Viola player named first BBC Young Musician 2022 finalist

Viola player Jaren Ziegler has been crowned winner of the strings final of BBC Young Musician 2022, securing himself a place in the competition’s grand final.

The 16-year-old from London is the first finalist to be announced as part of the 2022 edition of the UK talent contest for young classical performers.

The strings final was recorded in early July at Saffron Hall in Saffron Walden, Essex, with highlights of the competition broadcast on BBC Four on Sunday evening.

Ziegler battled it out against four other young musicians in the strings final: violinists 14-year-old Aki Blendi, Clara Sophia Wernig, Dawid Kasprzak and Edward Walton, all aged 16.

The expert panel of judges for the event included two of the UK’s most respected soloists in the strings category: viola player Philip Dukes, and winner of BBC Young Musician 2002, violinist Jennifer Pike.

Dukes and Pike joined organist and director of music at Pembroke College, Cambridge, Anna Lapwood, who is also the chair of all the BBC Young Musician 2022 category final judging panels.

The BBC Young Musician grand final, recorded at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on September 29, is scheduled for broadcast on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3 on October 9.

The programme’s presenting team will feature saxophonist and 2016 competition finalist Jess Gillam, classical soul pianist and composer Alexis Ffrench and presenter and BBC Young Musician regular Josie d’Arby.

The culmination of the contest will see Ziegler compete against yet-to-be-announced winners from four other categories – woodwind, brass, percussion and keyboard.

Each finalist will perform a concerto with the BBC Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Mark Wigglesworth in front of a jury of experts chaired by Lapwood.

Members of the jury include BBC Radio 3’s editor for live music Emma Bloxham, Southbank Centre’s head of classical music Toks Dada, conductor Ben Gernon, and sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar.

Percussionist Fang Zhang won BBC Young Musician 2020
Percussionist Fang Zhang won BBC Young Musician 2020 (Fabio De Paola/PA)

Following the broadcast of the strings final highlights on Sunday, hour-long programmes of highlights from the four other category finals will also be broadcast on BBC Four over the coming week.

BBC Young Musician 2020 was won by 18-year-old percussionist Fang Zhang, who was awarded the title in May 2021, after the grand final was delayed by the global pandemic.

Also set to return this autumn is BBC Young Jazz Musician, which turns the focus on some of the most talented up-and-coming musicians and singers on the British jazz scene.

The jazz final will take place at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on November 19 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.

During the event, five finalists will compete for the title of BBC Young Jazz Musician, each hoping to follow in the footsteps of the 2020 winner, pianist Deschanel Gordon.