Why only one Brit among BBC’s New Generation artists?

Why only one Brit among BBC’s New Generation artists?


norman lebrecht

September 10, 2014

The scheme has been boosting young careers since 1999, among them Alison Balsom, Mahan Esfahani and the Belcea Quartet.

Here are the latest beneficiaries, with only one British artist, and one woman, among six. The BBC is a national broadcaster, paid for by the British nation. Sometimes it loses track of its prorities. Here are the six chosen artists and ensembles:

The Armida Quartet – String Quartet (Germany)

The Armida Quartet is named after one of Joseph Haydn’s most successful operas. The Quartet was founded in the summer of 2006 in Berlin and is currently attending the Artemis Quartet’s class at the Universität der Künste. In September 2012 the Armida Quartet received first prize and the Audience Award at the 61st International Music Competition of ARD, where it was also awarded the Special Prize for the best interpretation of the commissioned composition “Lost Prayers” by Erkki-Sven Tüür.


Benjamin Appl – Baritone (Germany)

German baritone Benjamin Appl studied at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Munich and the Bayerische Theaterakademie August Everding, and graduated from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. He was the last private pupil of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Benjamin is a member of the Yehudi-Menuhin-Foundation Live Music Now and recipient of many awards, including the 2012 Schubert Prize awarded by the Deutsche Schubert Gesellschaft. Benjamin appears regularly with the Wigmore Hall and Schubertiade Festival, while recent opera appearances include Il mondo della luna (Ernesto) in Augsburg, and a new commission for the Bregenz Festival (Das Leben am Rande der Milchstraße by Bernhard Gander). He will also be an ECHO Rising Starts artist during the 2015/16 season.


Alec Frank-Gemmill – French Horn (UK)

Horn player Alec Frank-Gemmill is recognised internationally for the exceptional breadth and depth of his music-making. He has performed concertos with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker and Sinfonietta Köln and on numerous occasions with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, where he is also Principal Horn. Alec was Artist in Residence at the 2013 Lammermuir Festival and made his Wigmore Hall debute in the same year.  Forthcoming performances include the premiere of a piece by John Luther Adams at the East Neuk Festival, a recital as part of the Junge Elite series at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival and baroque horn concertos at the Spitalfields Festival.

Narek Hakhnazaryan – Cello (Armenia)




Narek Hakhnazaryan studied at the Moscow and New England Conservatories; he was mentored by Rostropovich and received a scholarship from the Rostropovich Foundation. Prizes include the 2008 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and the Cello First Prize and Gold Medal at the International Tchaikovsky Competition 2011.  Hakhnazaryan’s many high-level engagements have included concerto appearances with the London Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony orchestras, with conductors such as Gergiev, Robertson, Bělohlávek and Koopman. He has also performed in recital and chamber music in many of the major halls and festivals across the globe including Wigmore Hall, Salle Pleyel (Paris), Berlin Konzerthaus and Amsterdam Concertgebouw.


Pavel Kolesnikov – Piano (Russia)

Pavel Kolesnikov began to study piano and violin at the age of six and entered the Moscow State Conservatoire in 2007. He continues his education at the Royal College of Music in London as an Else Gertrude Martin Scholar supported by an Evelyn Tarrant Award. Pavel is the 2012 Honens Prize Laureate, and his other awards include First Prize at the Gilels International Piano Competition and the special Jury Prize at the XIV International P.I. Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.  Pavel has played in concerts, both as soloist and chamber musician, in Russia, the Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland.


Esther Yoo – Violin (US / Belgium)

Esther Yoo is currently a student of Ana Chumachenco in the Excellence Bachelor Programme at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich and of Augustin Dumay in the Artist Diploma Programme at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Brussels. Esther was the youngest prize winner of the 10th International Sibelius Violin Competition in 2010, aged just 16, and in 2012 she was one of the youngest ever prize winners of the Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition. Following her London debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra under the late Lorin Maazel in March, she is currently touring South America with the orchestra, under Vladimir Ashkenazy, with performances of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Williams’ The Lark Ascending.






  • MWnyc says:

    Norman, you do know that Mahan Esfahani is American, don’t you?

    Born in Tehran, moved to the U.S. at age 2, grew up in a Maryland suburb of D.C.

    Seems to be something of a genius (not just at music).

    • Max Grimm says:

      Apart from Alison Balsom, none of the above named previous beneficiaries are British. As you have pointed out MWNYC, Mahan Esfahani is an Iranian-American and the Belcea Quartet is made up of a Romanian and a French violinist, a Polish violist and a French Cellist (although the original quartet did have two Britons in their ranks; a British violinist and a British cellist).

  • Max Grimm says:

    “The scheme has been boosting young careers since 1999, among them Alison Balsom, Mahan Esfahani and the Belcea Quartet.”

    Norman, as you’ve written in the first sentence, it’s the goal of the scheme to boost “young careers” and not “young careers of native Britons”.
    And given your well documented criticism of the selection and employment practices of a certain Austrian orchestra, your wording in the second paragraph above actually made me laugh.

    • SVM says:

      I agree with Mr Grimm; let us also avoid being sensationalist, and note that of the five artists who are not “British”, two of them studied for a degree in London. This gives a 50:50 split between “British” and “international” artists (counting the quartet as one “artist”). Furthermore, many British musicians benefit from opportunities elsewhere in the EU and farther afield.

  • Anon says:

    If the BBC’s job is only to employ or support British artists and talent – which would presumably include graphic designers, sound designers, painters (digital and otherwise) and more as well as musicians – then they’ve got a systemic problem. But possibly the BBC is more about presenting the very best (within the realms of affordability and practicality, natch), wherever it may come from, to the Great British Public who pay for it, rather than presenting them with a narrow selection of home-grown talent only.

    • Peter Davis says:

      The idea of the BBC only ‘presenting the very best’ is quite frankly laughable. As well as being consistently anti-British in terms of musicians, especially contemporary British composers, the institution lacks imagination in terms of breadth of repertoire, historical periods, and instruments. It increasingly prefers a middle-of-the-road approach endlessly repeating the same mainly Germanic pieces from the 19th and early 20th centuries. More recent work is certainly represented but mostly of the kind that like so much modern art needs to be talked to death before we hear or see it.

  • Milka says:

    Whatever their nationality it matters little in the long run …one does not doubt their competence …but what do they bring to music ..the endless dreary
    repetitions of the same old same old…
    And one wonders why the base audience is shrinking. Yet another
    Tchaikovsky violin and the Lark Ascending- good grief!!!

  • Martin says:

    As long as real musicians like Pavel Kolesnikov are chosen I couldn’t care less where they are from.

  • Elvira Silverman says:

    Dear people please listen to Esther Yoo on YouTube.Sibelius is amazing! She plays her Strad as if is the extension of her arm.

  • anon says:

    It’s not the fault of those who have been chosen that they are not British.

    What are the criteria for selection to be a new generation artist. Last time I heard musicians are just chosen – there’s no competition or auditions per se.

    Any institution that isn’t transparent in these matters of selection is at fault, wether it be the BBC or any other organisation.