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Second time lucky for teen pianist

A 17-year-old pianist has been named BBC Young Musician 2014, describing the accolade as the "highlight of his life".

Martin James Bartlett, from Hornchurch, Essex, began learning the piano at the age of six and became a student at the Royal College of Music's junior department aged eight.

The talented teenager also plays the bassoon and the recorder and by the age of 12 had achieved Grade 8 distinction with all three instruments.

He vowed judges at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh tonight by performing Rachmaninov's Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini to win the prestigious competition, which has seen previous titleholders going on to achieve worldwide success since it began in 1978.

Martin, who already has a number of other awards under his belt, said he could not believe he had won.

"It was a real shock as I've watched the competition for so many years and I was in it two years ago," he said. "It feels amazing."

The schoolboy, who is currently studying for A-levels in music and physics, added: "My mum always had it on the TV when I was growing up so it's something I've thought about for quite some time. I did it two years ago and learnt so much from the experience so I thought I'd come back and try again."

Martin beat off stiff competition from two other finalists - recorder player Sophie Westbrooke, 15, and percussionist Elliott Gaston-Ross, also 15 - to win the title after becoming a finalist in the piano section of the competition in 2012.

The teenager, whose mother is a music teacher and father an electrician, was awarded full scholarships to three London conservatoires last December.

He chose to continue his piano studies at the Royal College of Music where he studies every Saturday, while he goes to go specialist music college the Purcell School in Bushey, Hertfordshire, during the week.

Martin, who said he would "love to be a concert pianist and play to people all around the world", is due to take his A-levels this summer before going on to study at the Royal College full time.

The annual event saw the three finalists perform with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in front of a live audience and was broadcast on BBC Four and Radio 3.

The youngsters were judged by a panel of world-renowned musicians including composer James MacMillan, conductor Alice Farnham and pianist Alice Sara Ott.

For the first time, this year an ambassadorial role was awarded to violinist Nicola Benedetti on the tenth anniversary of her win.

Benedetti said: " Martin lives and breathes music. He is a powerful and natural musician and his love for music is serious enough to carry him through the challenges ahead."

This year also sees the first ever BBC Young Musician Jazz Award, which follows the established classical music format and will be broadcast on BBC Four next Friday.


From Belfast Telegraph