Sheku Kanneh-Mason is the 2016 BBC Young Musician, a title he won with a stunning
performance of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto at London’s Barbican Hall with the BBC
Symphony Orchestra in Spring 2016. In April 2017, Sheku returned to the hall for another
performance of the concerto, this time with the National Youth Orchestra and Carlos Miguel Prieto after which the Guardian wrote that “technically superb and eloquent in his expressivity, he held the capacity audience spellbound with an interpretation of exceptional authority” and the Telegraph acknowledged “what a remarkable musician he already is, bringing other-worldly tone to the haunting slow movement and displaying mature musicianship in his handling of the extended cadenza”. In September, Sheku played the Shostakovich concerto with The National Orchestra of Wales under Michael Seal. Recently he played with The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, in Birmingham Symphony Hall and in The Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham. Both performances won universal critical acclaim. The Times called this ‘a thrillingly memorable performance’, and The Observer named him: ‘a cellist of poise and seriousness. Bold in virtuosity, assured in musicianship’.
Only eighteen years old, Sheku’s international career is developing very quickly with engagements in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 season including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the CBSO, the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Newbury Spring Festival, the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich, the Barcelona Symphony, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra (his debut at the Concertgebouw Hall), the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (Sheku’s concerto debut in North America), the Atlanta and Louisana Symphonies. He will also return to the BBC Symphony Orchestra to perform the Elgar Concerto in his home town of Nottingham and make his debut at the Konzerthaus, Vienna with the Japan Philharmonic. In recital, Sheku will perform several concerts across the UK with highlights over the next two seasons which have included his debut at Kings Place as part of their Cello Unwrapped series, and will include Milton Court and Wigmore Hall. He will also perform recitals at the Tonhalle, Zurich, the Lucerne Festival and a series of concerts in Canada later this year.
Sheku has recently made his debut at Carnegie Hall, New York, in a star studded Gala directed by
Danny Boyle. Last summer, Sheku performed at the BBC Proms in the Park in Wales and returned to the Proms at the Albert Hall in summer 2017 with the Chineke Orchestra, an ensemble with which he enjoys a special relationship having taken part in their debut concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 2015 and then returning as soloist to perform the Haydn Concerto with the orchestra in April 2017 “You aren’t ever going to hear this Haydn Concerto more engagingly performed” The Arts Desk.
In February 2017, Sheku performed an arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” for Cello and String Trio at the BAFTAS Awards show at the Royal Albert Hall, an interpretation which brought the celebrity-filled audience to their feet and which has subsequently been shared and viewed by millions on social media sites. He has an exclusive recording contract with Decca Classics and his first concerto recording for the label, performing with The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, will be released on 26th January 2018.
A keen chamber musician, Sheku performs regularly as a member of the Kanneh-Mason Piano
Trio with sister, Isata and brother, Braimah, an ensemble that has performed at The Albert Hall,
The Barbican, and several international music festivals.
In September 2017, Sheku began a full time degree course at The Royal Academy of Music as an
ABRSM Scholar, studying with Hannah Roberts. He began learning the cello at the age of six with
Sarah Huson-Whyte, studying with Ben Davies at the Junior Department of the Royal Academy of
Music where he held the ABRSM Junior Scholarship. In September 2017, started a full time
degree course at the Royal Academy, as an ABRSM Scholar, studying with Hannah Roberts. He
has received masterclass tuition from Guy Johnston, Robert Max, Alexander Baillie, Steven Doane, Rafael Wallfisch, Jo Cole, Melissa Phelps, Louise Hopkins, Tim Hugh and Julian Lloyd Webber and in July 2017, was a member of the Verbier Festival Academy where he undertook masterclasses with Frans Helmerson and Miklos Perenyi.
Sheku is passionate about the importance of making classical music accessible to all and is the
first London Music Masters Junior Ambassador. With his siblings, the Kanneh Mason seven-piece
ensemble, he has toured in the Caribbean, performed in many venues across the UK including
Marlborough House in front of HRH Prince Charles for Commonwealth Day and on ITV’s Britain’s
Got Talent, both in the semi-finals in 2015 and then as special guests on the final show in June
2017 performing with dance group, Diversity. Sheku has also performed with his sister, Isata, at 10 Downing Street.
He plays an Antonius and Hieronymus Amati cello c1610 kindly on loan from a private collection.
“Kanneh-Mason gave an astonishingly assured performance. The strength of Kanneh-Mason’s approach was that it was so nuanced; this, plus his technical command, led to a memorable account.”
“Last year’s BBC Young Musician winner, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, returned to the scene of his victory with the same work, the Russian composer’s First Cello Concerto. Digging in with gripping attack yet also plenty of nuance, he showed what a remarkable musician he already is, bringing other-worldly tone to the haunting slow movement and displaying mature musicianship in his handling of the extended cadenza”
“Technically superb and eloquent in his expressivity, he held the capacity audience spellbound with an interpretation of exceptional authority.”
“Kanneh-Mason is a player who makes you tune in to every nuance of articulation, every subtle shading, every eloquent turn of phrase. Here, joined for this same concerto by his fiercely talented peers in the National Youth Orchestra, he showed us why he won the competition. He performed with urgency and bite, impeccable technique and, in the second movement, exquisite line as the cello sang its sotto voce hymn to the night.”
“Many of the enthusiastic audience had clearly come to see last year’s BBC Young Musician winner, the cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. They were rewarded with a stylish performance as the soloist in Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C (Hob VIIb/1). In the central adagio, Kanneh-Mason balanced expressive singing tone with careful, instinctive, dynamic shading. He took the allegro molto at fearless, breakneck speed, the passage work impressively controlled. A solo encore was further testimony to his prodigious gift, and his arrangement of a traditional Jewish song was plangent and subtly elaborated.”
“[Kanneh-Mason’s] own cadenzas have compelling musical logic, his pianissimos were magical, his encore arrangement of a Jewish folksong spellbinding; … you aren’t ever going to hear this Haydn concerto more engagingly performed.”
Sheku is managed by Enticott Music Management in association with IMG Artists:
Kathryn Enticott – General Manager
Joseph Chadwick – Associate Manager
Sarah Maxwell – Assistant Manager