Una Clark soloist review and profiles 2020

On Saturday 25th January 2020 the orchestra presented its annual Una Clark Young Artists’ Concert, showcasing the talents of five young musicians who live or study within a 40 mile radius of Guildford.  Each finalist was selected from our annual competition and had the opportunity to perform part of a concerto accompanied by the Guildford Symphony Orchestra. We were amazed by the standard of this year’s soloists and it was a privilege to work with all of them at the start of their musical careers. The following independent review by Shelagh Godwin highlights just what made our 2020 Young Artists’ Concert so special.

International feel to Young Artists’ Concert

Guildford Symphony Orchestra – St Catherine’s School Auditorium – 25th January 2020

For many decades the Guildford Symphony Orchestra has showcased the outstanding talent of young locally-based musicians, and for the past 20 years or so their concerts featuring young artists have been named after the late Una Clark, a violinist in the orchestra who made a mark by encouraging young people. This year, however, all the artists came from other countries although they have all studied and settled in the UK.

From the first, the standard of performance was admirably high and very professional. Latvian born Antonina Suhanova began proceedings with the weighty first movement of Beethoven’s first published piano concerto, which boasts an amazing cadenza full of quirky modulations and harmonies and demands a strong technique: Antonina carried it off beautifully, and recovered quickly from a slight slip earlier in the movement.

Never have I heard such beautiful saxophone playing as I heard from the Spaniard Jose Manuel Brazo, whose contribution was the virtuosic Carmen Fantasy by flautist François Borne: the arrangement for saxophone was presumably his own and it worked brilliantly.

Belgian-born Lisa Vandersmissen then hauled her harp onto the platform and launched into a wonderful performance of the Adagio from Rodrigo’s famous Concierto d’Aranjuez. Always a glorious piece of music, it was enhanced by Lisa’s sensitive playing, and there was some lovely oboe and cor anglais playing from the orchestra, whose wind section has become extremely good.

Another tough nut to crack is Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, but its finale presented no problems whatsoever for Moldovan violinist Ionel Manciu, whose technique was impeccable, right up to the high harmonics, and his tone was lovely too.

Cyprus-born Christos Fountos concluded the programme with the dazzling finale of Shostakovich’s second piano concerto, and although his playing was altogether dazzling it was also imbued with great musicianship and laced with the humour intended by the composer.  Throughout the concert the orchestra under Darrell Davison provided excellent and reliable support.

All these young soloists deserve to go far: we must look out for them.

Shelagh Godwin

The next GSO concert will be on 29th March and features the fabulous 4th Symphony by Brahms and Lalo’s Cello Concert with Yoanna Prodanova as soloist. Come and experience what makes the GSO so special by clicking on the button below to buy tickets. 

Profiles of the five Una Clark Young Soloists in 2020

Manu Brazo

Manu Brazo was born in Utrera, Spain in 1993. He studied in Seville at the Conservatory of Music Manuel Castillo with Juan Jimenez before coming to London to the Royal College of Music where he is a Sir Roger and Lady Carr Soiree d’Or Scholar. He has recently performed with pianist Bryan Evans MBE as the opening act for Sir Cliff Richard at Greenwich Music Time festival in front of more than 7500 people.  Manu also opened at the Official Downton Abbey Live Concert at the Highclere Castle for more than 4000 people. He was selected as one of the Making Music’s Philip and Dorothy Green Young Artists and in 2018 was appointed as a BBC Introducing Artist with a performance on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune. He has also performed as a soloist at the Royal Opera House as well as a range of other impressive venues, both in the UK and internationally. In 2016 Manu won the Concerto Competition at the Conservatorio Superior de Musica Manuel Castillo of Seville. He was also invited to join the London Sinfonietta Academy and to collaborate with the Youth Musician Symphony Orchestra (YMSO). Last year he was selected to take part in the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program, which saw him perform at the Snape Maltings Proms conducted by Marin Alsop. Recently he has been chosen for the Tillet Trust Young Artist Program for 2018/19.

Lise Vandersmissen

Harpist Lise Vandersmissen was born in Belgium in 1996. She studied for her Master’s Degree at the Guildhall School of Music in London and remains part of the college’s Fellowship Programme, as well as winning the Guildhall Harp Prize in 2019. Lise has also studied at the London Sinfonietta Academy and the Académie Camac in France with the famous harpist Isabelle Perrin. She was selected to be a Concordia Foundation Artist and in June 2019, was privileged to perform the world premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s new piece for solo harp Four Meditations.

Back in 2017 Lise formed the Aglica Trio with Carys Gittins and Agnieszka Żyniewicz. She has performed with The Symphony of Zabrze and with Youth Orchestra Amikejo. She has also played as a soloist in workshops with the Symphony Orchestra of Luca School of Arts and recently performed with the Croydon Symphony Orchestra in the final of the Croydon Concerto Competition.

Christos Fountos

Christos was born in Cyprus in 1997 into a family of musicians. He started his musical training at the age of three and is now in his 4th year of a BMus Piano Performance degree at Trinity Laban. He is also also studying harpsichord, organ, orchestration, conducting and jazz. Christos regularly performs in concerts, playing solo piano repertoire, chamber music and vocal repertoire as accompanist. He has performed in the Wigmore Hall, The Drapers’ hall, St James’s Piccadilly, The Hellenic Centre, The Polish Heart Club in South Kensington and the The Old Royal Naval College Chapel in Greenwich.

Christos regularly participates in competitions, taking first prize in the 75th Coulsdon and Purley Festival Piano Concerto Competition, which offers him the opportunity to perform Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Concerto in London.  Additionally, he has received two Trinity Laban Prizes: The Weingarten Prize for Piano and The Raymond Russel Prize for harpsichord. He is currently continuing his studies for a master’s degree at Trinity Laban on a full scholarship basis.

Antonina Suhanova

Antonia was born in 1991 in Latvia and made her first concert appearance aged nine and has gone on to establish an impressive international career as a soloist. Her successful Wigmore Hall debut in London was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

She completed the Artist Diploma course at the Guildhall School of Music with distinction and was subsequently appointed a Junior Fellow. She has won numerous awards and played at music festivals across Europe, Latvia and Russia.

Antonina has performed at the Steinway Hall in New York, the Wiener Saal in Salzburg,  Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St James’s Piccadilly, Milton Court Concert Hall and the Barbican Hall in London, the Riga Great Guild Hall, Moscow International House of Music, and Erin Arts Centre. She has appeared as a soloist with the “Moscow Virtuosi” Chamber Orchestra, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, “Sinfonia Concertante” Chamber Orchestra, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra and Liepaja Symphony Orchestra.

Ionel Manciu

Moldovan violinist Ionel Manciu made his official debut at the age of ten with the Chisinau Chamber Orchestra. Since the age of 11 he has won numerous prizes at international competitions.
He has performed as a soloist with the National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and National Chamber Orchestra in Chisinau, the Philharmonic Orchestra “G. Enescu” in Bucharest and the Philharmonic Orchestra “G.Enescu” in Iasi. He has also performed with the Lvov Chamber Orchestra and the Pori Chamber Orchestra in Finland.

Ionel has performed at the Wigmore Hall, Barbican Hall and Milton Court in London, as well as the Mozarteum Concert Hall in Salzburg and the Romanian Atheneum in Bucharest.

Ionel is currently studying at the Guildhall School of Music in London and is generously supported by The Leverhulme Trust, The Derek Butler Trust, The Countess of Munster Musical Trust and Help Musicians UK.