Observations: Flick the baton and win a prize

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The Independent Culture

Next week, 20 young conductors will compete in London for a prize of £15,000 and the chance to work for a year as assistant conductor to the London Symphony Orchestra. Whence comes this contest, some of whose winners are now established stars? Step forward Donatella Flick, daughter of an Ossetian prince and fanatical donor to musical and humanitarian charities.

"I was watching [Herbert von Karajan] conduct one of his last concerts and I asked a simple question: 'Why are all conductors of a certain age?' Because at that time, apart from Simon Rattle, they were almost all over 60."

She was once, she says, "quite wealthy" thanks to her then-husband, but then came a divorce. "I decided I could give up many things and still have the conducting competition."

Flick got it going, the LSO offered support and 20 years on here we are, with Princess Donatella doing the admin for the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition. She says: "I would change the name with great pleasure – just call it the London Conducting Competition – but now they won't let me."

The final of the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition is at the Barbican on 4 November