A Salute to Some of 2018’s Guitar Competition Winners! (Plus New Elizabethan Award Review)

Raphaël Feuillatre of France took home the top honors at this year's GFA. Photo: Kenneth Kam/GFA


Let’s take a few moments to offer our hearty congratulations to the winners and runners-up in some of the major adult classical guitar competitions that have happened so far in 2018 (in more-or-less chronological order, beginning in February.). Where we’ve listed the nationality of the player, that is his or her country of origin, not necessarily where the guitarist lives now. We’ll have more results next issue, so feel free to send us results: editors.cg@stringletter.com —Blair Jackson

Miami International GuitArt Festival: 1. Marko Topchii (Ukraine), 2. Ji Hyung Park (South Korea), 3. Momcilo Aleksandr (Serbia). Long Island [NY] Guitar Festival (National High School Guitar Competition): 1. Eliza Balmuth and Everett Shen, 2. Alexander Seguin (all USA). Sarajevo International Guitar Festival (Bosnia and Herzegovina): No first place, 2. Viktor Duknik, 3. Tarik Kamaric (both Bosnia and Herzegovina). International Guitar Competition Maurizio Biasini (Paris): No first prize awarded, 2. Omar Nicho (Peru) and Jin-Hee Kim (South Korea); 3. Fabian Cardozo (Argentina). Gitarren Festival Nordhorn (Germany): 1. Dymtro Omelchak (Ukraine), 2. Ptolemaios Armaos (Greece), 3. Stefan Volpp (Germany); composition: Konstantin Bliokh.

Matt Withers Australian Music Composition Competition: 1. Wade Gregory, 2. Rick Alexander (both Australia). Twents Gitaar Festival (Netherlands) 1. Yuki Saito (Japan), Oleksandr Chubarenko (Ukraine), 3. Pablo Menéndez Martinez (Spain). Joann Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition (Buffalo, NY, USA): 1. Bokyung Byun (South Korea), 2. Tengyue Zhang (China), 3. Congyi Zhang (China).

Guitar Foundation of America (Louisville, Kentucky, USA): 1. Raphaël Feuillatre (France), 2. Bokyung Byun (South Korea), 3. Andrey Lebedev (Australia); Small Ensemble Artist Division—no 1st; 2.Tritonus Guitar Trio (Hungary), 2. Belgrade Guitar Duo (Serbia). Eurostrings Competition at 4th Zagreb Festival (Croatia): 1. Jesse Flowers (Australia), 2. Domenico Savio Mottola (Italy), 3. Dominik Carevic (Croatia). 1st Classical Guitar Competition of Finland (14th Tampere Guitar Festival): 1. Misael Barrazs-Diaz (Mexico), 2. Campbell Diamond (Australia) and Otto Kentala (Finland). East Carolina University (ECU) Summer Guitar Festival: 1. Eliza Balmuth, 2. Paulina Roughton. 3. Jesse Reese (all USA).

Hamilton International Guitar Festival (Ontario, Canada): 1. Austin Wahl (USA), 2. Tim Beattie (Canada), 3. Félix Dallaire (Canada). New Elizabethan Award (London, UK): solo guitar: 1. Jesse Flowers (Australia); ensemble—1. Andrey Lebedev (guitar, Australia) & Lotte Betts-Dean (mezzo-soprano, Australia); see following article for more on that event. Changsha [China] International Guitar Festival: 1. Ji Hyung Park (South Korea), Giacomo Susani (Italy), Bokyung Byun (South Korea)


New Elizabethan Award Names First “Holders”

July 6, 2018 was a landmark day, as the Selection Round of the inaugural New Elizabethan Award was held at the Royal Academy of Music, London. This biennial award, given out by The Musicians’ Company (Worshipful Company of Musicians, is open to classical guitarists and lutenists, performing either solo and/or in ensemble. Thus, of the eight candidates (as they are called, rather than “competitors”), guitarist Andrey Lebedev was performing both as a soloist and in duo with the mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean.

Each of the candidates presented 30 minutes of music by a British composer from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I; or music by a British or Commonwealth composer from the reign of current Queen Elizabeth II; or music with a demonstrably Elizabethan connection, written by a composer from another country or in another age.

This led to some inspired programming and performances: Lutenist Sergio Buchelialong with soprano Charlotte La Thrope, violinist Louise Ayrton and viol player Alice Trocellier—explored the influence of the Italian madrigalists on their Elizabethan counterparts. Contemporary music presented included Julian Bream Trust-commissioned pieces: Laura Snowden played Catalan Peasant with Guitar by Julian Anderson and Lebedev played Construction with Guitar Player by Harrison Birtwistle. And though Snowden was entered as a guitar soloist, we also had the pleasure of hearing her sing on John Dowland’s Flow My Tears and her own Anpao.

As a soloist, Lebedev also played contemporary Australian music: From Kakadu by Peter Sculthorpe and Three Caprichos after Goya by Brett Dean; and in duo with mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Deans, he performed Gertrude Fragments by Brett Dean. Bradley Johnson played works by Dowland, contrasted with Music of Memory by Nicholas Maw. More contemporary Australian music was played by the Australian guitarist Jesse Flowers: Ophelia … a haunted Sonata by Philip Houghton.

Some went one step further—guitarist Emmanuel Sowicz commissioned a new work for the occasion: To me, far friend, you can never be old by Armenian composer Kristina Arakelyan, which he performed with tenor Hiroshi Amoko. Sowicz also played Three Little Pieces for solo guitar by Kemal Yusuf. Guitarist Michael Butten with tenor Joel Williams brought the day to a close with unforgettable performances of Dowland, Benjamin Britten, and John McLeod’s Fantasy on Themes from Britten’s “Gloriana.”

Choosing from these eight excellent entries were composer Judith Weir; Director of Wigmore Hall and Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society John Gilhooly; soprano Dame Emma Kirkby; lutenist Nigel North; and guitarists Craig Ogden and Fabio Zanon; with the Royal Academy of Music’s Head of Guitar Michael Lewin as Chairman.

Ultimately, named as “Holders of the New Elizabethan Award 2019”—recipients of a prize package including cash and a 2019 Wigmore Hall appearance—were Jesse Flowers, along with the duo of Andrey Lebedev and singer Lotte Betts-Dean. Congratulations!  —Thérèse Wassily Saba