|The First Art Newspaper on the Net
||Established in 1996
|| Monday, September 25, 2023
|A sister and brother choose repertoire by feeling and listening|
The cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason with the pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason perform at Weill Recital Hall in Manhattan, Dec. 11, 2019. The young British phenoms will perform a duo recital of cello sonatas, including by Shostakovich and Frank Bridge, at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Hiroyuki Ito/The New York Times.
by David Allen
NEW YORK, NY.-
Are Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason those rarest of things: young superstars who might actually live up to their hype?
It certainly appears that way. The pair are two of seven British brothers and sisters, all musicians, who shot to fame when Sheku Kanneh-Mason, a cellist, won the BBC Young Musician Award in 2016. Sheku Kanneh-Masons exposure in particular has been extravagant since his star turn in the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018. But listen to more than the breathless reporting of their streaming numbers, and you find musicians who, while still in the early stages of their careers, already have serious, distinctive things to say.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, 23, made his New York Philharmonic debut in November, playing Dvoraks Cello Concerto, a performance that revealed him to be a charismatic protagonist and a generous collaborator, as Joshua Barone put it in The New York Times.
Isata Kanneh-Mason, 25 and a pianist, has recorded two outstanding solo albums one filled with works by Clara Schumann, the other cleverly moving between composers including Samuel Barber, Amy Beach, George Gershwin and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
After an acclaimed appearance together at Weill Recital Hall in December 2019, they are returning for a duo recital at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, part of a long, busy tour that continues in Boston and Atlanta before a European leg.
Speaking from Kansas City, Missouri, they talked about their program of cello sonatas by Frank Bridge, Britten, Shostakovich and either Khachaturian or Beethoven, depending on the stop. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Q: You each have your own concerns as artists, so how do you go about compiling a program when you play together on a tour like this?
Sheku Kanneh-Mason: The main criteria is music that weve heard or want to discover, that we enjoy and maybe have something to say with, and we want to spend time working on and perform many, many times. Also, its always interesting to pick repertoire that perhaps is new to some of the audiences we perform for. The Bridge Sonata is an example: Its music that I really love and think is special, and has been new to a lot of audiences.
Isata Kanneh-Mason: Sometimes when we present pieces that arent so well-known, you have to go through the difficulty of getting presenters to accept them and trust that the audiences will like them. Weve found on this tour that the audiences like these pieces; they really respond to the music. That just shows that all good music can be communicated, whether its something popular or not.
Q: Sheku, what appeals to you about Frank Bridges sonata, which is a rarity compared even to the Britten and Shostakovich?
Sheku Kanneh-Mason: Its an incredibly beautiful and at times heartbreaking piece of music. The sonata was split in terms of when it was composed, the first movement from before World War I and the second from toward the end of the war. Bridge was certainly affected by what happened; you can hear that. The first movement ends quite peacefully, and then the second starts in a completely different world. Its like a lament, with some dark, harsh moments as well. It ends with the first movements theme, and when it does, its quite like the Elgar Cello Concerto; its nostalgic, almost desperate. Although it ends on a nice major chord, it doesnt feel resolved. Its a really fascinating piece.
Q: Did you intend the works to speak to one another, to draw connections?
Sheku Kanneh-Mason: The program that we constructed with Khachaturian and Shostakovich, the Bridge and Britten, there are very clear connections between the pieces: Britten and Bridge having the student-teacher relationship, Britten and Shostakovich
Isata Kanneh-Mason: Through Rostropovich.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason: Exactly. Those connections are very strong. When I discovered the Khachaturian Sonata, it was because I was listening to an album that has Rostropovich performing the Shostakovich with Shostakovich, and the second half of the album is Rostropovich playing the Khachaturian with Khachaturian.
Q: And the Beethoven is there because some presenters think he is easier to promote than Khachaturian?
Sheku Kanneh-Mason: Its great music as well; I get it.
Isata Kanneh-Mason: It is great music, and we were playing it before anyway. But yeah, it was originally because its more accessible than the Khachaturian.
Q: Are these works that you have lived with for a long time?
Isata Kanneh-Mason: The Bridge and the Britten we first played about a year ago. The Shostakovich we played a couple of movements of during childhood; actually, we played the whole thing when we were about 18. We put it away for a few years and then came back to it.
Q: The Shostakovich was written in 1934, after the premiere of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk but before his political denunciation in 1936. How would you describe the sonata?
Sheku Kanneh-Mason: He wrote it during a period of separation from his wife, but I dont think the piece is about that, necessarily. It has quite classical elements in terms of the form of the whole sonata, the style of each movement, how the phrases are constructed, but harmonically, rhythmically and the colors he chooses to use are very distinctive of Shostakovich. The third movement is where he pours all of his heart and sorrow and soul. The outer movements are quite playful and quirky. He had a good sense of humor.
Q: Do you have a favorite page in the score?
Isata Kanneh-Mason: I actually could pick one! It would be in the fourth movement, about six pages before the end. The music dies down, theres this moment of silence and then the piano explodes with these semiquavers, with an E flat minor chord in the left hand. Its just so Shostakovich to have such a dramatic mood change. When I was younger, this passage always terrified me, because I was like, 'Oh, Im going to mess up the semiquavers,' but now, after many years of practicing, Im usually just excited to shock the audience with this outburst.
Q: Youve both shown an interest in expanding the diversity of the music your audiences hear, whether Clara Schumann or music rooted in spirituals, but thats not been the case with your Carnegie dates together. Is there scope for doing more of that in your chamber music programs, or is it harder in some areas than in others?
Isata Kanneh-Mason: There is great repertoire in the chamber music world of female composers, of Black composers, but that will come to us naturally, the way any piece of music does through listening and through feeling compelled to play them, rather than ticking boxes.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason: What is potentially a shame is that a lot of the pressure to perform repertoire by female composers is placed on women, and a lot of the pressure to perform music by Black composers is placed on Black musicians. You dont often see a white performer performing music by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, for example. So us just being Black performers is, I dont know, enough of a difference.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.