June 13 2021
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
Nottingham’s Kanneh-Mason siblings bring back high-voltage live music-making to the city
It’s not often that you can go to a concert and feel that you’re a witness to history. But that’s how it felt on Sunday at the Royal Concert Hall. Live classical music was back, played by the Kanneh-Masons, not only Nottingham’s but the world’s most famous musical family.
All seven siblings – Isata, Braimah, Sheku, Konyah, Jeneba, Aminata and Mariatu – presented a programme which showcased them (as soloists and in a variety of ensembles) in music which ranged from Mendelssohn and Shostakovich to Bob Marley and a Broadway musical. As we have come to expect from them, it wasn’t just their virtuosity that impressed; it was also their joy at communicating with a live audience.
The concert began with all seven Kanneh-Masons playing an arrangement of Eric Whitacre’s dreamy Seal Lullaby. And all seven also finished their programme together with a high-voltage medley from Fiddler on the Roof as well as their Bob Marley encore: Redemption Song.
In between there was a dazzling variety of pieces, testifying to the range of the family’s musical enthusiasms: three highly demanding Gershwin Preludes; Bartók duos; piano trios by Mendelssohn and Shostakovich; Sea Murmurs by Mario Castelnuevo-Tedesco; Liszt’s barnstorming 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody. And, as if the concert wasn’t emotional enough, Sheku and Isata played their own deeply felt arrangement of the Welsh song Myfanwy.
During the lockdown many people around the world will have seen the film about the Kanneh-Masons and their house full of music in Mapperley Park. They will also have seen the many concerts streamed from that house, bringing delight and making the very best of a very bad situation. But nothing beats sharing music with live audiences, something which Sunday’s audiences were surely celebrating when they rose to their feet to cheer at the end.