Meet the young pianists, instrumentalists, singers and conductors taking classical music into the future.

 
The young classical superstar isn’t exactly a new phenomenon – think Mozart, Liszt or Mendelssohn – but if you think the hottest talents are getting younger and younger, you might just be right. This month we’ve decided it’s time to take stock. So who is the new breed of soloist and what makes them special? Here are our pick of 30 of the best, all of them, rather neatly, under the age of 30.
 


 
What a record label looks for…
What are our criteria for signing new artists to our labels? The truth is there are no rules, no boxes to tick –because successful artists are unique “one-offs”, special and distinctive. The key is: how does an artist communicate emotion? For me this is the bottom line. If an artist is like you and me, they’re probably not interesting enough. The best artists have a special “aura” and a unique way of expressing themselves, both musically and in that something extra they project across the footlights. Of course, if they also strive to programme exciting repertoire, look like George Clooney or Scarlett Johansson, like to speak to journalists, communicate to their fans via social media, tour extensively and sign CDs after concerts, we love them even more.
Costa Pilavachi, Senior Vice- President, Universal Music
 
What an opera producer looks for…
What do I look for in a young singer? Opera is an incredibly demanding and highly competitive profession. It’s certainly not something that can be entered into on a whim. It takes guts, determination and a real commitment. Specifically, I look first for genuine talent. Without that there’s no point in going any further. This is followed closely by an inbuilt capacity for hard work that will need to extend right through the career. I also try to ascertain how desperately they want to be a singer, and whether they are strong enough, both mentally and physically, to work effectively within the industry.
Lyndon Terracini, Artistic Director, Opera Australia
 

INSTRUMENTALISTS – PIANISTS – SINGERS – CONDUCTORS


RAY CHEN Violin

The 25-year-old Taiwanese-Australian violinist is without doubt one of the leading players of his generation. Born in Taipei, Chen began learning his instrument at the age of four and by the age of nine had completed all ten levels of the Suzuki Method in what was by now his home state of Queensland. 

At the age of 13, he won first prize in the Australian National Youth Concerto Competition and was accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music by the time he was 15. He went on to win first prize at the 2008 Yehudi Menuhin Competition and was soon after signed to Sony. His Menuhin win brought him to the attention of Maxim Vengerov who gave him his Mariinsky Theatre debut soon afterwards. “Ray has proven himself to be a very pure musician with great qualities such as a beautiful youthful tone, vitality and lightness,” said Vengerov. 

In 2012, he became the youngest soloist to perform in the televised Nobel Prize Concert. Recognised for his maturity of expression, and with an impressive discography already behind him (Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn with Daniel Harding, a Mozart series with Christoph Eschenbach), Chen continues to excite audiences at home and abroad.


TINE THING HELSETH Trumpet

Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth started playing aged seven before graduating from the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2011. Her individuality and talent meant that, despite having popular trumpeter Alison Balsom on their books already, EMI gave Helseth a contract in 2011. BBC Music Magazine went on to name her as a “Superstar of Tomorrow”. Praised for her phrasing, intonation and open and honest sound, Helseth also leads the all-female brass ensemble, tenThing. In 2012 she opened the memorial concert for the tragic Anders Breivik attacks playing trumpet from the roof of Oslo City Hall.

 


LEONARD ELSCHENBROICH Cello

German cellist Leonard Elschenbroich was born in 1985 in Frankfurt, and at age ten, received a scholarship to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School in London. In 2009, he gained international attention after winning the Leonard Bernstein award at the Schleswig- Holstein Festival. Since this time he has collaborated with a number of eminent conductors including Valery Gergiev and Christoph Eschenbach. As a chamber musician, he is a member of the Sitkovetsky Trio and regularly performs with Nicola Benedetti and Alexei Grynyuk.


NICOLA BENEDETTI Violin

Born in Scotland, Benedetti started violin age four before studying at the Menuhin School under Lord Menuhin himself. By 2001 she had already played the Wigmore Hall and with the Scottish National Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic. At 16, she won BBC Young Musician of the Year and a £1m six album contract with DG, going on to sign to Decca in 2011. Praised for her passionate playing and sweetness of tone, hers is an essentially Romantic approach. A fierce advocate of music education, she’s committed to Sistema Scotland, an organisation demonstrating the power of music to transform the lives of young people.

 


THOMAS DUNFORD Lute

Dunford began playing the lute aged nine. Studying at the Paris Conservatoire and Schola Cantorum in Basel, he has performed as soloist and chamber musician at numerous festivals across Europe, including, Ambronay, Saintes, La Chaise Dieu, and Bozar. He has also made a number of critically lauded recordings, collaborating with the likes of Le Concert Spirituel, Les Arts Florissants, l’Ensemble Baroque de Limoges and countertenor Iestyn Davies.


