I managed to catch the final of the BBC competition Young Musician of the Year on Sunday and was completely blown away by cellist Laura van der Heijden’s rendition of the cello concerto by William Walton. OK, I’ll admit my ignorance and confess that I hadn’t known this concerto before. I realised very quickly that I had missed out on something rather spectacular. Laura duly won the competition – I have no idea how they make comparisons between musicians from completely different instrument groups, but I reckon her choice of an underappreciated but utterly wonderful concerto may have helped, as the other two finalists had chosen more middle of the road composers.
Anyhow, come Monday morning I fired up the computer and internet hoping to find a few more knowledgeable people spreading some insight and enthusiasm about this event and found … nothing. On the BBC website, a search for the name of the young cellist yielded some links to a footballer with a similar name. Searching for the name of the competition yielded the page where you can watch it on the i-player, but not even a statement of the result of the final. At least the Wikipedia page of the cellist had been updated but that may have been done by a family member.
One blogger discussed the event and also bemoaned the lack of impact. Apparently, not a single newspaper in the UK covered the final. Never mind the fact that she won a competition which only happens every other year and may well set her on a course as a successful recording and performing soloist, of which there aren’t all that many (it certainly didn’t harm fellow cellist Natalie Clein to win the competition in 1994), I would have thought that the way that Laura played that concerto at age 15 and a few weeks should have been worth reporting.
At 12:28 the BBC website got out of bed and bothered reporting the event that the corporation itself had broadcast from 6 to 8pm the day before. It was duly tweeted as “breaking news” on the BBC’s breaking news twitter feed. Only 16 hours late.
I hear that on the same weekend, a somebody with their dancing dog won Britain’s Got Talent. I reckon that the result of this competition was reported in every single newspaper, and many of them will have put it on the front page. Not to mention that the prize money at BGT is several orders of magnitude higher than at young musician of the year. And where is the recording contract for Laura (in analogy to the usual arrangements on X factor and similar competitions)? I would buy the CD of the Walton concerto immediately.
I am sure that Britain has got a lot of talent, but right now I am getting very depressed about the way in which Britain does or doesn’t recognise its talent, and about the message that this is sending out to young musicians.