20 December 2018
By Ellie Palmer
'2018 was the year of welcoming the new and celebrating the old,' writes Ellie Palmer...
2018 is almost over! Can you believe it? This year has seen more global coverage of classical music and the world’s best pianists than we’ve ever seen before. Notably, we saw UK radio station Classic FM report that over a million of their 5.6 million listeners are under the age of 35, with 449,000 of them being 15-24-year olds. We also saw The Leeds International Piano Competition dramatically expand the coverage of their triennial festival by launching the Leeds Piano Festival – hosted in June for the first time – and the #LeedsPianoTrail.
It was definitely a year of increasing inclusion; classical piano music is now shared and enjoyed by a remarkably vast range of different types of people. And that really is something to celebrate.
Let’s take a look at all the highs (and one unfortunate low!) of 2018.
Young stars shine through
2018 kicked off with a bang. Young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov claimed his first ever Grammy in the month of January. He triumphed in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category for his album, Transcendental, and his success didn't end there. Trifonov was later hand-picked to perform at the opening ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, held in his home country of Russia.
Amazingly, at 27 years of age, Trifonov is the oldest of the pianists to be mentioned in this selection of 2018’s young stars. The youngest is 16-year-old pianist Lauren Zhang. Back in May, she overcame two other exceptional finalists to win BBC Young Musician of the Year with her performance of Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto. It was an extra special year for the long-running competition, who coincidentally turned 40.
Lauren Zhang wins BBC's Young Musician of the Year
As mentioned, the increasingly popular Leeds International Piano Competition expanded its reach more than it ever has done before. This year’s competition was deservedly won by American pianist Eric Lu. The 20-year-old performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with the esteemed Hallé Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner. Not only was he awarded 1st prize, but he was also signed to record label Warner Classics and worldwide management company Askonas Holt. Other notable young competition winners in 2018 include Nicolas Namoradze and Japanese pianist Ryoma Takagi. The pair took home first prize in the Honens International Piano Competition and the International Edvard Grieg Piano Competition respectively.
Celebrating the old
Whilst Pianist magazine may still be young in years, we did turn 100 issues old back in January! We have featured countless pianists within our pages over the past 17 years including Mitsuko Uchida, Leif Ove Andsnes, Lang Lang, Murray Perahia and Yuja Wang to name but a few. We’ve published over 300 advice articles with the aim of helping you become a better player. We hope to continue to aid you in your learning for many more issues to come.
The number 100 was a particularly popular number to celebrate this year. March 25th marked 100 years since the passing of the great French composer, Claude Debussy. 5 months later, we honoured American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, *breathe* and pianist Leonard Bernstein on what would have been his 100th birthday. Take a listen to our playlist of both Debussy’s and Bernstein’s greatest performances below.
Classical-soul pianist Alexis Ffrench's Evolution was arguably one of the year’s most outstanding releases. After shooting to Number 1 on the Classic FM charts in the first week of its release in September, it has maintained a position in the top 20 for 13 weeks in a row and counting. Other notable releases from the year include Marc-André Hamelin & Leif Ove Andsnes’ release of ‘Stravinsky: Rite of Spring’ (given 5 stars by Pianist magazine) back in February, Lucille Chung’s collection of nine Liszt recordings - including the mammoth Sonata in B minor – and Pianist issue 105 cover star Yuja Wang’s latest album titled The Berlin Recital.
We did warn you that there was one small bit of unfortunate news to share from 2018. Make sure you have a tissue nearby ☹ If you weren’t aware, back in March we lost Bento the Keyboard Cat! Bento was a true legend on the keys. RIP, Bento.
Perhaps ending on an inspiring would be a good idea here! One piece of news that brought a smile to our faces was the announcement that Classic FM & Wigmore Hall had teamed up to launch £5 tickets for under 35s. As part of a shared commitment to diversify audiences for classical music, the Wigmore Hall Classic FM Under 35s Ticket Scheme will attract younger and often first-time concert-goers, breaking down barriers to entry.
Let’s hope 2019 is just as successful, if not even more so!
And with that, the whole team here at Pianist magazine would like to wish you the Merriest of Christmasses, and a Happy New Year 😊