2017 Jury

logo songcomp2017 webMembers of the Competition Jury are:

John Gilhooly OBE, Chairman

songcomp2017 bio jury JG ©FrancesMarshallPhotograhy John Gilhooly OBE, Chair
Artistic and Executive Director of Wigmore Hall/
Chairman, Royal Philharmonic Society


John Gilhooly became Director of Wigmore Hall in 2005, making him, then, the youngest leader of any of the world’s great concert halls. He had been Executive Director of Wigmore Hall since December 2000 and has overseen the artistic, financial and administrative transformation of the Hall over the past 16 years. His tenure has produced record box office returns and the Hall’s highest ever membership levels and annual fundraising. As Artistic Director of Wigmore Hall, he programmes the largest chamber music and song series in the world, and he is noted for his commitment to outstanding emerging artists, diversity and contemporary music. John Gilhooly has been honoured by heads of state and academic institutions. In 2013 he was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and in 2015 was made a Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland by the President of Finland. John has also received the prestigious Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, and the Order of the Star of Italy (Cavaliere), awarded by the President of Italy. In 2016 he was awarded the German Order of Merit, which is Germany’s highest civilian honour. He is a recipient of Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music (2006), Honorary Membership of the Royal College of Music (2012), Honorary Fellowship of the Guildhall School (2015), and Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Irish Academy of Music (2016).

John Gilhooly undertakes a huge amount of voluntary and charitable work in the music sector and beyond. In July 2010, he was elected Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society (one of the oldest music societies in the world), and he led the Society’s Bicentenary celebrations, on both sides of the Atlantic, in 2013. He is also Chairman of Mahogany Opera Group. He is a trustee of the Susan Chilcott Scholarship and the International Musicians Seminar Prussia Cove, and is a member of the Advisory Council for London Music Masters. He is a Patron of the performing arts organisation Irish Heritage and the CAVATINA Music Trust, and is also a Patron and an active fundraiser of the refurbishment project for Corpus Christi Church, Covent Garden, the national Catholic Church for those working in the performing arts.

In December 2013, Musical America named him as one of the most influential arts leaders in the international music world. In January 2016, John Gilhooly was named as one of Britain’s 500 most influential people by The Sunday Times/Debrett’s. In April 2016, he played a major part in co-ordinating the London activities for the commemoration of the 1916 rising, celebrations which further enhanced Ireland’s reputation for cultural excellence over the past century in London.

John has twice been named in ‘London’s Top 100 Opinion Makers’ by Time Out magazine, and was listed in the Evening Standard’s ‘Most Influential’ list in 2011, 14, 15 and 16. He is a frequent public speaker and well-known radio and media commentator, and is regularly invited to take part in international competition juries such as BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, Das Lied Competition in Berlin, the Lyon International Chamber Music Competition (CIMCL), the Cologne International Music Competition (Internationaler Musikwettbewerb Köln) and the Cité de la Musique String Quartet Biennial (Biennale de Quatuors à cordes) in Paris.

John Gilhooly’s tenure at Wigmore Hall has also seen the success of three capital appeals, the establishment of an endowment fund, and over £50 million raised for capital and artistic projects under his leadership. In 2004 he managed the refurbishment of the Hall, and in 2006 led the acquisition of a 250-year lease. In 2015 he led an additional refurbishment of the Hall’s backstage and broadcast areas. John Gilhooly also established the Hall’s highly regarded CD label ‘Wigmore Hall Live’ (named Gramophone’s record label of the year 2011). He read History and Political Science at University College Dublin. In addition to his academic studies, he pursued vocal studies, as a tenor, at the Dublin City College of Music and the Leinster School of Music, under Veronica Dunne.

John Gilhooly OBE, Hon FRAM, Hon RCM, Hon FGS, Hon FRIAM was born in Limerick, Ireland, in 1973.

Hugh Canning

Hugh CanningHugh Canning
Chief classical music critic of The Sunday Times



Hugh Canning was born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire and studied Modern Languages at Pembroke College, Oxford. Classical music was always a first priority – he sang in the College Choir and played the viola until he had the chance to hear professionals at work – and began his career as a journalist, writing for the University publication, Cherwell and Isis. During a post-graduate diploma course in Theatre Studies, he contributed concert and opera reviews to the Western Mail, and after moving to London worked for The Guardian as a freelance critic from 1983–89. Since 1989 he has written a weekly column for The Sunday Times. He is also a member of Opera magazine's orchestral board. He was named Critic of the Year 1994 in the British Press Awards.

Bernarda Fink

songcomp2017 bio jury bernardafink ©stefanreichmannBernarda Fink


Bernarda Fink, daughter of Slovenian parents, was born in Buenos Aires and received her musical education at the Instituto Superior de Arte del Teatro Colón. Acclaimed for her versatility, her repertoire ranges from ancient music to works of the twentieth century. Among many others, she frequently appears with the Royal Concertgebouw, Cleveland, and the Vienna, Berlin and London Philharmonic orchestras as well as leading Baroque orchestras under Barenboim, Bychkov, Chailly, Gardiner, Gergiev, Harnoncourt, Jacobs, Jansons, Muti, Norrington, Pinnock, Rattle and Welser-Möst.

