Classical music’s bright young stars who are shaping the future of the music we love

9 December 2020, 14:10 | Updated: 9 December 2020, 14:22

Classical music’s bright young stars
Classical music’s bright young stars. Picture: Classic FM

In the centuries-old world of classical music, every generation faces challenges but also makes its mark. Meet the young instrumentalists and composers who are doing their bit to revolutionise their musical worlds and change the future of the classical genre.

Alexandra Whittingham

Manchester-born guitarist Alexandra Whittingham is a rising star of the British classical music scene. Alexandra studied guitar and piano at the renowned Chetham’s School of Music before, with scholarship in hand, heading to Royal Academy of Music in London. In the spring of 2013, Alexandra won the inaugural Edinburgh Guitar Competition and has collected many awards in guitar competitions around Europe.

As with many musicians of her generation, Alexandra looked to social media to grow her profile. By making videos of core guitar repertoire in breathtaking locations, she has amassed over 20 million views on YouTube. Her performances are always engaging and uplifting – and, in the past few months, she has just been signed to Delphian Records. Her first album on the prestigious Scottish label is an exploration of 19th-century guitar repertoire – clearly, they see a young artist with immense talent and huge potential to shape the classical world.

Asturias (Isaac Albéniz) - Alexandra Whittingham

Shona Beecham

This young musician has played in venues from London’s Royal Festival Hall, to the Weill Recital Hall at New York’s Carnegie Hall. She’s graced the stages of Europe and led Chineke! Junior Orchestra in their audition on national TV in Britain’s Got Talent.

Shona Beecham is an incredibly talented 17-year-old violinist, supported by Future Talent. She is currently studying her BMus at the Royal College of Music and is absolutely one to watch.

Thomas Hewitt Jones

One of this country’s finest young composers is Thomas Hewitt Jones. He’s the sort of music-maker who can bring his magic to any form or combination of instruments. He can equally be heard anywhere: in concert, on TV, in the cinema, and frequently on Classic FM (see below). Thomas is a multi-instrumentalist, but you’ll often find him lurking behind a keyboard or cello, surrounded by an array of microphones in his home studio.

In 2016 he found international fame in a rapid-penning of his ‘Fantasy on David Cameron’, based on the four notes the former UK Prime Minister hummed upon leaving Downing Street. Equally brilliant and inspired is his rollicking seasonal classic ‘Christmas Party’, which delights listeners in Yuletide. However, most recently, lockdown brought a more reflective tone with the powerful song ‘Can you hear me?’, asking about mental health during COVID-19, and performed by soprano Laura Wright and The Choir of Royal Holloway.

Silent Night | Thomas Hewitt Jones | A Classic FM Christmas

Toby Hughes

The imposing and unwieldy double bass might not be the first instrument people think of for lyrical, delicate lines. But just a few lines from young bass virtuoso Toby Hughes will make you hear everything anew. When he was young he heard the mighty giant of the string orchestra and his ambitions were set. Toby studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and around Europe, with Future Talent and City Music Foundation supporting his talent throughout.

Be drawn into his instrument’s luscious depths as Toby is joined by pianist Gamal Khamis playing Bottesini’s ‘Elegy’ in the stunning 12th-century church, St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London.

Bottesini's Elegy

Double Bass virtuoso Toby Hughes joined by pianist Gamal Khamis play Bottesini's 'Elegy' in the stunning 12th-century church St Bartholomew the Great. You can catch Toby perform alongside cellist Abel Selaocoe as part of City Music Foundation's lunchtime concert series at St Bartholomew the Less, on 20th March, 1pm 👉

Posted by Classic FM on Friday, 8 March 2019

Anna Lapwood

For centuries, the roles of organists and directors of music at Oxbridge colleges have been held by older musicians (who were very often men). If there was a memo sent around about it, our next bright young star didn’t get it. In 2016, Anna Lapwood, at the age of 21, was named as Director of Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge and became the youngest person to hold the director of music position at an Oxbridge college.

Anna is an organist, singer, conductor and harpist. She has rapidly made her mark on her college by establishing the Pembroke College Girls’ Choir and a Cambridge Organ Experience for Girls. Anna is also brilliant at using social media to showcase the world of organ and choral music – she’ll frequently host 24-hour ‘Bach-a-thons’, where she’s joined by fellow organists for marathon love-streamed sessions of the great Baroque composer’s organ music.

Patrick Gowers – An Occasional Trumpet Voluntary | Anna Lapwood Organist | Classic FM Sessions

Maciej Kulakowski

Cellist Maciej has already ticked some of the world’s major concert halls, including London’s Wigmore Hall, off his bucket list. He’s currently a YCAT (Young Classical Artists Trust) artist, and has won numerous competitions, including First Prize and a special award at the prestigious Lutoslawski International Cello Competition.

