SHEFFIELD cellist Ben Gregor Smith won a major prize in the eighth biannual Witold Lutoslawski International Cello Competition in Warsaw last Thursday.
He was awarded the EMCY (European Union of Music Competitions for Youth) prize and that puts him among a handful of top young cellists in the world.
The title of Laureate of the competition was also conferred on him for his playing of one of most fiendishly difficult pieces, Penderecki’s Divertimento for solo cello.
The daunting piece causes his dad, former Lindsay Quartet cellist Bernard Gregor-Smith, to break out in a cold sweat at the prospect of playing it.
Bernard said: “It’s a fantastic thing for him to achieve. I’m very proud of him.”
Ben said after reaching the semi-finals: “I never thought I would get to the semis! There were 66 in the second round, down to 16 in this round, and it’s the biggest competition in the world for under-25 limit, so I am happy to have got this far. I don’t think the next round is a possibility but I will do my best.”
He did and it was good enough and it was a still somewhat speechless Ben who said yesterday: “I’m not really sure what to say, just I guess that I was very happy to be included in the Laureates of such a prestigious competition. I didn’t expect it at all but was certainly a very nice surprise.”
Ben, who turns 24 in April, is currently studying on a coveted specialised soloist masters course in Basle, Switzerland.
He can be next encountered in Sheffield on Saturday, April 9 when he is one of the tutors, along with Bernard and Helen Downham, at a Cello Day organised by 4strings/88keys at Sheffield Music Academy on Winter Street.
At the end of it, a six-item Tutors’ Recital from 6pm-7.15pm features Ben in each of them, playing three solo pieces, a Bach cello suite movement, Thomas Demenga’s Efue and the Penderecki monster.
His mum, pianist Yolande Wrigley, joins him for Lutoslawski’s Gravé, his dad for David Popper’s Suite for two cellos with Helen Downham joining in for the same composer’s Requiem for three cellos and piano.
Tickets for the concert are £5, while anyone interested in the Cello Day, which runs from 9am to 4.45pm, can find details at www.sheffield-cello.org
Further information, application forms and details of bursaries are available from David Brown on 0781 615 6310.