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Michael White’s classical & jazz news: Donatella Flick Conducting Competition; Menuhin Violin Competition; Yuja Wang

20 May, 2021 — By Michael White

Yuja Wang. Photo: Kirk Edwards

MUSIC competitions are a blood sport that a lot of people in the business totally despise. But at their best, they help unlock the mystery of what makes a good performing artist.

And as there’s no greater mystery than what makes a good conductor, you should check out the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition which concludes this May 23 with a free livestream from LSO St Luke’s.

Organised by the London Symphony Orchestra, it attracts contestants from all over the world; and this year the shortlist includes identical twins from Germany, pitching against each other at the risk of throwing the entire event into confusion (maybe one of them should not wear concert tails).

The hard thing for the jurors is to judge how much the end performance has been shaped by the conductor rather than the orchestra on autopilot – because it’s one thing to stand on a podium and wave your arms in an impressive manner, and another to be genuinely making something happen. But the 2021 jury has the likes of Carlo Rizzi and Sir James MacMillan on board, so it ought to know its stuff – as you’ll see, watching at 6.30pm Sunday via Medici TV. Access details from lso.co.uk/whats-on

By coincidence another major music contest runs this weekend, and that’s the Menuhin Violin Competition which gets livestreamed, with free access, from America.

The age range for the Menuhin is seriously young, and the finalists are usually Asian – because, for whatever reason, the world’s best string players these days tend to come from Chinese, Korean or Japanese backgrounds. So you get contestants who look barely old enough to be out of kindergarten but have the brilliance of a seasoned pro.

The Junior Finals run May 21, the Seniors May 22, and there’s a gala concert featuring both winners on May 23.
For details and times visit 2021.menuhincompetition.org

• Meanwhile, if you’ve had enough of watching music on a small screen, this is the week you can reclaim the real thing as concert halls begin to welcome living, breathing audiences back (with their attendant coughs/sniffs/phone alarms but never mind: it’s been a painful absence).

The LSO has a series of piano concertos with the fabulous Yuja Wang in the flesh, as it were, on May 26, 27 and 30, conducted by the orchestra’s old music director Michael Tilson Thomas. Added interest: Thurs­day’s concert is dedicated to the memory of Dvora Lewis, one of Hampstead’s best-loved (and indomitable) characters who died last year after managing the LSO’s PR for decades. Details at lso.co.uk

Wigmore Hall has more star pianists, with Angela Hewitt on May 24 playing Granados, Stephen Hough on May 25 playing Poulenc, and Andras Schiff, May 28, playing Beethoven. Keyboard line-ups couldn’t possibly get better: details at wigmore-hall.org.uk

And if you like Russian chamber music, Kings Place has violinist Thomas Gould with pianist Yulia Chaplina on May 26 playing as part of a London-wide Prokofiev Festival that Chaplina organises in tribute to her compatriot composer. Other venues take you off the beaten track to Russia House, Kensington, and Pushkin House, Holborn. Consider it an adventure. Details yuliachaplina.com

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