SHEKU AND ISATA KANNEH-MASON REVIEW

SHEKU KANNEH-MASON SHINES, AND SO DOES HIS SISTER ISATA

SHEKU AND ISATA KANNEH-MASON
Birmingham Town Hall ****
The gifts of the amazing young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason are already renowned worldwide, but this well-attended recital also introduced us to the unflashy brilliance of his pianist sister Isata, more of a collaborator than accompanist in a well-chosen programme.
There was a heartwarming amount of both musicianly and sibling empathy between the two, and balances were naturally adjusted as first one instrument, then the other, predominated.
In fact there was much piano emphasis in these works, Isata deft and fleet in a witty account of Beethoven's Variations on Ein Madchen oder Weibchen, with Sheku bringing a lovely silver tone and soothing double-stopping.
Lutoslawski's Grave was gripping and impassioned, and didn't Isata make the lowest register of the Steinway growl!
The fey, Celtic soundworld of Debussy's late Cello Sonata (almost a piano sonata with cello obbligato) was well conveyed, Sheku's pizzicati tellingly resonant, and his bow-control in Faure's Elegie was exemplary, though more definition was needed to make the phrasing speak.
Finally came Mendelssohn's substantial and exuberant Cello Sonata no.2, delivered here in the hall which the composer made so much his own, and here now where at least one listener could suddenly sense him smiling.
Again, balance between the instruments was exemplary, technique was faultless, but had Sheku been a student of mine in the performance classes I used to hold at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, I would have advised him not to study the fingerboard so often (his fingers already know so well what they are doing), and not to sit unattractively slumped at his instrument while his sister opened the Mendelssohn's adagio so thoughtfully.
Christopher Morley

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