2013 News

A piano competition for Young Adult Pianists of Kent, Sussex, Surrey and London postal districts
2013 WinnerThe Norah Sande Award, an international piano competition held annually in Eastbourne was won this month by "Syria’s leading young pianist” (International Piano), Riyad Nicolas.  Riyad graduated from London’s Royal Academy of Music in 2011 and has been delighting international audiences and competition adjudicators since then.  Riyad, 23, received a cheque for £3000 and the opportunity to perform in a recital later in the year.  The final stages were held in the purpose-built concert hall at the Birley Centre, Eastbourne College.  Fourteen semi-finalists  performed a 20 minute programme on Saturday 6thth July before a prestigious adjudication panel, Timothy Barrratt, Richard Deering (Chairman), and Ruth Gerald  – all keyboard exponents of international repute.   Three were chosen to perform a full recital programme incorporating classical, romantic and  contemporary pieces the following day.
Riyad Nicolas was born in Aleppo, Syria.  His exceptional young talent was recognized and at nine years old he won the Best Piano Student Prize of the Syrian Arab Republic in 1998 and again in 1999. In 2005 Riyad was selected to take part in the London International Piano Competition where he won an Educational Award.  The same year he was awarded a two year scholarship to study with Sulamita Aronovsky at The Purcell School and continued working with her at the Royal Academy of Music.

During his studies in the UK Riyad won numerous prizes and CD recording offers.  His performance, in June 2007, of the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3 at St John’s Smith Square, London prompted critics to comment n the exceptional brilliance of the young artist.  After graduating, Riyad won first prize in the Christopher Duke Piano Recital Competition and he has played at the Brighton Festival and London’s Cadogan and Wigmore Halls.  He is soon to tour Spain and Switzerland.  Riyad also has a teaching diploma from the Royal Academy of Music and is an official piano teacher for the London Music Centre.  His passion and success in promoting Arabic contemporary compositions led to invitations to perform at the Brunel Institute for Contemporary Middle Eastern Music, and the Arab British Centre.  Riyad played Beethoven’s Sonata in A flat major, Chopin’s Ballade No4 and Legeti’s Fanfares in the final round of the 2013 Norah Sande Award which won him first place.

Gamal Khamis was named as runner up and received a cheque for £1000. Gamal was born in London and studied under John Barstow MBE for eight years at the Royal College of Music Junior Department.  After a degree in Mathematics at Imperial College, he undertook his Masters in Music at the RCM, graduating in 2012 and gaining the highest examinable award – the Artist Diploma as well as numerous prizes, awards and scholarships. As a soloist Gamal has performed in many prestigious venues including the Wigmore and Steinway Halls and the Bath Pump room.  His interest in contemporary music has led to premiering of solo works and performing a new chamber work by Charlotte Harding as part of the RCM’s Rising Stars series at Cadogan Hall in 2011.

Third place and a cheque for £500 was awarded to Thao Le Thanh who holds degrees from the Manhattan school of Music and the Royal College of Music.  Thao was born in Vietnam but moved to Poland at an early age where she won many prestigious prizes.  Thao has made appearances at many important concert venues including Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, Saigon Opera House and South Bank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.  She is currently on the Independent Study Programme at Trinity Laban Conservatoire.  She has been awarded a Founders Scholarship and a Henry Wood House Bursary.  

"The Norah Sande Award continues to interest the very top young pianists on the cusp of an international performing career.  Applications were high in both quantity and quality which enabled us to put on an outstanding Second Round and Final, enjoyed by the audience now loyal to the annual Award” said Spencer Freeman, the Award’s Artistic Director.  "Feedback from the competitors and audience is that the Birley Centre is proving to be one of the finest new concert halls in the region”.

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Artistic Director : Spencer W Freeman MBE

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