ONCE again this was a keenly fought contest. Two former Keith Nutland Award winners were in hot contention to carry off the Oldbury Trophy, though they certainly did not have the field to themselves.
Cellist Rebecca McNaught, ably accompanied by her brother Jonathan, presented a programme cleverly devised to show off her musical talents. Her lively playing of the Allegro from Vivaldi's Sonata in A minor No 3 contrasted with the anguish expressed later in Bloch's Prayer.
Frank Bridge's skittish Scherzetto proved another excellent vehicle for her technical skills.
Brass instruments are normally associated with male musicians, but that does not deter Rhiannon Symonds who played one of the most satisfying pieces of the evening, Ernst Sachse's Concertino for Trombone. She then took up her red trombone for a groovy account of Richard Hill's Concerto for Jazz Trombone. Cheltenham Jazz Festival organisers should beating a path to her door!
Another cellist William Percy was credited with an "engaging performance" by the four adjudicators drawn from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Especially notable was the acerbic Shostakovich Sonata for Cello and Piano in D with a vigorous and percussive piano contribution from Martyna Kazmierczak.
Violinist Julia Liang also benefited from a very fruitful partnership with her pianist, Sean Jackson. Her choice of three pieces from the Suite Op 6 by the 22 year old Benjamin Britten wa a good choice for the composer's centenary year and the performance abounded in excitement, technical vituosity and sparkle.
Saxophonist Tomoya Forster was praised for his "highly musical performance" and technical dexterity" . These were shown to good effect in a jazz inspired Sonata by Phil Woods, Debussy's Syrinx and Iturralde's spectacular Pequeña Czardas with its many twists and turns. Tomoya was pronounced the winner - but I'm sure we haven't heard the last of the others.