VILDE FRANG Violin

Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang began playing aged four, and made her debut with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra performing Carmen Fantasy by Sarasate aged 10. She made her debut at the Philharmonie Olso performing the same piece three years later. Going on to study at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg and the Kronberg Academy, Frang has performed chamber music with musicians including Martha Argerich, Yuri Bashmet, Renaud Capuçon, Gautier Capuçon and Gidon Kremer. She has also appeared as soloist with Mariss Jansons and Maxim Vengerov.

 


KAREN GEOGHEGAN Bassoon

Scottish bassoonist Karen Geoghegan only took up her instrument at the age of 12. She was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland for four years and in 2006 gave a recital on BBC Radio Scotland as well as performing the Hindemith Trumpet and Bassoon Concerto with John Wallace. Ralph Couzens, managing director of Chandos Records, spotted her on a TV reality show in 2007 playing the Hummel Concerto and signed her up. In 2009 she performed the Mozart Concerto at the Proms and in 2011 she graduated from the Royal Academy of Music. To date she has recorded four CDs.


MAHAN ESFAHANI Harpsichord

Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani was born in 1984 in Tehran before moving to the United States. Studying piano with his father, he began taking harpsichord lessons with Elaine Thorburgh while a musicology student at Stanford University. In 2008 he was appointed Artist-in-Residence at New College, Oxford and was named a BBC New Generation Artist in 2009 – the first harpsichordist to be selected. In 2014 his recording of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Württemberg Sonatas was released on Hyperion Records.


ALINA IBRAGIMOVA Violin

Born in Russia to musical parents, Ibragimova began playing the violin aged four. Moving to England in 1996 after her father was appointed principal double bassist with the London Symphony Orchestra, she began studies at the Yehudi Menuhin School (where her mother now teaches violin). In 2002 Ibragimova won the London Symphony Orchestra Music Scholarship and in 2005 became a BBC New Generation Artist. Her first CD for Hyperion Records was the complete violin works of Karl Amadeus Hartmann in 2007, which was followed by the two violin concertos of Nikolai Roslavets in 2008. With regular recital partner Cédric Tiberghien and in solo and chamber music, Alina has appeared at venues including the Wigmore Hall, Concertgebouw, Mozarteum, Musikverein and Carnegie Hall. Performing a wide range of repertoire extending from baroque to contemporary works, Ibragimova is widely celebrated for her wildly imaginative playing, combining unleashed energy and historical awareness. She has also been the recipient of a number of awards including the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award 2010, Borletti- Buitoni Trust and a Classical BRIT.

 


NEMANJA RADULOVIĆ Violin

 

 

Born in Serbia in 1985, Radulovi´c began playing at the age of seven and was winning prizes by the time he was 12. At 14 he moved to France where he studied at the Paris Conservatoire. Radulovic´’s international career took off in 2006 when he stood in for Maxim Vengerov at Paris’s Salle Pleyel, playing the Beethoven Concerto under Myung-Whun Chung. He made his Carnegie Hall debut the following year. As acclaimed for his fiery stage presence as he is for championing the Romantic virtuoso repertoire, Radulovic´ signed to Deutsche Grammophon earlier this year.

 


ANDREAS OTTENSAMER Clarinet

 

Born in Vienna in 1989, Andreas Ottensamer began clarinet studies aged 12 under Johann Hindler. Interrupting his Harvard studies to accept a fellowship with the Berlin Philharmonic, he was appointed principal clarinettist with the Deutsches Symphonie- Orchester Berlin in 2010 and in 2011 became principal clarinettist with the Berlin Philharmonic. His first album recorded on Deutsche Grammophon was released last year with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

 

INSTRUMENTALISTS – PIANISTS – SINGERS – CONDUCTORS


JAN LISIECKI

Born in Canada in 1995, Jan Lisiecki began playing at age five and made his orchestral debut just four years later. He has since performed with orchestras in Canada and internationally, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Lisiecki has been praised for the poetic, mature nature of his playing. He has won a handful of prestigious awards, and in 2010 was invited to open the celebrations for Chopin’s 200th birthday in the composer’s birthplace, Zelazowa Wola. The New York Times has called Lisiecki “a pianist who makes every note count”.
 

RAFAL BLECHACZ

Blechacz began piano lessons at the age of five, going on to study at the National Arthur Rubinstein 2Music School in Bydgoszcz, Poland. In 2005 he became the only pianist to be awarded all five first prizes at the 15th International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw – winning the polonaise, mazurka, sonata and concerto categories. In 2006, Blechacz was signed to Deutsche Grammophon and has recorded with the Warsaw Philharmonic, led by Antoni Wit and the Royal Concertgebouw, under Jerzy Semkow. In 2014, he was named the 2014 Gilmore Artist.


