The 19th Ivor Mairants Guitar Award, administered by the Worshipful Company of Musicians, was held on April 11th at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in the City of London. Many talented young guitarists have proceeded from this award to successful professional careers (including Amanda Cook, Xuefei Yang, Miloš Karadalgic, Sean Shibe, Manus Noble, Laura Snowden, and others), and a high standard of performance was anticipated again this year. On offer to the winner, as well as prize money, were a solo recital at the Guildford Festival, a collected edition of Joaquín Rodrigo’s guitar music, funding towards tuition in playing jazz-influenced contemporary music on the classical guitar, and an audition for the Company’s 2018 London concerts.

Though some of the participants came from other European countries, they were all currently studying at conservatoires in the UK. For their programs, each had to select at least one movement, of no more than five to seven minutes, from Ivor Mairants’s own Jazz Sonatas. The other required item was chosen from a set list which this year included works by Jacques Ibert, Federico Mompou, Alexandre Tansman, and Federico Moreno Torroba, alongside more modern fare by  Hans Werner Henze, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and Rhian Samuel.

Perhaps predictably, the most popular of the set works they chose were by the two Spanish composers (Torroba and Mompou). It was good, therefore, to hear on this occasion music by the late British composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, an Honorary Freeman of the Musicians’ Company, in the committed account by Will Scott; like Nestor Beveridge and Ioannis Theodoridis, his playing of the Mairants had a natural flow and style, but overall was not quite consistent enough to come into the final reckoning. Jonathan Parkin, in third place, showed technical assurance and presented each of his pieces in a lively and engaging manner. Also very accomplished was Ross Wilson, who played with considerable sensitivity and fine control of tone and rhythm to secure second place. The Jury, however, was unanimous in awarding first prize to 22-year-old Giacomo Susani, whose interpretative insight was matched by an exceptional clarity and warmth of delivery, marking him out as a young musician with a very bright future. (Susani can be heard on two fairly recent CDs: the solo Giacomo Susani Plays Petrassi, Bach, Tansman, Weiss (2015); and Bach: The Four Suites for Lute (2016), on which he is joined by guitarists Giacomo Copiello, Michele Tesdesco, and Victor Valisena.)

The competition was most ably organized by Hugh Lloyd, the Company’s Clerk, with the assistance of Amanda Ratcliffe, Deputy Clerk. Sponsors included the D’Addario Foundation for the Performing Arts and Ediciones Joaquín Rodrigo. The panel of adjudicators comprised Michael Lewin (non-voting Chairman), Julian Byzantine, Stephen Goss, and Xuefei Yang.

—Report courtesy of our friends at the Musician’s Company

Here’s a 2015 video of Susani playing Joaquín Turina’s wonderful Fandanguillo on a 1926 Domingo Esteso guitar: