Beethoven: Cello Sonata in C Major, Op.102, No. 1
I. Andante - Allegro
Barber: Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6
I. Allegro ma non troppo
Rachmaninov: Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19
II. Allegro scherzando
Isata Kanneh-Mason’s debut album, Romance, drew popular and critical acclaim, entering the UK classical charts at No. 1 when it was released in July 2019 and leading Gramophone magazine to extol the recording as “one of the most charming and engaging debuts” and Classic FM to praise Isata as “a player of considerable talent”. Isata recorded the all-Clara Schumann disc for Decca Classics as an homage to the composer and pianist in the year of what would have been her 200th birthday, selecting works from across her compositional output including solo piano pieces, a sonata, chamber music with violinist Elena Urioste, transcriptions of two of her husband Robert’s songs, and the piano concerto, which she recorded with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Holly Mathieson.
Since her studies with Joanna MacGregor and Carole Presland at London’s Royal Academy of Music, Isata Kanneh-Mason has embarked on a successful and increasingly busy concert career as a solo artist, with concerto appearances, solo recitals and chamber concerts throughout the UK and abroad. She also continues to perform with her siblings, including regular duo recitals with her brother, the cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Recent highlights include appearances at the Edinburgh Festival, Wigmore Hall, London, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Teatro della Pergola, Florence, and an extensive ten-city North American tour, including their debut recital at New York’s Carnegie Hall and a return to the Vancouver Recital Society.
Isata has also performed in the Portland Piano Series in Oregon, the Barbican Centre’s Sound Unbound festival, The Color of Music Festival in South Carolina, at the Edinburgh, Cheltenham, and Bath festivals, the Snape Proms, the Musikfestspiele Saar, and in venues from Antigua and the Cayman Islands, to Perth. During the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown in spring 2020, she and her siblings performed in twice-weekly livestreams from their family home in Nottingham to audiences of thousands around the globe. Isata’s rendition of the first movement of Beethoven’s third piano concerto accompanied by a chamber ensemble comprised of her brothers and sisters garnered over one million views. Future live performances include at the Kissinger KlavierOlymp, BBC Radio 3’s Wigmore lunchtime concert series, the Salzburg Mozarteum, Klavier Festival Ruhr, the Kimmel Center Philadelphia, and with the Sarasota, Gothenburg Symphony, Hallé, Johannesburg Philharmonic, KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic, and Paris Mozart orchestras. From the 20/21 season, Isata will become Young Artist in Residence with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Isata reached her category final in the 2014 BBC Young Musician competition, winning the Walter Todds Bursary for the most promising musician. She has since performed several times on television and radio, including on BBC Radio 3 In Tune, the South Bank Sky Arts Awards, The Andrew Marr Show, the Radio 3 RPS Awards, BBC2 Proms Extra, Radio 4 Front Row and Woman's Hour, Al Jazeera TV, BBC World Service, Channel 4, The One Show, ITV Born To Shine, BBC2 Classroom Heroes, and a feature for CBS Sunday Morning. Isata made her debut as a television presenter for the coverage of the 2019 BBC Proms.
She completed her undergraduate degree at the Academy as an Elton John scholar, and performed with Sir Elton in 2013 in Los Angeles. Isata is also grateful for support from the Nottingham Soroptimist Trust, Mr and Mrs John Bryden, Frank White, and Awards for Young Musicians.
Photo: © Robin Clewley
The winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician competition, Sheku Kanneh-Mason is already in great demand from major orchestras and concert halls worldwide. He became a household name worldwide in May 2018 after performing at the Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Windsor Castle. His performance was greeted with universal excitement after being watched by nearly two billion people globally.
In June 2018, Sheku received the Male Artist of the Year and the Critics’ Choice awards at the re-launched Classic BRIT Awards, and in July 2018 became the first artist to receive the new BRIT Certified Breakthrough Award, having sold over 30,000 copies of his debut album in the UK and surpassing 100,000 album sales worldwide. In January 2020, Sheku released his second album, Elgar, featuring the Cello Concerto, which he recorded at Abbey Road Studios with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra. On its release, it reached No. 8 in the UK Official Album Chart, making Sheku the youngest classical instrumentalist and the first cellist in history to reach the UK Top 10.
Sheku has made debuts with orchestras such as the Seattle Symphony, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Netherlands Chamber Orchestra at the Concertgebouw, the Atlanta Symphony, Japan Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and Baltimore Symphony orchestras. Forthcoming highlights include performances with the City of Birmingham Symphony, Toronto Symphony, BBC Scottish Symphony, and Stockholm Philharmonic orchestras.
Recent recital performances include Wigmore Hall, Zurich Tonhalle, Lucerne Festival, Festival de Saint-Denis, Théâtre des Champs Elysées Paris, Teatro della Pergola Florence, and a critically acclaimed tour of North America that took in Los Angeles, Berkeley, St Paul, Vancouver, Ann Arbor, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Sheku’s recital debut at Carnegie Hall New York. Upcoming recital debuts include London’s Barbican Hall, L’Auditori Barcelona, Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional, and the chamber hall of the Berlin Philharmonie.
In 2017, Sheku made his BBC Proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall as soloist with the Chineke! Orchestra, an ensemble with which he enjoys a special relationship, having taken part in their debut concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 2015. He returned to the Proms twice more as part of the 40th anniversary of BBC Young Musician in 2018, and to perform the Elgar Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla in 2019.
Sheku is passionate about the importance of making classical music accessible to all and is an ambassador for music education charities London Music Masters and Future Talent. During the Covid-19 lockdown in spring 2020, Sheku and his siblings performed in twice-weekly livestreams from their family home in Nottingham to audiences of hundreds of thousands around the globe.
In February 2018, Sheku performed ‘Evening of Roses’ at the BAFTAS Awards show at the Royal Albert Hall. He was joined on stage by four of his six siblings, all of whom perform classical music to an exceptional standard. This was the first time any artist has been invited to perform during the ceremony two years running and followed his memorable performance of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ at the 2017 BAFTAs, the subsequent recording going viral on YouTube.
In July 2019, Sheku was awarded the prestigious 2019 PPL Classical Award at the O2 Silver Clef ceremony in support of independent music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins. In 2017, he was awarded the South Bank Sky Arts Breakthrough Award, given by the judges to the most promising young Artist across all genres, following recent winners Billie Piper and Stormzy. He has performed alongside Hollywood A-listers in ‘The Children’s Monologues’ directed by Danny Boyle at Carnegie Hall New York and has played at No. 10 Downing Street in front of an illustrious guest list for Black History Month.
Shekua is currently full-time ABRSM Scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music, studying with Hannah Roberts. He began learning the cello at the age of six with Sarah Huson-Whyte and then studied with Ben Davies at the Junior Department of the Royal Academy of Music where he held the ABRSM Junior Scholarship. He has received masterclass tuition from Guy Johnston, Robert Max, Alexander Baillie, Steven Doane, Rafael Wallfisch, Jo Cole, Melissa Phelps, and Julian Lloyd Webber and, in July 2017, participated in the Verbier Festival Academy in masterclasses with Frans Helmerson and Miklos Perenyi. A keen chamber musician, Sheku performs with his sister, Isata and brother, Braimah, as a member of the Kanneh-Mason Trio.
Sheku was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List. He plays an Antonius and Hieronymus Amati cello c.1610, kindly on loan from a private collection.
Photo: © Jake Turney