Pianist Martin James Bartlett is the winner of the BBC Young Musician 2014 competition, which took place at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on 18 May. The 17-year-old from Essex won the prestigious award with a consummate performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini performed live with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kirill Karabits.
Martin was presented with the award by composer James MacMillan, head of the judging panel, who said it had been a difficult decision for himself and his fellow judges, conductor Alice Farnham, pianist Alice Sara Ott, percussionist Colin Currie and recorder player Michala Petri.
The other finalists, both 15 years old, were percussionist Elliott Gaston-Ross, who performed David Heath’s African Sunrise/Manhattan Rave and recorder player Sophie Westbrooke who presented David Knott’s arrangement for chamber orchestra of Gordon Jacob’s Suite for recorder and strings.
Two other BBC Young Musician category finalists, saxophonist Jess Gillam and pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, were presented with 2014 bursary awards of £1,000 each, in memory of Walter Todds, founder of BBC Young Musician.
Broadcast in delayed transmission on BBC Four, the afternoon final was presented by Clemency Burton-Hill with Alison Balsom, Miloš Karadaglić and BBC Young Musician ambassador Nicola Benedetti, who won the title 10 years ago at the Usher Hall.
Benedetti’s appointment this year as ambassador is the first of its kind for the competition, at a time when increasing numbers of high-profile musicians are giving public support to music education.
Since it was established in 1978, BBC Young Musician has established an enviable reputation for discovering outstanding new talent. Other former winners present at the Edinburgh final included last year’s winner, cellist Laura van der Heijden, who performed Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, op 33 with the BBC SSO, and the 1980 winner, oboist Nicholas Daniel, who joined presenter Jamie MacDougall to provide commentary on BBC Radio 3.
For Bartlett it was a case of second time lucky, as the pianist had also competed for the title in the 2012 final. He began learning the piano at the age of six, going on to study at the Royal College of Music’s Junior Department with Emily Jeffrey at the age of eight. She has also been teaching him at the Purcell School since he became a student there in 2010. Bartlett also plays bassoon and recorder, is currently studying for A levels in Music and Physics, and has been awarded full scholarships to three London conservatoires.