The Music Section of The Critics’ Circle is delighted to announce our award winners:

Young Talent (Composer)    


Young Talent (Piano)           


Young Talent (Instrument)  


Young Talent (Voice)           


Outstanding achievement in opera: ORPHEUS at OPERA NORTH

Jasdeep Singh Degun and Laurence Cummings (music), Anna Himali Howard (director), Leslie Travers (designer), with the entire production team, orchestra and cast

Our annual Young Talent Awards highlight the wealth of new talent across the country, and celebrate artists for whom 2022 was a notable breakthrough year.

Our Outstanding Achievement in Opera Award recognises the unique value of the ultimate collaborative art form, and celebrates the ambition and achievement of British opera companies.

The Critics’ Circle Awards are unique, decided by the country’s most experienced professional arts journalists and critics on the basis of hearing the widest range of performances across the UK and Ireland.

YOUNG TALENT (composer)

Tom Coult is a storyteller in sound with an ear that makes good on the promise of his titles: I Find Planets, for example, Beautiful Caged Thing and Inventions (for Heath Robinson). All the same, his 2018 String Quartet shows that he doesn’t need an off-the-wall title or idea to renew tradition and tonality with a fiercely individual imagination. He writes for instruments and voices rather than against them, he writes in musical but unpredictable forms such as nocturnes and mazes, and he writes music that can’t help sounding like now.

His 2022 opera Violet was described as “the best new British opera in years” by The Daily Telegraph and has already earned further stagings in Germany and France. Also premiered last year, his Horn Trio achieved the feat of sounding familiar, Romantic and entirely original all at once. His tenure as the BBC Philharmonic’s Composer in Residence is enriching the modern orchestral repertoire with a string of pieces including a violin concerto, Pleasure Garden, which has also attracted new performers and audiences.


Thomas Kelly, currently studying at the Royal College of Music, has followed an unusual path in his first 24 years. He started piano lessons at three, and stayed with his teacher until he was eight. From then until he went to the Purcell School at 17 he had no piano teacher at all, yet as an adolescent he entered many competitions and won prizes at several.

In 2021 he came fifth in the Leeds competition, and critics began to look out for him. Writing in International Piano, Michael Church described the touch he brought to Rameau’s Le rappel des oiseaux as “forceful, tender and imbued with such light-hearted freshness that this Baroque gem became a delight”. The Observer critic Fiona Maddocks praised his “imagination and pinpoint accuracy” in Beethoven’s Eroica Variations, and noted the calmly authoritative way he dealt with the outrageously virtuosic demands of Agosti’s transcription of Stravinsky’s The Firebird. “Kelly, in demeanour, was a model of calm. All the razzle dazzle came in the finger work.”

Thomas Kelly’s artistry is still on the verge of its full flowering, but those of us who have witnessed it are unanimously agreed that in him we may well have one of the great pianists of the future.

YOUNG TALENT (instrument)

We are deeply impressed with Ben Goldscheider’s sheer musicality, his power as a leading light and role-model for players of his instrument, and the way he is constantly able to produce the new and unexpected. In 2022 he had an impressive footprint, including his much-acclaimed Proms debut last summer. With his enthusiasm for commissioning new works from composers such as Huw Watkins, he is beginning to enrich and potentially transform the repertoire for the horn, and his rising international profile will represent the UK strongly on the global stage. 


A relative newcomer on the vocal scene, Ossian Huskinson has, within just a few years, made waves both on the stage and the concert platform with his substantial and distinctive bass-baritone – an instrument surely destined to take him far – as well as his interpretative individuality and his imposing presence.

With his recent international debut at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, he has extended overseas a career that has already seen him make his theatrical mark in the UK in roles for English National Opera (very vividly as Harašta the Poacher in The Cunning Little Vixen, Sciarrone in Tosca, an Angel in It’s a Wonderful Life) and Garsington (Pluto in Monteverdi’s Orfeo).

Prior to this, as a student he had impressed in a series of roles at the Royal Academy of Music, where he was a Bicentenary Scholar; he subsequently featured as a Harewood Artist at ENO and was a Garsington Opera Young Artist for the 2021 season, where he won the Simon Sandbach Award.

In addition, he has made his presence felt in major choral works by Bach (including the St John Passion), Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, as well as in recital.


As if to prove the sheer resilience and vitality of opera as a medium – and that the north of England already boasts the finest of opera companies – Orpheus at Opera North, one of the most remarkable operatic events in living memory, took as its text the earliest extant piece in the repertoire, Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo of 1607, and made it fresh and new, warm-hearted, tragic and triumphant. In a collaboration of great vision, Opera North brought together the best talents of UK early music and of several Indian musical traditions under the joint direction of Laurence Cummings and Jasdeep Singh Degun.

This exhilarating performance was a lesson in daring, plunging headlong into the cultural diversity to which so many pay mere lip-service – and making the point that simply daring is not enough: you need to make sure all the individual components are as good as they can be. Marrying the European myth of Orpheus to the equivalent Indian story in the Mahabharata, Orpheus sang Monteverdi’s music while Eurydice answered him in the language and style of India, accompanied by the beguiling sounds of the bowed tar-shenai, the sitar, the santoor (a hammered dulcimer) and many other instruments.

And this was a real marriage, no simplistic fusion. Leslie Travers’s magical designs transported us, in this dignified and joyous staging by Anna Himali Howard, to an inter-cultural wedding in the back garden of a regular Leeds semi; the musical landscapes flowed, ebbed and melded, and the old story took on a wholly novel, vital resonance and meaning.

Enquiries to Guy Rickards or Robert Thicknesse

Robert Thicknesse, Chairman, Music Section

Photo credits

Maurice Foxall (Tom Coult)

Besim Mazhiqi (Ossian Huskinson)

Kaupo Kikkas (Ben Goldscheider)

Tom Arber (Opera North)