eventual winner, 16-year-old pianist Lara Omeroglu, when she first appeared in a keyboard category final. Not that it was really difficult to do. She seems to have every quality one hopes for in a young performer, or indeed in a performer of any age: intellectual strength, insight, stamina, naturalness, grace and humour. Last night she was the crowning glory of a final in which three exceptional young musicians played concertos with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Callum Smart, aged just 14, played the Mendelssohn violin concerto, Emma Halnan played Reinecke’s flute concerto and Lara Omeroglu performed Saint-Saens’ G minor piano concerto. In all three cases I had to pinch myself to remember how young they really are and how astounding is their level of accomplishment. They were all so composed and technically assured, yet modest too. It’s a tribute to the specialist music schools (the Purcell School near London and Chetham’s School in Manchester) they attend. These schools now regularly produce such well-trained and well-prepared young musicians, often mature beyond their years.
Two years ago when the previous BBC Young Musician competition took place, there was a lot of complaint (including from me) about how the proceedings were relayed on television. We heard barely a few bars of music before fading out to an interview showing each young musician at home, playing computer games, shopping with friends, caring for their rabbits or whatever. There seemed to be a desperate wish on the part of the producers to prove to the general public that these young achievers are ‘ordinary’ after all. This year it was much more sensitively arranged. We heard long chunks of music and had a chance to make up our own minds.