Martin James Bartlett, a 17-year-old pianist from Essex, has been crowned BBC Young Musician 2014. In a thrilling finale at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall yesterday, Bartlett performed Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Kirill Karabits. The panel of judges also enjoyed impressive performances from percussionist Elliott Gaston-Ross and recorder player Sophie Westbrooke, both 15, before composer James MacMillan announced the winner.
The biennial competition, founded in 1978, has produced such winners as Freddy Kempf, Natalie Clein, Guy Johnston and Nicola Benedetti, who this year began her role as Ambassador, commemorating a decade since her own win. Benedetti was in attendance at Usher Hall, as were presenters Alison Balsom – herself a finalist in 1998 – and Miloš Karadaglić, both of whom have been been overseeing the category finals on BBC Four these past few weeks.
Bartlett, who has studied at the Royal College of Music Junior Department since the age of eight, looked overwhelmed as he accepted his trophy – and a hug – from Clemency Burton-Hill. Now a student at the Purcell School, he also studies bassoon and recorder and has been awarded full scholarships to three London conservatoires. He will continue his piano studies at the Royal College, where he has been awarded a Foundation Scholarship.