An abundance of talent in evidence at London’s historic Wigmore Hall

Earlier today, I was privileged to attend an YCAT Concert at London’s prestigious Wigmore Hall.

“YCAT” stands for Young Classical Artists Trust and is a UK charity founded in 1984 that builds the careers of emerging classical artists. The Trust selects artists who show international potential and provides them with sustained, intensive guidance, bespoke artist management and prolonged care over a 3-5 year period. Additionally, it works in partnership with many of the important venues around the world, building strategic career development to enable its artists to flourish.

Which brings us neatly on to today’s concert, featuring the soprano Nika Gorič together with Jonathan Ware, who was accompanying Nika on the piano. I should say first of all that I was excited to be paying a first visit to Wigmore Hall – although I’d walked past this illustrious old building many times, until today I had never had the opportunity to venture inside. It’s a venue with a fascinating history – I wasn’t previously aware of this, but Wigmore Hall actually began life as Bechstein Hall, when it opened in 1901, having been built by the German piano firm Bechstein next to its showrooms on Wigmore Street.

The Hall was designed, in Renaissance style, by the English architect Thomas Collcutt – one of the most distinguished architects of his day. It has been through some tempestuous times – the outbreak of war in 1914 saw much hostility against German firms and in 1916 the entire Bechstein business, including the Hall, was sold to Debenhams (something else I didn’t know).

So many renowned composers and musicians have performed here over the years: Ravel, Faure, Nellie Melba, Cecelia Bartoli, The Nash Ensemble…far too many to mention. A serene and welcoming environment, I can see why it appeals so much to performers. It is also very beautiful – especially the Hall’s Arts and Crafts Cupola, which is just glorious and formed the perfect backdrop to today’s concert.

I said at the beginning of my post that we were privileged to visit such a prestigious venue; well, we were also privileged to be entertained by two incredibly talented musicians, who undoubtedly have long and illustrious careers ahead of them. So, without further ado, introducing Nika Gorič and Jonathan Ware…

Born in Slovenia, Nika studied at the Ballet and Music School in Maribar and the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, and is currently completing her studies on the Opera Course at the Royal Academy of Music. In 2015, she was a finalist and Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra Award winner at the International Competition Zinka Milanov in Croatia. Nika is a member of the Royal Academy of Music Song Circle and a soloist in the Kohn Foundation Bach Cantata. Recently, she has performed in productions of The Fairy Queen, Handel’s Messiah and the Marriage of Figaro.

Born in Texas, Jonathan studied at the Eastman School of Music, The Juilliard School and at the Hochschule fur Musik ‘Hanns Eisler’ Berlin, where he now teaches. He won the Pianist’s Prize at Wigmore Hall Kohn Foundation International Song and Das Lied Competitions and in 2014 won 1st Prize in the International Hugo Wolf Competition. Jonathan is sought after as both a song accompanist and chamber musician and, among his many achievements, counts recordings for BBC Radio 3, a residency at the Verbier Festival Academy and acting as a mentor at the Heidelberger Fruhling Festival Academy.

Both Nika and Jonathan have incredible charisma and stage presence and the 60 minutes of their combined performance absolutely flew by. Nika’s voice is pure, and sweet, and her performance is informed by all the emotions under the sun: (watching her perform ‘Men are Rogues’, with a twinkle in her eye, is an absolute joy).

As for the music itself: well, it is every bit as beautiful as you would expect from a programme featuring Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Richard Strauss, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Sergei Rachmaninov and Vladimir Vlasov. This concert was an absolute delight, from start to finish.

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