KHATIA BUNIATISHVILI

Born in 1987, Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili began studies at the age of three. Giving her first performance with the Chamber Orchestra in Tbilisi aged six, she was hailed as a child prodigy and began touring internationally from age ten. Graduating from the Tbilisi State Conservatory in 2004 under Tengiz Amirejibi, she has performed with the Israel Philharmonic, Saint Petersburg Philharmonic and the Arthur Rubinstein Orchestra among others. She is signed to Sony Classical and released her first CD to mark Liszt’s 200th anniversary in 2011, followed by a Chopin disc in 2012.


BEHZOD ABDURAIMOV

Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 1990, Abduraimov began to play the piano aged five. Studying at the Uspensky State Central Lyceum under Tamara Popovich, he received first prize at the 2009 London International Piano Competition aged 18 with a performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. In 2012, he released his debut CD on Decca Classics, which won both the Choc de Classica and the Diapason Découverte. 

He is currently pursuing further studies at the International Center for Music at Park University, Kansas City under Stanislav Ioudenitch.


HOANG PHAM

Born in Vietnam, Melbourne-based pianist Hoang Pham moved to Australia with his refugee family at an early age. Studying with Rita Reichman at the Australian National Academy of Music, his competition wins include the Sydney International Piano Competition in 2008, the inaugural Melbourne Recital Centre Great Romantics Competition in 2010 and Australian Young Performer of the Year in 2013.


BENJAMIN GROSVENOR

British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor gained international prominence at the age of 11 after winning the piano section of the 2004 BBC Young Musician of the Year. In 2010 he joined the BBC New Generation Artists scheme, and in the summer of 2011, made his debut at the BBC Proms as the youngest-ever soloist on opening night. He has performed at venues including Wigmore Hall, the Barbican Centre and Carnegie Hall.


YUJA WANG

Born 1987, Chinese pianist Yuja Wang began playing piano at the age of six. Going on to study at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, she was awarded first prize in the Aspen Music Festival’s concerto competition in 2002 and made her European debut the following year with the Tonhalle Orchestra, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 under David Zinman. Named a biennial Gilmore Young Artist in 2006, Wang’s American breakthrough came in 2007 when she replaced Martha Argerich in four concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. In 2012, Wang toured with the Israel Philharmonic and in February 2013 performed and recorded Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 and Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 3 with Gustavo Dudamel and the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. Praised for her clarity, poetic grace and attention to melodic lines, the San Francisco Chronicle described Wang in 2012 as “quite simply, the most dazzlingly, uncannily gifted pianist in the concert world today, with nothing left to do but sit back, listen and marvel at her artistry”.


DANIIL TRIFONOV

Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov became a medalist in 2010 of the distinguished 16th International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, where he won Third Prize and the Special Prize of Polish Radio for the best mazurka performance. In May 2011, he was awarded first prize in the Rubinstein Competition in Israel; and one month later, the legendary Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. His first CD was released on Decca in 2011, featuring a selection of Chopin solo piano works. At this time Martha Argerich told the Financial Times that Trifonov had “everything and more” to succeed. In February 2013 Trifonov made his debut at Carnegie Hall in a concert recorded and released by Deutsche Grammophon.

INSTRUMENTALISTS – PIANISTS – SINGERS – CONDUCTORS


NICOLE CAR Soprano

After studying at the Victorian College of the Arts, Australian soprano Nicole Car made her stage debut in 2009 as Donna Anna in Victorian Opera’s Don Giovanni. Winner of the 2013 Neue Stimmen competition in Germany, Car’s notable concert engagements have included Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem with the Queensland and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras and a program of Strauss and Mozart with the Melbourne Symphony. She has performed Mimi, Micaela, Pamina in The Magic Flute, Leila in The Pearl Fishers and Tatiana in Eugene Onegin with Opera Australia.

 


JULIA LEZHNEVA Soprano

Lezhneva is a Russian soprano and coloratura mezzo-soprano. Born in 1989 on Sakhalin Island, Lezhneva graduated with distinction from the Gretchaninov Music School in Moscow in 2004. Winning the 1st Competition for Young Vocalists in 2006, she completed an honours degree in vocal studies and a diploma for piano from the Moscow Conservatory Academic Music College in 2010, before going on to pursue further studies at the Cardiff International Academy of Voice. She has given solo recitals in the Moscow State Conservatory, the Bolshoi Theatre, and also toured extensively throughout Europe and Japan.

 


PENE PATI Tenor

Samoan-born Darren Pene Pati is based in New Zealand. The recipient of several major awards including the inaugural ‘Iosefa Enari memorial’ scholarship from Creative Arts New Zealand and the Seamus Casey Memorial Award, in 2010 he was awarded first place in the New Zealand Young Performer of the Year awards. Attracting the favourable attention of Richard Bonynge and Kiri Te Kanawa, in 2011 he accepted an invitation to study under Dennis O’Neill at the Wales International Academy of Voice in Cardiff, where he was supported by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation.

