Continuing her developing legacy with Decca Classics that began in 2019, this album uses Dolby Atmos Technology to capture Isata’s signature virtuosic flair. The first single, Mozart’s Variation 11: Adagio from Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”, is out April 5, 2023.
The eldest of the famous musical siblings, Isata’s first memory of playing the piano was as a five-year-old
on holiday in the Caribbean and sitting in front of her grandparents’ instrument. With a reputation for
inventive programs, expressive performance and accomplished technique, Isata is in increasing demand
nationally and internationally and was the only classical artist to appear in TIDAL’s 2023 Rising Artists
to Watch. Isata evokes the magic of childhood in this charming collection of nostalgic music. The album is centred
around Ernő Dohnányi’s rarely performed Variations on a Nursery Song, expanding the well-known
‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ into a truly virtuosic work which takes the theme through eleven musical
variations and a fugal finale. Subtitled “for the enjoyment of friends of humour, to the annoyance of others”, it saw great success when it was introduced in the UK in the 1910s, with its witty, kaleidoscopic
mix making this a concert favourite for many years afterwards before falling out of fashion – it was
subsequently performed almost every year at the Proms from 1920s to 1950s. Isata is joined by the
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom she previously recorded Clara Schumann’s Piano
Concerto for her 2019 album “Romance” on Decca.
From a young age, Isata has had a special affinity with Mozart and recalls playing the composer’s
Variations on the French song ‘Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman’ with the same recognisable melody transformed
through twelve sophisticated and inventive variations. Composed by Mozart when he was around
Isata’s age, it is the perfect showpiece to pair with the Dohnányi.
Debussy’s enchanting Children’s Corner is a six-movement suite written for his 6-year-old daughter that
symbolises a return to the innocent world of children, featuring familiar tunes like Cakewalk and the
playful Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum. The suite is full of child-like charm and sentiment and portrays the
experiences of childhood.
Robert Schumann’s simple and unpretentious collection of 13 short pieces, Kinderszenen (‘Scenes from
Childhood’), were intended as adult nostalgia. The most well-known of which is Träumerei (Dreaming), a
touching tribute to memories and experiences of childhood from an adult perspective, portrayed
through the rich and poetic musical lens of Schumann.
Isata Kanneh-Mason commented: “It was in childhood where my love of classical music first blossomed.
The pieces in this album carry with them a certain nostalgia, and I feel almost a sense of longing for
childhood in some of them. That wistfulness for childhood is something that I wanted to express, as I
think it’s a time when one’s love of music is at its most uncomplicated. Games were as big a part of my
childhood as music. It was musical…very vibrant…and very noisy. We also came up with lots of games
together! Long, elaborate games, often involving running around the house and making up stories.
Dohnányi’s ‘Variations on a Nursery Tune’ is where this album all began. I heard it live in a concert, years
ago, but knew nothing about it, not even its name: I thought it must be a Dohnányi concerto, so it was
such a surprise finding out what it was. I had to play this piece. It’s so humorous, so exciting. I had such a
strong reaction to it! Mozart’s Twelve Variations on ‘Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman’ was a natural twinning
and it’s also a piece that I played in my childhood. It fitted very naturally, and it was lovely re-learning it.”
Bringing new life to treasured works and shining a light on the nostalgia of childhood in music, Isata’s
artistry carries the flame for a new generation of concert pianists at the forefront of recorded music.
On 3 May Isata will perform Dohnányi’s Variations on a Nursery Song with the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra and Antony Hermus at London’s Cadogan Hall – tickets available here
Isata Kanneh-Mason: Childhood Tales
Mozart Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”
Dohnányi Variations on a Nursery Song for Piano and Orchestra
Debussy Children’s Corner
Isata Kanneh-Mason piano
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Photo Credit: David Venni