For a name drop (or six), he’s collaborated with late composer Krzysztof Penderecki, pianist Emanuel Ax, pianist and conductor Christoph Eschenbach, violinist Viviane Hagner, and cellist Jan Vogler, to name just an esteemed few.

Maciej turns his immense talent to creating his own original music too – watch his incredible mutli-tracked performance of ‘Belonging’ in the video below. We can’t wait to see what Maciej does next.

Maciej Kulakowski - Belonging

Rob Burton

One of the UK’s most exciting young woodwind players is 20-year-old saxophonist, Rob Burton. He’s a fantastic, dynamic player who has already performed as a soloist around the country with the likes of the London Mozart Players and Classic FM’s Orchestra in the Midlands, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Rob currently studies Classical Saxophone on a full scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. We can all thank Future Talent and YCAT for their support of this very exciting musician.

Jules Demersseman - "Fantaisie sur un thème original" (Rob Burton, saxophone)

Michael Poll

US-born, London-based classical guitarist and conductor Michael Poll is another one to watch. His debut guitar album, 7-String Bach, featured Bach’s lute works played on a guitar with a sonorous lower string for extra oomph. The recording was praised as ‘masterful’ by Gramophone magazine. Swapping guitar for baton, Michael is also a conductor, leading Bloomsbury Opera’s 2018 production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Classical guitarists are a bit of a theme here, huh? Great instrument, great generation of players. Exciting times for those strumming six (and yes, sometimes seven) strings.

Guitarist Michael Poll
Guitarist Michael Poll. Picture: Michael Poll

Arsha Kaviani

British-Iranian virtuoso is a hugely exciting talent. He’s been described by Gramophone magazine as “an exceptionally gifted pianist, even in this age of the exceptionally gifted”. He studied at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, culminating with a double masters in music and composition from the Royal College of Music and Trinity in London. Arsha’s talents are regularly on display on Classic FM’s social media channels. Have a listen to this arrangement of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, soloist and orchestra both beneath his fingers.

At-Home Sessions | Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 | Classic FM

Those opening chords... 💪 The epic opening to Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, played in lockdown by Arsha Kaviani.

Posted by Classic FM on Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Willard Carter

Willard started cello lessons at the age of 4, and journeyed through Wells Cathedral School as a chorister and then the Purcell School. In May 2019 he performed at Buckingham Palace, and his performance was later broadcast on Classic FM. In October 2019, Willard was awarded the prestigious Coombs Scholarship by music charity Future Talent. Willard has been mentored by extraordinary musicians, in particular, Vasily Petrenko, Alban Gerhardt and Guy Johnston.

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Ella Jarman-Pinto

Ella is a Cumbria-based composer and singer and one of the UK’s most exciting music-makers. A look at her social media shows you Ella openly challenges a lot of the long-standing preconceptions about who a composer is. She’s brilliantly talented, forthright, and openly juggles being a new mum alongside her compositional projects.

Ella writes the scores for TV shows and award-winning films. She was Composer in Residence from 2016-17 with Streetwise Opera, an inspiring opera company that works with homeless people to put on music, concerts and operas in our cities.

Photos by richiejohnstonline

Posted by Ella Jarman-Pinto - Composer on Monday, 8 February 2016

Daniel Bovey

Daniel began playing the guitar at the age of 8. Although he initially took classical lessons, Daniel quickly took up the bass and the electric guitar and was playing regularly in rock bands from the beginning of secondary school. At the age of 16 Daniel quite suddenly became fascinated by classical music and began practising the classical guitar obsessively, which led him to study at the Junior Guildhall School of Music.

He now has a flourishing career, supported by Future Talent, as a concert guitarist particularly in two ensembles, the Vickers Bovey Guitar Duo and Mēla Guitar Quartet. Here he is in his duo, at London’s iconic Wigmore Hall.

Vickers Bovey Guitar Duo play Piazzolla's Tango Suite: movements 2 & 3

Ema Nikolovska

This Macedonian mezzo is a true rising star, and one of a number of incredible young talents supported by Young Classical Artists Trust. Ema studied at Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London and is going on to sing in the biggest opera houses of the world.

Hear her rich, lyrical voice in this fantastic Mozart at the capital’s Barbican Hall with the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra.

Nikolovska: "Parto, parto" - W.A. Mozart

Brioni Crowe

Brioni started playing the flute at the age of 6, making rapid progress through various bands, until she became lead flute for the very successful Youth Concert Band. Age 9 she won Blackpool’s Musician of the Year award.

One of Brioni’s highlights was performing at Buckingham Palace in May 2019, performing a solo in the Palace Ballroom for the music charity Future Talent which has been supporting her. Brioni simply says, it was the best evening of her life and a huge honour to be part of such a special event.

She is currently the Principal of the Halle Youth Orchestra, the RNCM Symphony Orchestra and the National Orchestra of Great Britain for 2020.