Pianist Lauren Zhang has been crowned BBC Young Musician 2018. The 16-year-old pianist played Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto to a packed-out Symphony Hall in Birmingham.
‘It’s astonishing – I can’t quite believe it!,’ says Zhang. ‘It’s been a fantastic opportunity to play with the CBSO and the journey right from the start of the competition has been incredible.’
Zhang beat cellist Maxim Calver and saxophonist Robert Burton, both 18, to take the coveted title in the competition’s 40th-anniversary year. The two other finalists played, respectively, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations and Paul Creston’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone.
‘Lauren’s performance left us all breathless!’ said Kerry Andrew, chair of the judging panel. ‘Her exceptional level of technical skill and intelligent musicality shone through in a beast of a piece. We see great things in her future!’
Zhang studies at the Royal Birmingham Junior Conservatoire, after moving from New Mexico, US, to the UK nearly a decade ago. She also plays the violin, and when not mastering fiendish piano concertos, enjoys reading, fencing and chamber music.
By the time the finalists took the stage, they had been through an audition stage (which attracted around 450 applicants), category finals and then a semi-final which saw five musicians whittled down to three.
Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who has released a chart-topping album and played at Carnegie Hall since winning BBC Young Musician in 2016, presented Zhang with her trophy. Zhang also wins £3,000. If the experiences of recent winners are anything to go by, the peformance opportunities will roll in too. Appearances at BBC Music’s The Biggest Weekend in Coventry on 28 May and at the BBC Young Musician 40th-anniversary concert at the BBC Proms on 15 July are already in the diary.