BBC Young Musician Final at Symphony Hall by Christopher Morley

Whether or not one approves of the gimlet-eyed exposure of glitzy music competitions, as opposed to the charmingly modest nature of local competitive festivals, it's undeniable that events such as the BBC Young Musician offer students at the highest level of talent a valuable opportunity of making music with supportive, expert professionals.
And the warmth oozing from the CBSO under conductor Mark Wigglesworth at Sunday's final celebrating the 40th anniversary of the biennial event was palpable, generous to each of the three finalists in turn. None of these youngsters appeared fazed by the fact the goings-on in this packed hall were being recorded for television relay and radio broadcast later in the evening (the social media-users among us were sworn not to divulge the result until at least 9.30pm).
Instead the trio were relishing performing alongside one of the world's greatest orchestras in one of the world's greatest concert-halls, and they all took their opportunity with aplomb.
18-year-old cellist Maxim Calver, calm and composed, interacted attentively with the orchestra in an elegant account of Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations. Another 18-year-old, Robert Burton, played with character, zest, and a huge dynamic range in Paul Creston's Concerto for Alto Saxophone.
But it was a 16-year-old, Lauren Zhang, a Saturday student at Royal Birmingham Junior Conservatoire, who made the jaw drop to the floor with her stunningly assured account of Prokofiev's stamina-sapping and finger-crunching Second Piano Concerto, a triumph of mental- and muscle-memory.
She was a deservedly popular winner, presented with the trophy by Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of the 2016 Final at a similar age, and who had just regaled us with a movingly inward finale to Elgar's Cello Concerto.
The rest of Lauren's week was taken up with GCSE exams at her King Edward VI High School for Girls in Edgbaston. This whole event really trumpeted Birmingham to the rest of the world.
Christopher Morley

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