Bernarda Fink regularly appears in Argentina and at Europe’s leading opera houses, in addition to recitals at Vienna’s Musikverein and Konzerthaus, Schubertiade Schwarzenberg, Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Wigmore Hall. Many of her recordings have received honours including Diapason d’Or and Grammy awards. In 2006 she was awarded the Austrian Honorary Medal for Art and Science, while in 2013, together with her brother, Marcos Fink, received the most prestigious cultural award of Slovenia sponsored by the Preseren Foundation. The Austrian Ministry of Arts awarded her the title Kammersängerin in 2014.

Christian Gerhaher

songcomp2017 bio jury christiangerhaher ©thomas egliChristian Gerhaher


While completing his medical studies Christian Gerhaher took private singing lessons with Raimund Grumbach and Paul Kuen and attended masterclasses given by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. For many years now, together with his piano accompanist Gerold Huber, Christian Gerhaher’s exemplary Lied interpretations have set standards and their recordings have received many honours including Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine and Royal Philharmonic Society Music awards. In the field of opera he has received a Laurence Olivier Award.

A DVD by Accentus makes his recent, highly celebrated debut as Wozzeck at the Zurich Opera House available to a wider audience. In April 2016 he returned to the Royal Opera House in his key role of Wolfram. The Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna and Wigmore Hall have all chosen the baritone as artist in residence. Christian Gerhaher is an exclusive artist of Sony Classical. His latest recordings are Mozart Arias, released by Sony, and Folkslieder, released by BRmedia, with songs by Beethoven, Britten and Haydn.

Soile Isokoski

songcomp2017 bio jury isoile isokoski cHeikkiTuuli newSoile Isokoski


Soile Isokoski, one of the most celebrated sopranos of Finland, graduated from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and she made her stage debut at Finnish National Opera, going on to capture audiences and critics worldwide. Working with leading conductors and as a regular guest of the most renowned opera houses, she has given numerous concerts and recitals and released a variety of recordings. Her disc of Strauss’s Four Last Songs received Gramophone’s Editor’s Choice Award in 2002, while her recording Sibelius: Luonnotar; Orchestral Songs was awarded BBC Music Magazine’s Vocal Award and Disc of the Year in 2007 and a MIDEM Classical Award, and Sibelius: Kullervo received a Diapason d’Or in 2008. In honour of her notable contribution to Finnish music, she was awarded the Pro-Finlandia Medal in 2002, and in 2008 she also received the Sibelius Medal and the Austrian title of Kammers&0228;ngerin.

As well as teaching at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences and Sibelius Academy, Soile Isokoski gives masterclasses in Finland and abroad. She served as a jury member at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World and Mirjam Helin-International Singing Competition.

David Jackson

songcomp2017 bio jury david jacksonDavid Jackson
Artistic Director, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World


David Jackson is Artistic Director of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. For many years he was an award-winning producer, executive producer and commissioner of television and radio programmes. He has held a number of senior posts in the worlds of broadcasting and the arts, including Head of Music at BBC Wales, Vice Principal at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Director of the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, and Managing Director of the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain.

David Jackson is a Trustee of the Wales Millennium Centre and a Trustee of Welsh chamber orchestra Sinfonia Cymru. He also sits on the Governors’ Music Committee of Wells Cathedral School, is a Governor of Ysgol y Deri Special School and is Chair of the Forget-Me-Not Chorus for people with dementia.

David Jackson is married with two children and lives in Cardiff.

Graham Johnson OBE

songcomp2017_bio_jury_grahamjohnson_©clivebarda.jpgGraham Johnson OBE


Graham Johnson formed the Songmakers' Almanac and has appeared in recital with Sir Thomas Allen, Victoria de los Angeles, Elly Ameling, Arleen Auger, Ian Bostridge, Brigitte Fassbaender, Matthias Goerne, Thomas Hampson, Simon Keenlyside, Angelika Kirchschlager, Philip Langridge, Serge Leiferkus, Dame Felicity Lott, Christopher Maltman, Edith Mathis, Ann Murray, Lucia Popp, Christoph Prégardien, Dame Margaret Price, Thomas Quastoff, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Dorothea Röschmann, Kate Royal, Christine Schaefer, Peter Schreier, Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Sarah Walker.

He has recorded the entire Schubert and Schumann Lieder for Hyperion Records, also recording for Sony, BMG, Harmonia Mundi, Forlane, EMI and DG. Awards include the Gramophone solo vocal award with Dame Janet Baker (1989), Ian Bostridge (1996), Christine Schäfer (1997) and Magdalena Kozena (2001). He is author of: The Songmakers’ Almanac: Twenty years of recitals in London (Thames Publishing, 1996); The French Song Companion (Oxford University Press, 2000); The Vocal Music of Benjamin Britten; Gabriel Faure – the Songs and their Poets and Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs (Yale University Press, 2014).

Graham Johnson is Senior Professor of Accompaniment at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He was made OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list (1994), Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Government (2002) and Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society (2010). He was awarded the Wigmore Hall Medal, as well as honorary doctorates from Durham University and the New England Conservatory of Music, in 2013, and the Hugo Wolf Medal in 2014.

François Le Roux

songcomp2017 bio jury francoise le roux ©phillippe mullerFrançois Le Roux


François Le Roux began his vocal studies with François Loup at the age of nineteen and continued his education with Vera Rózsa and Elisabeth Grümmer. He has appeared at all the major European opera houses and festivals as well as leading American operatic venues, performing repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to David Lang.

In recital, François Le Roux works with accompanists such as Graham Johnson, Roger Vignoles and Christian Ivaldi. A prolific recording artist, his latest disc, of songs by Henri Dutilleux for the label Passavant Music, won an Orphée d’Or from the Académie du Disque Lyrique in June 2016. He was awarded the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 1996.

As well as giving masterclasses dedicated to the interpretation of French song throughout the USA, Europe and Asia, he is Artistic Director of the Académie Francis Poulenc in Tours. Previously a vocal teacher of the Paris Conservatoire, François Le Roux now teaches at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris Alfred Cortot, where he is in charge of developing the newly established French Song Certificate.

Dame Felicity Lott

songcomp2017 bio jury felicity lott ©trevor leightonDame Felicity Lott


Dame Felicity Lott studied at the Royal Holloway College and Royal Academy of Music. While her operatic repertoire ranges from Handel to Stravinsky, she is a particularly respected interpreter of Mozart and Strauss. She has sung countless roles at major opera companies including the Royal Opera House, Vienna State Opera and Metropolitan Opera New York.

In concert she has performed with leading orchestras throughout Europe and the USA, working with conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Georg Solti and Kurt Masur. A founder member of The Songmakers’ Almanac, she has appeared in recital worldwide as well as at the Salzburg, Aldeburgh and Edinburgh festivals. She has a particularly close association with Wigmore Hall and received the Wigmore Medal in 2010 for her exceptional contribution to the Hall.

Dame Felicity Lott has gained various honorary doctorates in addition to awards from the French and German governments. She was made a CBE in the 1990 New Year Honours and in 1996 was created a Dame Commander of the British Empire. Most recently, she has been honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 International Classical Music Awards.

Sir Ralph Kohn, Co-Founder and Benefactor of the Competition

Sir Ralph Kohn FRS, FRAM, DMus

songcomp2017_bio_jury_sirralphkohn_©mauricefuterman.jpgSir Ralph Kohn FRS, FRAM, DMus


Sir Ralph Kohn, long-standing friend of Wigmore Hall, and co-founder and benefactor of our International Song Competition, sadly passed away on Friday 11 November 2016.

Sir Ralph Kohn was a medical scientist and musician. He obtained his PhD at Manchester University and subsequently spent some years as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Health in Rome working and publishing with two Nobel Laureates. After a further research year at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, he joined the pharmaceutical industry as a Senior Executive in Research & Development, and subsequently Management. He established the first Independent Medical Research Organisation in the UK for the clinical evaluation of new drugs and received the Queen’s Award. He received many scientific honours and awards, including Fellowship of the Royal Society (FRS), Academy of Medical Sciences, British Pharmacological Society and European Academy and Doctor of Science.

Ralph Kohn’s musical activities were initiated as a child with the violin and subsequently he became interested in vocal music. He was trained in London by Helen Isepp, Otakar Kraus and Derek Hammond-Stroud, and in New York worked with Charles Wadsworth (Juilliard).

He gave numerous recitals, including at Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room and recorded 18 CDs mainly of the Lieder repertoire, but also with the English Chamber Orchestra. He worked with and was accompanied by, amongst others, by Martin Isepp, Roger Vignoles, Geoffrey Parsons, Sir Charles Groves and Paul Hamburger. His Lieder recordings were mostly recorded with Graham Johnson.

Together with Graham Johnson and William Lyne, Ralph initiated the Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition in 1997. He was on the Board of Curators of the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, and was an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and Doctor of Music. He initiated the Annual Bach Prize at the Royal Academy of Music, and the Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation Bach Cantata Series in 2009.

Sir Ralph was awarded the 'Medal of Honour of the City of Leipzig' by the Lord Mayor in June 2011 for his substantial contributions to the music of JS Bach. He was knighted in 2010 for 'Services to Science, Music and Charity'. In 2014 Sir Ralph was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Buckingham, and The Cross of the Order of Merit from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany. He was also a Trustee of Wigmore Hall.

Honorary Patrons

  • Dame Janet Baker
  • Barbara Bonney
  • Christine Brewer
  • Joyce DiDonato
  • Dame Anne Evans
  • Ann Murray DBE
  • Thomas Quasthoff
  • András Schiff
  • Peter Schreier

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