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Laura van der Heijden – a tiny twitch of media conscience

After the entire UK media managed to ignore the birth of a star at BBC Young Musician of the Year, the Guardian’s stand-in diarist took a sour swipe at me this morning for pointing out this omission. The tabloid Daily Mirror woke up to notice that Laura earned £498,000 less in prize money than Simon Cowell paid out the night before to a performing dog. Needless to say, the picture that illustrated the Mirror’s comment was of the dancing dog.

A lone review appeared today in some editions of the Times (not online). Richard Morrison writes:

I’m referring to the best TV talent show by a mile — the BBC Young Musician of the Year, which reached its riveting final on Sunday while some minor sporting thing was happening elsewhere. It was the most exciting for years. The winner was 15-year-old Laura van der Heijden, whose mesmerising performance of the rarely-played Walton Cello Concerto sparked comparisons with the young Jacqueline du Pré. Indeed, it may have been her unexpected choice of work that gave her the edge over Edinburgh-born Yuanfan Yang, who plumped for the hackneyed Grieg Piano Concerto. There’s another reason to cheer Laura’s win. She may be half-Swiss and half-Dutch, but she has grown up in Sussex and
attends a state comprehensive in East Grinstead. Her victory will be a timely boost to the campaign to keep music alive in
state schools at a time when it is doubly threatened by curriculum changes and savage funding cuts.

The BBC, 18 hours late, updated its websites to report the competition results. Various senior BBC execs have privately expressed their irritation with the website for failing to reflect BBC initiatives (not something that has ever troubled the Murdoch media).

For readers abroad, here’s a first clip of Laura playing the Walton concerto that won her the prize.

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  1. Wonderful playing from Laura van der Heijden, a more-than worthy winner! Can’t see how the Guardian’s comments were a sour swipe though. Funnily enough, the Metro were actually prepared for this foreseeable outcry in the classical music community…must be a first!

  2. Roy Watson says:

    A telling account of ways in which the media turn the result into a different story. And one which begins by making its subject not the result itself but Norman and his reporting of it. Hmmm…

  3. Daniel Farber says:

    The playing is remarkable for someone of ANY age, let alone a person of 15! Unfortunately management interests will be torn between her attractiveness and her commitment to the Walton concerto, which may have tipped the balance with the judges (v. the pianist’s Grieg) but will obviously not work in her favor when it’s nut-cracking time in the [music-business] valley. I wish her and her gifts only the best as she goes forth. The judges were absolutely right!

  4. Terry Gill says:

    I agree with the comments made by Norman Lebrecht. The lack of popular interest in more demanding music is further underlined by the virtually complete absence of comments on the death of possibly the world’s greatest Lieder singer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau while the, also sad, death of the Bee Gees Robin Gibbs is headline news. What a strange world we live in.

    • Libby Sheen says:

      Here, here, I couldn’t agree more with Terry..I was apalled at the same reaction..poor them if they never knew the difference!!

    • I would not expect Fischer-Dieskau’s death to receive the same interest as Robin Gibb. F-D’s music-making was a much more subtle and rarefied art than RG’s pop music. Same for BBC Young Musician v. Simon Cowell’s populist TV shows. Different audiences.

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