Mr Cyril Dashwood, the benefactor of these piano competition prizes (now under the banner of the Helen Wareham Competition), has been attending the competition for many years but understandably praised this year’s 20 pianists as giving the best concert in the history of the prize. The evening in question was Wednesday 14th March in the usual venue of the Clive Stevens Recital Hall. A full review of the performances, which began with a very poised and atmospheric interpretation of Mompou by Ed Walshe, will appear in the October edition of ‘The Cranleighan’.

In the Junior Performance competition Mr Dashwood presented third prize to Olivia Chesser for her virtuosic Kabalevsky. Second prize went to Fayruz Megdiche for a daringly swift rendition of a Chopin waltz. First prize went to the subtly thoughtful Beethoven performance by Karina Bondareva: the famous opening of the Sonata Op. 27/2, known as the ‘Moonlight’. Variety was added to the evening by Noah Frett’s impressive improvisations within the frame of ‘Blue Monk’ by Thelonius Monk.

It was down to Ben Rudolf in the Senior section (playing movements from a Bach French Suite) to prevent a clean sweep of female winners but the standard of the 12 pianists was phenomenally high and many others (notably, for me, Tom Hollister) would have been more than deserving of a place in the Helen Wareham final in April. The other two sent through were Ruby Joy for a dazzling rainbow of a reading of Chopin’s celebrated Fantasie-Impromptu and Hebe Westcott. If there were a first prize to be awarded on the evening, then surely it would have gone to Hebe for her fabulous performance of Bartok’s ‘Roumanian Dances’. I last heard these live at a late-night Prom last year with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and I can honestly say that Hebe conjured such colours and variety of tone from the Music School’s fine new Yamaha piano, that I wondered why the Hungarian composer bothered to orchestrate it.

PJL