New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Award-winning British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason returns with Elgar, a brand new album of works anchored around Elgar's Cello Concerto - arguably the best-known work in the classical canon written for solo cello, which saw the 100th anniversary of its first performance this month. To coincide with the announcement of his second album via Decca Classics/Universal Music, special projections of Sheku will be visible near major international landmarks in London, New York, Sydney, Beijing and Berlin.
Sheku recorded the cello concerto at Abbey Road Studios (famously opened by Elgar himself in 1931) with the internationally-renowned London Symphony Orchestra and its celebrated Music
Director, conductor Sir Simon
Rattle. Sheku first met Sir Simon
in December 2018 in Berlin, where they played through the piece together before a game of football in the conductor's back garden.
Described by TIME Magazine as a "champion of classical music," Sheku was inspired to learn the cello after hearing Elgar's beloved concerto when he was aged eight or nine - his family owned a CD of the famed 1965 recording by Jacqueline du Pré and Sheku says it "directly connected with [his] emotions." Now aged 20, he has performed the piece many times with orchestras around the world - including a televised BBC Prom at London's Royal Albert Hall in August, where he was praised for his "poised" (Telegraph) and "introspective" (Financial Times) performance.
For his latest album, Sheku uses Elgar's iconic work as a lens through which to explore the wider musical landscape of pre-and post-war Europe, with new recordings of works by Julius Klengel, Gabriel Fauré and Swiss-born Ernst Bloch. Fauré's 'Élégie', as well as being a classic work in the cello repertoire, is a last manifestation of romanticism in pre-war Europe
before the world changed forever. Klengel's "Hymnus" - composed for 12 cellos - was written in 1920 and first performed in 1922 at the funeral of Arthur Nikisch, who succeeded Elgar as conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. Sheku recorded many of the chamber works on his new album alongside his cello friends and colleagues, as well as his brother Braimah Kanneh-Mason playing violin in Bloch's "Prayer
Variations was composed between 1898 and 1899 at the dawn of a new century; the powerful and ubiquitously British "Nimrod" is specially arranged here for six cellos. The traditional folk tune "Scarborough Fair" is reimagined for solo cello and classical guitar, complementing Northumbrian "Blow the Wind Southerly" - an inclusion inspired by Kathleen Ferrier's 1949 Decca/Universal Music
recording, and Sheku's own arrangement - and a new recording of Frank Bridge's "Spring Song", featuring the Heath Quartet.
Following his invitation to perform at the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in May 2018, which was watched across the world by 3 billion people, Sheku continues to perform with many of the world's leading orchestras and will tour Europe
and the US with his sister Isata Kanneh-Mason in 2019/2020.
Still an undergraduate student at the Royal Academy of Music
in London, music education provision remains a topic close to his heart; Sheku is Junior
Ambassador for inner-city music charity London Music
Masters and was presented with the 2019 PPL Classical Award at the O2 Silver
Clef Awards, held on behalf of music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins.
After winning the coveted BBC Young Musician competition in 2016, Sheku signed to Decca Classics/Universal Music
in 2017 and released his Classical BRIT award-winning album Inspiration in January 2018. It peaked at No. 11 in the Official UK Album Chart and reached the Top 20 Billboard charts in the US, as well as topping classical charts in the UK and Australia. To date, Inspiration has accumulated over 60 million streams and sold over 120,000 copies worldwide, earning him a BRIT Certified Breakthrough Award.
Sheku comes from an incredible musical family in which all 6 of his siblings (he is the third child of 7) play instruments to a phenomenally high standard - yet neither parents are musicians. His talent and passion has led him to be named one of TIME Magazine's Next Generation Leaders, evidence of his ability to cross boundaries and draw new audiences into the world of classical music.
Elgar - Tracklist:
Blow the Wind Southerly*
Elgar - Nimrod from Enigma
Elgar - Cello Concerto in E Minor
Elgar - Romance in D minor*
Bridge - Spring
- Scarborough Fair* (with Plinio Fernandes)
Bloch - Prélude
Bloch - Prayer (with Braimah Kanneh-Mason)
Fauré - Élégie in C minor*
Klengel - Hymnus for 12 Cellos
*New arrangement by Simon
Parkin for this recording