Sheku shot to fame as the winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician competition, the first black musician to win the award since its launch in 1978. He then became a household name after being invited to perform at the 2018 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, which was watched by billions around the world. Now 21 years old, he continues to study cello at the Royal Academy of Music with Hannah Roberts and records exclusively for Decca Classics. He enjoys an increasingly busy schedule of international concert performances, including at illustrious venues such as the Wigmore Hall London, Carnegie Hall New York, and Théâtre des Champs-Elysées Paris. Sheku is an ambassador for JDRF the type 1 diabetes charity, London Music Masters, and Future Talent. In the Queen’s 2020 New Year’s Honours, he was awarded an MBE for his services to music.
Sheku recorded Elgar’s 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.
Described by The Times as, “The world’s new favourite cellist”, and by TIME magazine as a “champion of classical music”, Sheku was inspired to learn the cello after hearing Elgar’s Cello Concerto when he was aged eight or nine. His family owned a CD of the legendary 1965 recording by Jacqueline du Pré which Sheku said “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. New arrangements of Elgar’s powerful and ubiquitously British ‘Nimrod’ from his Enigma Variations, and ‘Romance In D Minor’ are also featured on his new album. Sheku recorded many of the chamber works alongside his cello friends and colleagues, as well as his brother Braimah Kanneh-Mason who plays violin on Bloch’s ‘Prayer’.