ArtSound FM community radio congratulates Canberra pianist Ronan Apcar, winner of the ACT Young Virtuoso Award held at ArtSound in September, for taking second place at the competition’s national final.
The National Young Virtuoso Award final took place on Sunday 20 November 2022.
Ronan Apcar placed second behind Victorian pianist Anna Gao, and ahead of the three other competitors: NSW pianist Joshua Han, Queensland pianist Jeremy Sun, and South Australian violist Tim Tran. They came from regional finals held at three of ArtSound’s four fellow member stations of the Fine Music Network, a loose affiliation of Australian community radio stations: Radio 5MBS 99.9FM – Adelaide Music Radio, 2MBS Fine Music Sydney, and 4MBS Classic FM.
The judges noted the high quality of the competition. Ronan Apcar demonstrated his distinctive talents at ArtSound’s Canberra regionals, too. Limelight magazine has described him as “a talent far beyond his age.”
In an email, Ronan shared his experience at the Melbourne event.
“This has been a great experience,” he said. “I was so happy with my performance and just the chance to be at a competition on a national level. It’s the first time I’ve been in a competition at a national level, which is such a milestone for me because I’m not competitive in that way — and I’ve also recently been thinking about how only a few years ago I didn’t think I would even be a performer in any way. I thought composition was going to be my thing, but that’s just the way the cookie has crumbled!”
Anyone who heard or saw Ronan’s performance at the ACT regional finals will know that he can be a dramatic and compelling performer, but one who can also deliver quieter passages with great measure and touch. His choices for the national competition in Melbourne showed again his dramatic flare, and his daring.
He said: “I performed two pieces which are both epic, all-consuming works in their own unique ways: Busoni’s transcription of Wagner’s Siegfried’s Funeral March and [Einojuhani] Rautavaara’s The Fire Sermon (Piano Sonata No. 2).
“Being a funeral march, there’s a real gravitas in the Wagner/Busoni and I am always a sucker for heavy stuff. It’s also so fun to play because I get to experiment with the full scope of dynamics and colour from the piano, and I try to think like a conductor and not a pianist when playing it.
“The Fire Sermon however is just an incredible beast, something that really feels like an extension of myself. To me, it’s this incredibly beautiful marriage of modernism and (honestly) sheer violence with beautiful lyricism and moments. I almost think of it as a whole Greek tragedy in just about 10 minutes — a real rollercoaster. And the opportunity to just smash the piano with my palms and forearms is a healthy outlet — how lucky I am to do that and call it art..!”
He said he was earlier this week at the Canberra Critics’ Circle Awards “and they said something about how artists are usually the biggest critics of themselves. I feel like I’ve gotten good at celebrating my achievements and minimising the impacts of my ‘mistakes’ on how I perceive the performance. But it’s a real shame that often, as artists, we struggle to really appreciate what we create and make once it’s public. I have to say I’m feeling quite surprised at how calmly satisfied I am with my performance at the Nationals!
“Of course, there are always little mistakes, but I was so comfortable performing those pieces I could really let go and channel whatever artistic statement I wanted to make. I feel like that came across and I couldn’t have been happier with my performance to be honest! The second place is just the cherry on top really.”
Ronan is best known for his work in contemporary and new music, but is also markedly gifted in innovative jazz performance. He has shared his talents at concerts and festivals and in intimate and large-scale venues across Canberra, Sydney, and regional NSW. His debut album, Dulcie Holland Crescent, was an ABC Classic featured album.
On the release, Apcar celebrated the surprising compositions of a renowned music educator whose renown as a composer has been growing, the late Dulcie Holland. Apcar recorded Holland’s Piano Sonata, which composer, pianist, and scholar Larry Sitsky and co-author Ruth Lee Martin hailed as “undoubtedly a landmark work in the Australian oeuvre” (Australian Piano Music of the Twentieth Century, 2005), as well as world premiere recordings of his transcriptions of Holland works never published, Autumn Piece and Conversation for Piano. (The album is amusingly named, by the way, after the street in the Canberra suburb of Moncrieff that salutes Holland’s work.)
The Young Virtuoso Awards is an annual national competition. In 2026, the national finals are scheduled to be hosted by ArtSound FM in Canberra. The Covid pandemic caused the cancellation of 2020 and 2021 nationals, disrupting a 30-year history of discovering promising Australian talent in classical music performance. The competition awards winners with broadcasting opportunities and cash prizes.
The Young Virtuoso competition is open to instrumentalists under 25 and vocalists under 30. The ACT finals were broadcast live from ArtSound’s recording studio. With assistance from ArtSound members and supporters, including Gallery of Small Things and Phillip Braslins of Riga Medical, ArtSound provided Apcar with air flights and accommodation for his appearance in last weekend’s national finals in Melbourne.
The finals were “a very tight competition,” Apcar said. He added: “Thanks to everyone at ArtSound for sorting everything out for me, it was all great and I really appreciate it.”
You can hear Ronan Apcar in performance on Friday 2 December at 7pm at the Ralph Wilson Theatre at Gorman Arts Centre (55 Ainslie Ave, Braddon) in a performance titled “This Is What We Have Today.” It features Apcar and other Canberra-based composer-musicians.
Apcar then shortly heads back to Melbourne for further studies at the Australian National Academy of Music. He said: “Seems fortuitous that the Nationals were held at the Abbotsford Convent where I’ll be based next year.
“Sad to leave Canberra as I’ve loved it here but hoping to pop back in throughout the year and maybe who knows, I might be back in a few years!”
If you’d like to make a donation towards helping ArtSound to hold next year’s finals, please do. Call Julie Finch-Scally at 6295 7444, or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.