Sheku Kanneh-Mason | Photo by Jake Turney
The phenomenal cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who at 20 years old, has already played for a Royal Wedding, been named BBC’s Young Musician of the Year (2016), and soloed at the famed ‘Proms.’ Sir Simon Rattle conducts the London Symphony Orchestra for Elgar’s Cello Concerto, and there are other chamberworks by Elgar and his contemporaries.
“It’s such a demanding piece, in terms of demanding the performer to discover so much color in their playing, and I’ve learned so much from that, I think. It’s a piece that has such personal, direct emotions.” Like many cellists, he was inspired by the milestone recording of the concerto by Jacqueline du Pré. “It has really always been one of my favorite pieces of music, and I think it’s amazingly detailed in the way it’s written. And detailed in terms of how expressive it is, and I really enjoy it, and enjoy working on discovering all that’s in it… I kind of learned bits of it and movements of it when I was younger, but never kind of… properly, in a sense, but never performed it. And then, just over two years ago, I started properly working on it, and learning it, and have been performing it a lot over the past year and a half.” Along with the concerto, there are chamber works that evoke the time and place of Elgar’s world. “I wanted to have a range of pieces that are connected to the Elgar concerto in some way. A few of them were written at a similar time, so just after the first World War, and therefore kind of share a mood and emotion because of that. And then also some other piece by British composers, or English folksongs, like ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’, or ‘Scarborough Fair.'” There’s also this all-cello arrangement of the classic ‘Nimrod’ variation from the Enigma Variations.