In an evening of inspirational music-making, the finalists in the inaugural Wellington Piano Competition drew wholehearted praise from the two adjudicators and richly entertained an audience of families, friends and staff from Wellington School, including the headmaster, Martin Reader.
After a full day of competition, three finalists were selected in both the Foundation and Advanced Classes; in the Intermediate Class one pianist was named the outright winner for his outstanding performance at the end of the preliminary stage. Frazer Silcock (15), currently a Year 11 pupil at Blundells but formerly a pupil at Wellington Junior School, was awarded his trophy for an accomplished and effortless interpretation of works by Daquin and Chopin. His chosen pieces demanded both mastery of the keyboard and stylish confidence in delivering complex cadences which, in the words of one adjudicator, showed ‘outstanding maturity’.
The Foundation Class winner, Thea Phillips from Tiverton, delivered her technically challenging pieces by Clementi and Einaudi with particular fluency and confidence. Thea (12) is in Year 8 at Wellington School. In the Advanced Class three gifted pianists made adjudication particularly difficult but the trophy was finally awarded to Ilaria Giovannoni (16) from Bristol Grammar School for ‘capturing the spirit’ of pieces by Haydn and Rachmaninoff. Acknowledging the complexity of her choices, the judges remarked on her sophisticated musical understanding and depth of expression. She was challenged strongly by the remarkable virtuosity of Daniel Hyun Evans from Wells Cathedral School and Millfield pupil Carey Andrews’ attentive and tender interpretation of pieces by Chopin and Schumann.
In his introduction to the final evening’s performances, Wellington School’s Director of Music, Andrew Trewhella, paid tribute to the ‘tremendous performances’ of all the entrants to the competition and introduced the two adjudicators who were charged with the difficult process of making distinctions between so many able pianists. Julian Joseph, ‘one of the finest pianists to emerge this side of the Atlantic’ is well known as a composer, arranger, bandleader, collaborator, educator and broadcaster. He has presented programmes for BBC3, Meridian TV and Sky TV alongside his work as a performer and composer. Mark Cracknell was a ‘soloist, accompanist and chamber musician’ before becoming Director of Music at Taunton School.
In addition to her trophy, the winner of the Advanced Class, Ilaria Giovannoni, will perform in a recital at Steinway Hall in London. Wellington School is an ‘All Steinway School’, the first school in the country to be accredited as such. All of the competitors performed on one of the school’s 15 Steinway pianos which, as Julian Joseph remarked, are such an advantage to young pianists in providing them with outstanding richness of tone.