St Botolph’s Church Hall, 22nd and 23rd September

From the 54 young musicians who applied, no fewer than 46 took part in the Competition in which the judges and audience heard eleven pianists, eleven sopranos, eight violinists, four mezzo sopranos, three saxophonists, three cellists, two guitarists, two flautists, a trumpeter, a double-bassist and a bass trombonist! From these our judges had the difficult task of selecting just ten finalists.

The judges had lengthy and intense deliberations about the performers and they found it very difficult to achieve much concordance of opinion among themselves, but they were unanimous in awarding the First Prize to the cellist Urška Horvat. Her vigorous and captivating playing of two movements from the Brahms Second Cello Sonata rated her as a winner to me from the outset. In the final she also played beautifully the Prelude Fantasia from the solo cello suite by Gaspar Cassadó.

Urška told Roger Lee that on the day of the final round she had felt very relaxed:

“My aim was to enjoy the performance and convey my thoughts and emotions through music. After the performance I managed to put aside the pressure of the competition. This was very important so that I was not burdened with thoughts of the final result. When they announced my name as the winner of the competition however, I felt thrilled and very grateful. It always feels great when you get a confirmation for your hard work and when you are able to touch people with music.

“Brahms’ Sonata for cello and piano is a piece that is very dear to me. It is part of my standard repertoire because I love performing it. The energy and expressiveness of Brahms’ music suits my temperament which makes storytelling on stage natural and enjoyable.

“The atmosphere of the Music Club of London Competition was very relaxed and friendly. I met new wonderful musicians and the adjudicators were very supportive and accessible. One could sense that they were there for us as the storytellers through music and that they appreciated the performance of every candidate.”

Second Prize winner was pianist Artur Haftman, who was also awarded the Audience Prize. He performed three Chopin pieces: a waltz, a nocturne and a polonaise, plus a Mozkowski crowd pleasing Caprice Espagnole which he played with marvellous repeated notes and thrilling cascades. In the final he finished with the showy Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No.6.

Artur, who is pursuing a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Music, told Roger Lee “I chose pieces with which I could present most of my feelings in music. Though it was not the first time I had performed this repertoire, every performance needs special preparation and attention. The atmosphere was great and the audience was very warm so that we felt that we were being really well supported. I would like to thank the organisers, the judges and especially the audience for their support during the competition.”

The joint winners of the Third Prize were both sopranos. The mezzo Olivia Warburton sang a beautifully varied choice of pieces ranging from Mozart, through Rossini, Gounod and Messager up to the more contemporary Wolf and Bridge. I thought hers a particularly excellent interpretation of his setting of Matthew Arnold’s poem Come to me in my dreams.

Mimi Doulton also sang a very varied repertoire starting with a powerful rendition of a Mozart aria from Cosi fan tutte through songs by Grieg, Schumann and Massenet to the contemporary Wishart’s Pessimist and a Knussen setting of a poem by Rilke.

Robert Mansell, organiser

A longer review can be found in edition 259 of our magazine Harmony