Pianist Martin James Bartlett has been named as the winner of BBC Young Musician 2014 competition. The 17 year-old, who comes from Essex, produced a superbly paced performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini to secure victory in the final at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall and becomes the latest in a prestigious list of winners that includes oboist Nicholas Daniel (1980), pianist Freddy Kempf (1992) and violinist Nicola Benedetti (2004).
For his appearance in the final, broadcast live on BBC TV, Bartlett was accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Kirill Karabits. He was third of three finalists to perform, following 15-year-old percussionist Elliott Gaston-Ross, who played David Heath’s African Sunrise/Manhattan Rave, and recorder player Sophie Westbrooke, also 15, who performed Gordon Jacobs’s Suite for Recorder and Strings.
The path to the final for the three was a long and intense one. After getting through their regional rounds, all went on to win one of the five instrumental section finals – strings, woodwind, percussion, brass and keyboard. The five instrumental finalists were then whittled down to three at a semi-final in Cardiff.
Bartlett’s performance in the final was judged the best by a jury that consisted of five leading musicians – percussionist Colin Currie, recorder player Michaela Petri, pianist Alice Sara Ott, conductor Alice Farnham and composer James MacMillan. Asked about his victory on stage, the pianist, who is currently studying at Purcell School, described the moment as ‘an amazing feeling. I’ve always dreamt of being in this competition, and I can’t believe I’ve won it!’