Fang Zhang has become the second percussionist to ever win BBC Young Musician, the last of which was Adrian Spillett who won the competition in 1998.
BBC Young Musician has helped launch the careers of dozens of leading musicians, including cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, violinist Nicola Benedetti and clarinettist Mark Simpson – but very few percussionists have ever taken home the top prize. Colin Currie is one of the most famous percussionists to ever take part in the competition, but he lost out to cellist Natalie Clein in 1994.
BBC Young Musician has taken place every second year since 1978, but last year’s iteration had to be paused halfway through because of the coronavirus pandemic. The semi final was filmed in March 2020 before the start of lockdown, but its broadcast was delayed until this weekend. The grand final was filmed as soon as lockdown was lifted in April this year and was broadcast tonight on BBC Four.
Percussionist Fang Zhang – born in China and a recent student at Chetham’s Music School in Manchester – was up against French horn player Annemarie Federle and oboist Ewan Millar in tonight’s grand final. Each musician played a concerto of their choice, accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic and conducted by Mark Wigglesworth. Zhang played Prism Rhapsody, a marimba concerto by Japanese composer Keiko Abe.
The grand final judging pal was chaired by Saffron Hall’s chief executive Angela Dixon, who was joined by clarinettist Mark Simpson, composer Errollyn Wallen, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s principal conductor Ryan Bancroft and experimental composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki.
Of Zhang’s performance, Angela Dixon said ‘Fang chose to perform on a single instrument, the marimba, but elicited a kaleidoscope of colours and expression from it that deeply moved the jury and presenters. It was a privilege to be one of the few people to hear his performance live.’
The socially distanced grand final took place without an audience at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall.