Young composers from across the UK are invited to compose a new work for string quartet, which utilises the remarkable playing skills of the Consone Quartet - the first period instrument quartet to be selected as BBC New Generation Artists.

A shortlist of entries will be presented by the Consone Quartet in a workshop at the National Centre for Early Music, York on Thursday 19 May 2022. At 7.00pm on the same day, the Consone Quartet will perform each of the pieces in the presence of a panel of judges: Les Pratt, Producer BBC Radio 3; Delma Tomlin, Director of the National Centre for Early Music and the Consone Quartet. Two winners will be announced, one for each of the two age categories.

The winning work(s) will be premiered by the Consone Quartet on Friday 24 June 2022 at Boughton Aluph church, Kent as part of Stour Music. The concert will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.


It is recommended that all interested candidates read the guidelines Writing for String Quartet for useful background information on writing for gut strings and listen to recordings of the Consone Quartet.


Registration and application is via the National Centre for Early Music’s website at youngcomposersaward.co.uk



The brief

Instrumentation: 2 violins, viola, cello

Composers are invited to create a new work of between 3 and 4 minutes for the Consone Quartet.

Your work must be in a single movement but should involve contrasting sorts of music. You may find the first movement of Fanny Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E flat an interesting example of how to create music that is rhapsodic, developing a number of different short motives rather than following a strict form. Listen to the Consone Quartet playing it here

The Consone Quartet use instruments and playing techniques from the early 19th century and so this is a chance to think about the string quartet from the perspective of its early stages of development. The evidence from players’ parts of the period, such as their fingerings and bowings, suggests longer, more flowing lines and that expressive devices such as portamento and rubato were much used. On the other hand, extended techniques such as snap pizzicato, harmonics and sul ponticello didn’t really exist yet, and so this may be something to bear in mind.


We think that is an exciting opportunity to reimagine the string quartet, to immerse yourself in the sound world of the ensemble as Fanny Mendelssohn understood it and then write something that expresses what you want to say.

Award Rules

Entry is open to all UK residents aged up to 25 at the time entry closes on 18 March 2022.


There are two categories for the awards as follows:

  • 18 years and under on the closing date (born on or after 19/03/2003)

  • 19 – 25 years on the closing date (born between 19/03/1996 and 18/03/2003)


Applicants and winners of past awards are eligible to enter the 2022 award.

Employees and close family members of the BBC, BBC Group Companies, the NCEM and Consone Quartet, and persons connected to the award and their close relatives are not eligible to enter. Proof of age, identity and eligibility may be requested.

The composition should be scored for string quartet only: 2 violins, viola and cello.

The composition should be between 3- and 4-minutes’ duration.

How to enter

Composers interested in entering the award must register their interest by completing the online form at www.youngcomposersaward.co.uk by 12 noon on Friday 18 February 2022. Please ensure that you register in good time as late registrations cannot be accepted.

Following registration, you will receive a link to the online application form. The completed application form, along with your uploaded score, should be submitted online no later than 12 noon on Friday 18 March 2022. Please allow plenty of time for this in case of technical hitches. Entries received after the deadline will not be considered.


Your score should have your name on it. It should be in A4 format, ideally produced using computerised publishing software, and should be submitted as a pdf file. Label the file in this format: your surname.initial_title of your piece. For example: Fitzgerald.J_murmuration.


Entrants aged under 18 must have the consent of a parent or guardian for their entries to be valid.

Judging criteria

Shortlisted entrants will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Skilful use of compositional techniques

  • imaginative composition fused with an awareness of effective writing for string quartet

Selection process

A shortlist of up to 8 entrants will be chosen by a judging panel consisting of a member of the National Centre for Early Music, the BBC, the Consone Quartet and a professional composer. All entrants will be notified by 5.00pm on Friday 8 April 2022 whether their pieces have been shortlisted. The judging panel is unable to provide feedback.


Shortlisted entrants will be expected to attend a full day workshop on Thursday 19 May 2022, led by composer Christopher Fox at the NCEM, where they will hear their pieces played by the Consone Quartet.


At 7.00pm on the same day, Thursday 19 May 2022 the shortlisted pieces will be performed in the presence of the panel of judges and an invited audience. The performance will be livestreamed on the internet. The winning piece(s) will be announced that evening.  


Should a shortlisted entrant not be available after reasonable attempts to contact him/her, the NCEM reserves the right to select another entrant to attend the workshop or – where applicable – to be awarded the prize.


The NCEM’s selection of the winners is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Accommodation will be provided by the NCEM for the workshop and performance, and reasonable transport costs reimbursed, for the shortlisted entrants and for one parent/guardian of those under the age of 18. 

The Prize

The prize offered is a performance by the Consone Quartet of the winning pieces in a public concert. The concert will take place on Friday 24 June 2022 at Boughton Aluph church, Kent as part of Stour Music. The concert will be recorded for future broadcast by BBC Radio 3. Should the prize not be able to be delivered in the form stated above and/or at the date stated above, NCEM/partners reserve the right to award a suitable alternative.  

There will be no cash equivalent and the prize cannot be transferred.


Each winner will be awarded tickets to the concert for themselves and up to two members of their family/friends. Their names and educational institutions (if appropriate) will be listed in the programme.


Reasonable transport and accommodation costs for the concert will be reimbursed by the NCEM to the winners and up to two members of their family/friends.

Copyright and permissions

By submitting your composition, you grant to the BBC, NCEM and the Consone Quartet, free of charge, permission to use the material in any way they want (including modifying and adapting it for operational and editorial reasons) for services in any media worldwide (including on the sites accessed by international users).


In order that the BBC can use your composition you must confirm that:

  1. your composition is your own original work

  2. it has not previously been performed or published

  3. it does not infringe any UK laws

  4. you have the right to give the BBC permission to use it for the purposes specified above

Copyright in your composition will remain with you after the premiere and the aforementioned permission is non-exclusive. You can continue to use the material in any way you wish, and you can also permit others to use the material. 

Any competitor under the age of 18 who attends a workshop or public performance must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The shortlisted entrants must be prepared to work with the NCEM and its partners to raise the profile for the award. This will include consent to be photographed and filmed during the process, and to supply information for press materials and conduct radio and television interviews if requested. The publicity materials gathered will be used by the NCEM and its partners on their websites and in general publicity material. It is understood that the NCEM and its partners have the right to perform, record and broadcast the winning piece(s) subject to the usual Performing Rights contractual arrangements.


The shortlisted entrants may be filmed and/or interviewed and will be required to assign to the BBC/NCEM/Consone Quartet, the copyright and other rights for all purposes (including use in all media now known or which may hereafter become known) in their contribution for broadcast for the full period of copyright and any extensions, revivals or renewals thereof.


The shortlisted entrants will grant the BBC/NCEM/Consone Quartet, the unlimited right to edit, copy, add to, take from, adapt or translate their contributions for broadcast or performance. The entrants also waive irrevocably any “moral rights” they may have under the laws of any jurisdiction.


The shortlisted entrants will grant the NCEM/Consone Quartet, the right to perform the piece after the premiere.


Contributions cover all contributions made by the shortlisted entrants in connection with the production of any BBC programme including, but not limited to, their performance (including rehearsals) and spoken, written and artistic materials (including audio and video recordings thereof).


The NCEM reserves the right to:

  1. cancel or adapt the award

  2. vary or change the prizes

  3. disqualify any entrant who breaches the rules or who commits a fraud, at any stage, if in their opinion it is deemed necessary or if circumstances arise outside its control.


In so far as it applies, the programme accords with the BBC's Code of Conduct for Competitions and Voting, details of which can be found on the BBC's Standards and Guidelines website: www.bbc.com/editorialguidelines/guidance/code-of-conduct


The promoter of the award is the National Centre for Early Music and is subject to the law of England and Wales.


Entrants will be deemed to have accepted these rules and agree to be bound by them by entering the award.


The NCEM Young Composers Award is intended as an educational project and preference will be given to those who have not yet embarked on a professional career.

Privacy Notice

The personal data you provide will be processed by the NCEM in accordance with the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018, for the purposes of administering the award.

For further information about how NCEM processes your personal information including your rights under data protection law, please see the NCEM’s Privacy Policy at PRIVACY NOTICE – NCEM.

The personal data of all entrants will be passed to the BBC if requested for the purposes of judging the award and recording of the winners’ scores. After the award, the BBC will destroy all personal data except that of the winners, which will be retained for a period of 2 years for regulatory purposes and kept in the programme records. 

When your personal information is passed to the BBC, the BBC is a separate controller of your personal information. That means the BBC is responsible for your personal information when it is passed to the BBC. The BBC has a legitimate interest to process your personal information for the purpose of administering the competition. We have considered the impact of our processing on you and we are satisfied that the personal information that is provided to the BBC is limited and is necessary to review the applications and conduct the competition.

For further information about how the BBC processes your personal information, your rights under data protection law and the contact details of the BBC’s Data Protection Officer, please see the BBC’s Privacy Policy at http://www.bbc.co.uk/usingthebbc/privacy/privacy-policy