The Eastbourne Symphony Orchestra Young Soloist Competition returns

The Eastbourne Symphony Orchestra Young Soloist Competition returns this year after a Covid-enforced absence in 2021.

Eastbourne Symphony Orchestra
Eastbourne Symphony Orchestra

Established in 1988 as a result of the 11th Duke of Devonshire’s financial generosity towards the orchestra, it gives the winner the opportunity of performing a concerto with the Eastbourne Symphony Orchestra.

The first round will take place on Saturday and Sunday, January 22 and 23 when competitors will be required to offer a balanced programme (eg two contrasting pieces) of their choice not exceeding 15 minutes in total.

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Orchestral instrumentalists will be expected to perform at least part of their programme with piano accompaniment.

The venue will be the Birley Centre, BN21 4EF, on Saturday from about 2pm and Sunday from about 12 noon, and members of the public are very welcome to attend. Simply turn up on the day.

The final round will be held on Sunday, February 13 in which competitors will be required to play a movement from each of two contrasting concertos, the programme not exceeding 20 minutes in total.

No piece chosen in the first round may be repeated in the final round.

The competition is open to competitors aged 23 and under on December 31 2021 and will carry a first prize of £1,000.

Runner-up prizes include the Cox Memorial Prize of £650 and the Colonel Howes award of £400. Further prizes will also be awarded for the best performances given by a competitor under the age of 18.

But as conductor Graham Jones says, the main first prize is to play a concerto with the orchestra, usually either at their summer concert or their autumn concert.

Graham will chair the panel of four judges – a panel which has enjoyed strong continuity down the decades. The panel comprises expertise across the orchestra, including strings, piano and clarinet.

“In judging we come back to the criterion that it is a concerto competition.

“We are looking for somebody who can put over a concerto to the audience which is obviously slightly different to somebody who can play chamber music.

“It is not unknown for the judges to say that somebody would make a good chamber musician, but not a concerto player.

“We are obviously also looking for somebody that can project personality and music.

“For the final we will usually definitely have four people though quite frequently five. It depends where we have the dividing line.”

Last year was sadly a missed year: “It was tough not having the competition in the same way that it was very tough not to be doing concerts etc. It was a really tough year for musicians in general and it is important as well to say that it was a really tough year for students because the opportunities have not been there for them that they would usually want and that are so crucial for them at this stage of their career.

“We’re talking about students from the colleges of music which means obviously covering a variety of nationalities.

“The age limit is 23 and under.

“There is no requirement that they are living in Sussex or anything like that but clearly we do get people from Sussex.

“But basically it’s the main colleges of music that we draw from.”