Eurovision Young Musicians 2018: Semi-Final 1 – Malta, UK, and Spain

The biennial Eurovision Young Musician competition gets underway today. 18 musicians slogging it out for the top prize.

EYM has in the past suffered from being a bit crap in its vision and its realisation. I’m expecting better things this time around.

So far, in the capable hands of presenter Petroc Trelawny, I haven’t been disappointed. Top line – I don’t think we’ve seen a winner yet.

Malta Bernice Sammut Attard, piano

Poulenc Toccata from Trois pièces
Rachmaninov Prelude in C minor, Op. 23 No. 7; Prelude in G sharp minor Op. 32 No. 12 
Chopin Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31

Programme lacked sufficient contrast to make Bernice shine in any particular work. Accomplished, able and self-assured, but some places lacked spark.

The Rachmaninov was played but not necessarily ‘occupied’ he was playing the notes but not necessarily creating any spectacular with them.

Some tender moments in the slower sections of the Chopin Scherzo – though the shifts into different tempos needed more finesse. The grander sections before the recapitulation illustrated how this was an ambitious choice tackled valiantly.

UK Maxim Calver, cello

Lutoslawski  Sacher Variation
Brahms Adagio from Cello Sonata in F, Op. 99
Stravinsky Minuetto e Finale from Suite Italienne

Better selected programme. Lutoslawski focuses attention and gives Max a chance to own the space. Sometimes the tone of the instrument lacks depth but there’s more presence on screen. 

The Brahms Adagio is a delight. More depth in the lower registers. Since BBC Young Musician Max seems a calmer less-distracting – that helps make the Brahms shine more. It’s a shame we don’t get to hear the complete sonata – he holds the room with grace and poise. 

Stravinsky was good – lacked sparkle though it still retained a compelling quality. At this stage I’m not entirely convinced he’s a winner.  

Spain Sara Valencia, violin

Sarasate Caprice Basque
Paganini Caprice No. 13 in B flat
Bruch 3rd mvt (Finale) of Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor

An ambitious programme of decorative material that suited Sara Valencia’s temperament well. Intonation lost in the fast moving sections in the high registers of both the Sarasate and the Pagnini. She regains control during the middle section of the Bruch third movement – here we see her as a much stronger player. She maintains her poise and, come the coda, makes a good fist of it. I’d like to hear her play more. 

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