 


JULIAN PRÉGARDIEN Tenor

Julian Prégardien has already enjoyed great success in opera, concert and Lied. The German tenor only made his professional debut in 2007, after studying with Reginaldo Pinheira at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg. Since then, he has been a company member of Oper Frankfurt and appeared as a soloist with the likes of Collegium Vocale Ghent. Since the summer semester of 2013, he has a contract to teach oratorio in Munich.

 


ANDREI BONDARENKO Baritone

Born in 1987 in Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine, baritone Andrei Bondarenko was born in Ukraine where he trained at the National Tchaikovsky Academy of Music. He was a prizewinner at the 2006 International Rimsky-Korsakov competition in St Petersburg and was awarded first prize in the 2011 Art in the 21st Century competition in Vorzel. He has worked extensively with the likes of Vladimir Ashkenazy and Valery Gergiev and this year made his debut as Eugene Onegin at Oper Köln and Oper Stuttgart.

 


EMÖKE BARATH Soprano

Hungarian soprano Emöke Barath began her musical education studying the piano and harp. Switching to singing at the age of 18, she trained under Professor Julia Paszthy at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. In 2009, she received the third prize at the 44th Anton Dvorák International Competition and in 2011, First Prize at the Second International Singing Competition for Baroque Opera in Innsbruck. In November 2012 she released her first recording (Naïve label) in Händel’s Giulio Cesare, singing the role of Sesto with the Complesso Barocco and Alan Curtis.

 


PRETTY YENDE Soprano

South African soprano Pretty Yende first came to the attention of the international music community in 2010 when she made history as the first artist to win first prize in every category of the Belvedere Competition. 

In some ways this wasn’t surprising, considering Yende graduated cum laude from the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town. She is also an alumnus of the Accademia Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy. 

After receiving various other accolades, including first prize at the Vincenzo Bellini International Competition and Operalia: The World Opera Competition, Yende made her professional operatic debut in Carmen at the National Theatre in Riga. 

Since then, Yende has worked with some of the most prominent figures in opera. She is credited for her vocals in Andrea Bocelli’s “Concerto: One Night in Central Park” and as a primary artist on Inspirato, a collaboration between Yanni and Plácido Domingo. Last year, Yende was awarded a Silver Order of Ikhamanga for her “excellent achievement and international acclaim in the field of world opera”.

INSTRUMENTALISTS – PIANISTS – SINGERS – CONDUCTORS


Nicholas Carter

Australian conductor Nicholas Carter graduated from Melbourne University in 2007, having studied voice and piano. Appointed Assistant Conductor of the Sydney Symphony in 2009, he went on to become Resident Conductor of the Hamburg State Opera in 2011, working with Simone Young. Recently appointed Associate Guest Conductor of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, in August this year he will also take up the post of Kapellmeister at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin. He has guest conducted the Staatsorchester Braunschweig, Dalasinfoniettan Sweden and the Louisiana Philharmonic.

 


Diego Matheuz

Born in 1984, Diego Matheuz began his musical studies in violin at the Jacinto Lara Music Conservatory in his hometown of Barquisimeto. As a graduate of El Sistema, Matheuz began his conducting studies in 2005 under the tutelage of Maestro José Antonio Abreu. Matheuz’s brekthrough came in 2007, when Sir Simon Rattle invited him to conduct a rehearsal of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. The following year he conducted Claudio Abbado’s Orchestra Mozart in Bologna. A year later he was appointed their Principal Guest Conductor and in September 2009 he joined the Italian Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale Santa Cecilia as replacement for their Music Director, Antonio Pappano on tour in Milan, Turin and Lucerne. Praised for his self-assured conducting technique, Matheuz maintains a good connection with his native orchestras, having been appointed Associate Conductor of The Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar and Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra Mozart. In 2012, he was also appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.


Lionel Bringuier 

Born in 1986, Lionel Bringuier is a French conductor, cellist and pianist. Beginning studies at age 5 at the Nice conservatory, he was admitted at age 13 to the Paris Conservatoire. Graduating cum laude from the Conservatoire in 2004 with diplomas in cello and conducting, Bringuier became assistant conductor with the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris in 2005. The same year he received first prize in the 49th International Besançon Competition for Young Conductors. As of the 2014- 2015 season, Bringuier is now chief conductor of the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich.


Gemma New

Born and raised in Wellington, Gemma New began conducting at age 15. Studying violin performance at the University of Canterbury, she left New Zealand to complete further conducting study at the Peabody Institute in the US with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar. Making her Carnegie Hall debut in 2013, New is currently Associate Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Director of the Lunar Ensemble.