Time was when RTÉ ran its own ‘Musician of the Future’ competition. However, the scene changed with the station deciding to discontinue its involvement. This disappointed many not least Jane Carty who had a long-term commitment to the competition and other RTÉ ventures advancing the careers of young musicians. Undaunted, Ms Carty decided ‘Musician of the Future’ was too valuable a project to become a distant memory.
Her enthusiasm, and that of a few like-minded supporters, found favour with the Irish Freemasons who have been the staunch backbone of the competition for the past ten years with, not surprisingly, quite an input from the indefatigable Jane Carty.
Now titled ‘The Irish Freemasons’ Musician of the Year’, the competition is somewhat different in that their respective colleges select those taking part. Last month 12 young artists came to the fore.
Chaired by Jane Carty, the international jury included members from home and abroad with one – Maighread McCrann, concertmaster of Austrian Radio’s Symphony Orchestra based in Vienna – having a foot in both camps. After semi-finals, the jury whittled the original dozen down to four and these presented a finale recital in the Freemasons’ Hall in Dublin’s Molesworth Street. This will be broadcast later by RTÉ Lyric fm.
Those participating were saxophonist Robert Finegan from Dublin’s Technical University; violinist Molly O’Shea representing Cork’s School of Music and oboist Ben Gaynor with pianist Órán Halligan waving the RIAM banner.
As with many a competition, I rarely agree with juries’ decisions, but never mind. I was particularly taken by Robert Finegan’s expressive and virtuosic playing in John Buckley’s balletic solo sax Arabesque while works by Paul Creston and Jules Demersseman were no less engagingly interpreted. Still, for him the jury decided on the €1,250 fourth prize.
The €5,000 first prize went to Órán Halligan, admittedly a brilliant young pianist with astonishing technique who, besides Liszt’s Two Legends, made Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s 2nd Sonata, dating from 1970, the main trust of his quasi-religious programme. Subtitled The Fire Sermon, the extravagantly percussive piece seemed, at times, not all that far removed from Bartók.
Molly O’Shea chose off-the-beaten-track pieces by Szymanowski, Shostakovich and Weinberg. Her dig into the classics unearthed Mozart’s K 261 Adagio, which she played with grace and elegance. Molly was the recipient of the €3,000 second prize.
All that left Ben Gaynor with the €1,500 third prize. He made Mozart’s K 314 Oboe Concerto the principal feature of his recital. I found his tone a little dry but maybe the Hall’s acoustic had something to do with that. Yet Mozart’s slow movement had him delicately assured and he also conveyed the jovial elements in Gabriel Grovlez’ Allegro.
Away from Molesworth Street, Cork pianist Kevin Jansson has received this year’s €15,000 RDS bursary to enable him to study at New York’s Julliard School, while another Corkonian – cellist Michael Murphy – took the €5,000 first prize in the [Fr] ‘Frank Maher Classical Music Award’. Top Security chairman, Emmet O’Rafferty, presents the prize annually in memory of his revered music teacher at Castleknock College.