Through a fog of jet-lag I nevertheless enjoyed watching the finals of the Piano and String categories in BBC Young Musician 2012. The level of technical mastery in these young players is quite astonishing. I’m constantly amazed at how they manage to combine schoolwork with the countless hours of instrumental practice required to reach that level at such a young age. And I wonder how they manage to acquire such admirable composure on the platform by their mid-teens. They look more relaxed and much more media-savvy than I was at their age. Specialist music schools must have a lot to do with it, I think.
My only disappointment was the absence of girls from the Piano final. Where were they? Many of my best piano students are girls and I can hardly believe there weren’t any good candidates.
These days, everyone seems to be able to tackle virtuosic pieces with incredible aplomb; competitor after competitor presented programmes of enormous technical difficulty. Despite the rising level of virtuosity, however, it remains the case that what the audience is hoping for is someone who can combine instrumental mastery with emotion and understanding. That combination is as rare as it ever was. But we did see it, notably in the case of Laura van der Heijden, the 14-year-old cellist who won the String final last night.