BBC Young Musician: Woodwind Final

I 'm conscious I haven't posted my thoughts on last week’s Percussion Final yet. I will eventually, but as last night was the woodwind final I thought I’d get that out of the way first. 

Saxophonist Robert Burton opened with a bold unaccompanied new piece by Graeme Fitkin. It is a gorgeous thing to hear on soprano saxophone and Burton's tone is something to behold – smooth, warm and enticing. There’s a solidity to his playing too that is incredibly reassuring – the Fitkin piece is also an engaging piece of storytelling.

That solidity and confidence continued in the first movement of the Paul Creston saxophone sonata with broad romantic sweeps and some beautifully taut articulation. I’m not a big of Piazzolla, but the Tango Escualo is a wild thing which Robert Burton fired off effortlessly at the same time as a seamless demonstration of isolation. Was the final note a bit flat? Not sure. But the last impact of Burton's performance didn't suffer because of it. 

Flautist Marie Sato opened with Faure’s Après un rêve sounded in places as though there wasn’t sufficient control over the sound being produced – sometimes the loud notes ‘split’ or sounded breathy or thin, where the lower registers had the warmer rounder sound I’ve come to expect from this popular piece. Jolivet's Chant di Linos was more successful – the support was there throughout, although some of the faster sequences towards the end felt a little rushed under the fingers.

Francis Bushell on bassoon was a revelation for me. There was spirit, commitment and drive in his performance of the Bordeau that brought personality to the bassoon in a way I’ve not heard often before. There were a few errors, but these didn’t impact what was a hugely engaging performance. X really feels the music – an authenticity that is appealing and works well on TV – and he looks the part too, resolutely occupying the space on stage. Tansman’s Sonatine is a punishing work to conclude an appearance which has already pushed the bassoonist in terms of stamina. He doesn’t let go at any stage – his commitment to the finished product is something to aspire to. In some of the fast phrases, we lose the clarity that we had in Robert Burton’s performance at the top of the programme, but throughout Francis' articulation is remarkable.

Recorder player Eliza Haskins defies her 14 years. She posesses a self-assurance in her playing that is quite remarkable. The Correlli sonata arranged for marimba accompaniment felt like more familiar territory for the audience, but her musicianship shone brightest in the concluding piece in her recital – Maki’s Black Intention. Here she displayed incredible focus and poise. Her place in the category final meant she had the biggest challenge cutting through. 

Tom Myles on clarinet had the biggest job where I was concerned. I'm a clarinettist. I'm bound to be picky (sorry Tom). The Muczynski contained some bold moments, though I was distracted a bit by the right elbow rising and falling (I said I was being picky). There were one or two (unintended) squeaks over the break. Come the Giampieri, Tom was showing how big a blow this was in the rests during the opening. As a complete work its also surprisingly sedate meaning the slower sections demand a lot of support.

In the final work – the last movement of Joseph Horovitz's Sonatine, I think there’s a general tendency for anyone playing it to get a little carried away with the fun conveyed in the music. Tom played with exuberance but sometimes I think the piece needs (counter-intuitively) a straighter approach.

No sign of the full performances from each participant made available via the BBC iPlayer app. Which suggests that either people at the BBC don't read this blog (nor the last one in which I pissed and moaned), or if they do they don't especially care. That's a shame. Still, maybe in time for next week, ey?

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