Sheku Kanneh-Mason
MY guess would be that 2016 BBC Young Musician Sheku Kanneh-Mason sells more of his music as digital download than in a physical CD form, so his admirers can choose to buy the tracks they want from his second album without worrying about its coherence as Gesamtkunstwerk, as they say in Germany.
Nonetheless, and following the format of his Decca debut, Inspiration, it does seem to have been conceived as such, and its pic’n’mix selection doesn’t really work this time around. At the heart of the album is a fine, if hardly revelatory, Elgar Cello Concerto, with Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO, to which the 20-year-old brings his gorgeous tone but little of the emotional commitment audible in the one by the 20-year-old Jacqueline du Pre he cites as its inspiration. Some of the music that sits around it seems to make contextual sense, including his own arrangement of Blow the Wind Southerly (after Kathleen Ferrier) and a Scarborough Fair arranged by Simon Parkin with Plinio Fernandez on guitar. Parkin’s massed cellos version of Elgar’s Nimrod, like the one of Gabriel Faure’s Elegy later, works rather less well, both somewhat obliquely referencing Julius Klengel’s Hymnus for 12 cellos, which closes the set.
Four other pieces of chamber music belong on a different album altogether: Elgar’s Romance and Frank Bridge’s Spring Song with the Herald Angel-winning Heath Quartet (again in Parkin arrangements), and two works by Ernest Bloch with Sheku’s violinist brother Braimah and joined by their regular quartet partners. Those may, in fact, be the highlights of the whole disc — and the ones to choose to download.