Tue, 22 May 2018
FOLLOWING his performance at Saturday's Royal wedding at Windsor, the world's gone crazy for 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. The previous week, he wowed us here in Newbury when he joined Philharmonia Orchestra in the opening concert of the 40th Newbury Spring Festival. Here's what our reviewer wrote:
WINNER of the 2016 BBC Young Musician Competition, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason is already developing an international career. He joined the Philharmonia Orchestra and world-renowned conductor Edward Gardner in a splendid opening concert of the 2018 Newbury Spring Festival.
To celebrate their 40th anniversary, the festival had commissioned a new work by young composer Hannah Kendall. Baptistry, with its jazzy theme, pulsating rhythms and sparkling flourishes was a lively and dramatic piece, full of colour.
To mark this year’s centenary of the 1918 Armistice, the programme included Elgar’s Sospiri, Op.70, written at the outbreak of the First World War, and his Cello Concerto in E minor, Op.85 composed in 1919.
Immensely assured, Kanneh-Mason gave an outstanding performance of the poignant Cello Concerto. From his opening recitative to the close of the finale, the audience was captivated.
Conjuring a glorious rich tone from his 1610 Brothers Amati cello, he gave a most passionate account of the melancholy first movement.
Throughout the concerto, I was impressed with his superb technique, but above all with his wonderful sense of musicality. Performing with rapt concentration, he was completely involved in the music. His playing was so expressive, eloquently phrased and displaying a magnificent array of colour. His awesome rendition of the Scherzo, performed with impeccable precision, was virtuosic. In his poetic and tender Adagio, his cello ‘sang’ out with spellbinding beauty.
The first part of the finale, reminiscent of Elgar’s Falstaff, was vibrant, dramatic and exciting with bright orchestral sounds and colours. Later, Kanneh-Mason’s impassioned cadenza, aching with grief, was considerably moving. Rapturous applause greeted this young musician who clearly has a great future ahead of him.
The programme continued with a deeply felt rendition of Elgar’s Sospiri which, sighing and yearning, conveyed a great sadness. Ending the concert in cheerful mood, Gardner conducted a magnificent performance of Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 38, ‘Spring’. A majestic fanfare by horns and trumpets introduced a joyful and exhilarating first movement. The tranquil Larghetto was beautifully lyrical, rich in warmth and colour. In a vivacious and energetic Scherzo, the first of the two trios was particularly delightful, sprightly and witty.
Overflowing with life, the finale reflected the triumph of spring – the main theme seemed to be ‘dancing’with joy. I so enjoyed the poetic horn call and the graceful flute cadenza. An exuberant coda, exciting and dramatic, brought a most memorable occasion to a close.
The two-week festival closes on Saturday.