Violinist Nicola Benedetti Named BBC Young Musician of the Year
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
The Herald [Glasgow] - 5 May 2004
By Brian Donnelly
She has been playing violin since she was four, at eight she was leading the National Children's Orchestra of Scotland, one year later left home to study at the Yehudi Menuhin Music School in Surrey, and at 14 she was named Prodigy of the Year.
Now 16-year-old Nicola Benedetti has become the first Scottish musician to win the coveted title of BBC Young Musician of the Year.
The violinist, from West Kilbride, Ayrshire, scooped the award for her stunning rendition of Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No. 1, much to the delight of the audience in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh.
Local favourite Nicola, now enjoying a schedule that has taken her to New York, triumphed over four other finalists, who collectively formed the youngest group of musicians to reach the final in the competition's 26-year history.
Asked after her performance whether she had been nervous, she said: "I was much less nervous than I expected. I thought I was going to be shaking but I was kind of fine, I think most of my nerves were got rid of the last night because I was really nervous but today I was okay I think."
Nicola shook her head and covered her face when the result was read out by John Sessions, the actor and chairman of the seven-member jury.
She smiled and waved to her cheering friends and family in the audience before accepting the award from the Duchess of Kent, patron of the competition.
The duchess presented Nicola, dressed in a floor-length ivory gown, with a trophy specially designed by John Rocha for Waterford Crystal.
As well as the coveted title she also received a BBC Young Musician Travel Award to promote her musical studies.
A former pupil of Wellington School in Ayr, she is the daughter of Francesca and Gio, an Italian-born businessman. Her older sister, Stephanie, 19 and also an orchestral violinist, is studying at the Royal College of Music in London.
Nicola has already obtained four good GCSEs and plans to do A-level music and possibly French, but she says she wants to do music for the rest of her life and does not intend to go to college or university. Her debut as a soloist came with the Scottish Ensemble on their BAA Scottish Airports High Flyers tour, during which she performed compositions by Craig Armstrong, fellow Scot and Oscar-nominated Moulin Rouge composer.
With the Scottish Ensemble she was described as working at the sharp end, and the highest level, of public performance. As well as playing solo, she will also partner Clio Gould as joint soloist in Alfred Schnittke's Moz-Art a la Haydn.
Sessions said he felt privileged to have been involved in the competition. He said: "I have had the most extraordinary, humbling afternoon. To have seen the work of these young people this afternoon is quite astonishing.
"This has been an extraordinary year. The musicianship has been extremely high. A great performance is always inspiring and today we have been fortunate enough to witness five great performances from five outstanding musicians."
Nicholas Kenyon, controller of BBC Proms and classical music TV, said: "The competition gave the audience in Edinburgh's Usher Hall and BBC television viewers around the country a wonderful chance to see tomorrow's classical music stars at the beginning of their careers."
The other finalists were: Benjamin Grosvenor, 11, of Westcliff on Sea, piano; Adam Walker,16, of Retford, flute; Lucy Beeson, 17, of Stockport, percussion; Daniel de Gruchy-Lambert, 15, of Machen, trumpet.
Jenny Abramsky, director, BBC radio and music, presented Elen Hydref Thomas, Welsh harpist, with the Walter Todds Bursary. The bursary is presented in honour of the competition's founder to a performer who did not reach the final but who showed great musical potential.
Last month, it was reported that several record companies were offering Nicola a record deal worth more than £1 million.
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