15 November 2017

This year’s Senior Solo Competition was characterised by some stunning performances from ten of Abingdon’s most accomplished musicians. The standard was extremely high this year – the minimum criterion for entry was a distinction at grade 8 and at least four of the musicians had performing diplomas with distinction to their credit.

The instruments offered covered the full spectrum of woodwind, brass, strings and piano and all the performances were fluent – and a number of them from memory.

Our adjudicator this year was Professor George Caird. A distinguished oboist, and a former Principal of the Birmingham Conservatoire, the Rotterdam Conservatoire and, most recently of the Royal Welsh College of Music, George was eminently qualified for the unenviable task of comparing such widely different musical instruments.

Our pianists included Jason Ng (Chopin’s mighty G minor Ballad), Didier Delgorge (Mendelssohn’s virtuosic Rondo Capriccioso), Ashwin Tennant (Rachmaninov’s Prelude in D major) and Ollie Breach (Chopin’s Nocturne in F minor).

We had the pleasure of hearing three flautists; William Lam (Cécile Chaminade’s charming Flute Concertino), Raffy Armon-Jones (Rutter’s Antique Suite – Waltz) and David Bicarregui (Poulenc’s Flute Sonata – first movement). James Daly played the hugely demanding Gregson Tuba Concerto, 2nd movement, a challenging piece at the best of times, but even more so coming in from cold. He did wonderfully well.

Our string players included cellist, Joe Bradley, who started the competition with Brahms’ wonderfully heroic Sonatensatz, which he played with a warm tone and dextrous conviction. Alvin Tam on violin gave us Symanowski’s Chant de Roxane, one of his diploma pieces, which challenges the soloist to play with huge control in the very stratospheric register of the instrument.

In a wonderfully judged adjudication, Professor Caird gave some generous plaudits and encouragement to all of tonight’s performers. He was able to empathise with all the technical and musical challenges of the repertoire presented and referred to a number of developmental points for the performers to think about, largely to do with finding and projecting a cantabile line, particularly difficult on a mechanical instrument like the piano, but always possible in the hands of a great performer. All the performers were able to take away something to think about.

In his words, all of the performers were winners with a bright future, but the highest places were awarded as follows – joint 3rd place to Joe Bradley and Ashwin Tennant, 2nd place to Didier Delgorge and 1st Prize to William Lam for his Chaminade Flute Concertino, a piece that he is playing with the orchestra at our forthcoming Christmas Concerts.

Our thanks must go to all the performers, their teachers and accompanists, and to Professor George Caird on an absolutely fantastic evening of music making.

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