The winner of BBC Young Musician 2018: An interview with Lauren Zhang
BBC Music Magazine talks to the winner of this year's winner of BBC Young Musician
Why did you decided to play the fiendishly difficult Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2 at the final?
I’ve been working on it for quite a while and thought it would be a great piece to play in the grand final because I love the piece and to play it with a professional orchestra was amazing. I like the character of the piece, the combination of the bizarre with the romantic qualities of the music. I think the elements of the piece work really well together.
You performed the concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Was it the first time you’d played with an orchestra of this size?
It’s the first time I’ve played with a professional orchestra, which was incredible. It sounded so great. I’ve heard them before, but never thought I’d get to play with them. Mark Wigglesworth, who conducted us, is so nice to work with – he gave lots of helpful advice.
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What was your rehearsal process like? How did you balance your practise with studying for your GCSEs?
Because this is a really rare opportunity and I really wanted to play this piece as best I could, so I did practise very hard. However, when I did play, it wasn’t full strength because obviously this piece is quite strenuous, so I was practising around three hours a day. I had a schedule I had to stick to, because that’s a priority!
Did you enjoy the competition as a whole?
Especially after the category finals, it felt less like a competition and more just a great opportunity to perform on a wonderful platform. It was a great experience from the very start. I found the category final most scary – that was very tough. Everyone else was really good and it could have gone any way really.
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When I eventually won, I was so shocked. I watched BBC Young Musician every year and the finalists are always so talented and play so well. I never thought I would even be in the final, let alone win.
It seems that there is more of a buzz around the competition than ever. Did you feel that when you were competing?
Speaking from the perspective of someone living in Birmingham, there is definitely a lot of excitement here because, for the second time, the competition was held here and this year is also the 40th Anniversary. I’d say there was a lot of attention.
What is next for you?
I’d like to learn some new repertoire during the summer. That will probably keep me busy. But I haven’t really thought much further than my GCSEs right now!
Watch the grand final of BBC Young Musician and Lauren Zhang's winning performance here.
Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.