In an article written for The Spectator We’re failing the Menuhin test, Damian Johnson highlights how the ‘worlds toughest violin competition is jam-packed with Asians – and there’s not a single Brit’. The article is based on an interview with the Menuhin Competition artistic director Gordon Back:
‘The truth is,’ says Gordon Back, lowering his voice, ‘that if the violin finalists from the BBC Young Musician of the Year were to enter the Menuhin Competition, they wouldn’t make it to the first round.’ Not through the first round, note, but to the first round: they wouldn’t be good enough to compete.
An odd thing to say because the natural response to that comment would be, “Well no, did anyone really expect the finalists in the Young Musician to make it to the first round of the Menuhin anyway?”
The two competitions are very different. One look at the rules around eligibility, the way in which the competition is run and the prize on offer makes that quite clear.
The Menuhin competition has two competition streams: Junior (for under 16s) and Senior (for under 22s); the repertoire requirements are fixed; and the prize fund is considerable – $10,000 for the Senior first prize and $7,500 for the Junior first prize, with prizes award for second to fifth place.
The BBC Young Musician competition rules invite applicants from a variety of instruments; applicants need to have attained Grade 8 and be under 18; the competition is split into various rounds in which competitors play their own programme of music which can’t exceed more than 8, 12 and 16 minutes for the regional, category audition rounds and category finals respectively; the final sees the soloist performing a concerto between 15 and 30 minutes long, on a stage in front of a massive audience .. oh .. and in front of TV cameras at nearly every stage. The prize is £3,000 plus a trophy and ongoing relationship with YCAT to help develop the individual’s future career.