Driving home yesterday, I caught some of the Royal Philharmonic Society's musical awards. I didn't hear it all and my attention was not complete, but I heard a good speech by the classical music popularist Gareth Malone in which he felt that the achievements of British musicians should be shouted from the rooftops. It wasn't particularly insightful, but he was passionate and spoke on behalf of the general music-lover, performer and teacher - all of whom need their advocates. The winners that were then announced are exciting practitioners of contemporary music and I would always find time to listen to their works and follow their progress wherever possible: I heard a choral piece by Jonathan Harvey, John Cage, a Ligeti Étude, and a song from a Spitalfields outreach project. But I couldn't help feeling that these examples would be impenetrable to the public at large. Even Abbado and Pollini receiving awards seemed irrelevant: what need do these masters have of more recognition? It all seemed to inhabit another world, where the difficulties of working with ordinary musicians and appealing to ordinary audiences seemed a million miles away.
Then, in the evening was the finale of the BBC Young Musician of the Year. I don't often like classical music on TV, but, switching on late, I was completely mesmerised by Laura van der Heijden's performance of the Walton Cello Concerto. It wasn't just that she was a consummate artist in every way (aged 16!) but also that her personality exuded wisdom and joy in equal measure. For once, this competition achieved a satisfying conclusion.
Composer and musician