Remember the cellist who played at the royal wedding?

Have you been to a concert somewhere in the world recently? Share your thoughts with us about the performance, the more details the better!

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Remember the cellist who played at the royal wedding?

Post by Ricordanza » Thu Dec 19, 2019 3:06 pm

Young classical musicians who are lucky enough to achieve instant fame do so by different routes. Some performers burst upon the scene by winning a major competition. Others are given the opportunity to substitute for a more established musician. The young British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason came to world attention in an entirely unique way: nearly two billion television viewers around the world saw and heard his superb artistry as he played three pieces at the wedding ceremony of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.

On Tuesday evening, December 17, a much smaller but equally enthralled audience of about 600 people attended a magnificent recital by this 20-year-old cellist and his equally gifted sister, 23-year-old pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason. Because this concert was sold out, we were displaced from our usual seats on the first level of the Perelman Theater in Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. Nevertheless, from our location in the next-to-last row in the second balcony, the sound and visibility were unimpaired. It was an excellent opportunity to experience the perfect blend of an intelligently selected program and a splendid execution of that program by these two young stars. An added factor in enjoying this concert was that all but one of the program selections represented a first hearing for me.

The evening began with a Beethoven rarity—Twelve Variations on Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen, from Mozart’s opera, “The Magic Flute. It is yet another fascinating example of how Beethoven takes a relatively simple tune and transforms it in the most unexpected and imaginative ways. But unlike the serious and dramatic Diabelli and Eroica Variations, this set preserves the light and comic character of the original source.

Witold Lutoslawski was perhaps the pre-eminent Polish composer of the 20th Century. He is best known for his large-scale orchestral works, such as his Concerto for Orchestra. The short but moving piece performed on this program is entitled Grave and, according to the program notes, was written in memory of Stefan Jarocinski, a musicologist and critic who championed Lutoslawski’s music. From the description, I expected a somber and soulful work, but the piece has some lighter moments to balance the mood.

Samuel Barber’s Cello Sonata, Opus 6, was written while the composer was still a student at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. This three-movement work is hard to characterize in style, since it starts out in a more “modernistic” idiom yet, by the third movement, ends up as a neo-romantic work. But a young composer can be forgiven for his stylistic wanderings when the piece is as musically engaging as this one is. Even more than the first two pieces, this was an opportunity to appreciate Sheku’s beautiful tone, impeccable phrasing, and intensity of expression. And like the rest of the program, this piece was a true partnership between cello and piano, not mere accompaniment. Therefore, it gave us another chance to appreciate the pianistic gifts of older sister Isata.

Following intermission, the pair embarked on a work of symphonic scope--the Cello Sonata in G Minor, Opus 19, by Sergei Rachmaninoff. This was the only piece on the program I had heard before, but this performance was a revelation. Sheku’s playing was passionate and poetic. The piano part, unsurprisingly, is rich and technically demanding. Once again, Isata displayed her masterful command of her instrument. Together, they presented a convincing interpretation and met the challenge of holding together this sprawling four-movement work.

After a loud and sustained standing ovation, the pair played one of the most delightful encores I have ever heard: Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s own Variations on Gustav Holst’s Christmas Carol, In the Bleak Midwinter. So, he’s a talented composer as well? Wow. It was a great way to close out one of the most memorable concerts I have heard.
Last edited by Ricordanza on Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Remember the cellist who played at the royal wedding?

Post by Rach3 » Thu Dec 19, 2019 3:43 pm

Many thanks, Henry.

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