Sheku Kanneh-Mason – Elgar
Bloch: Prelude; From Jewish Life – Prayer (arr. B & S Kanneh-Mason); Bridge: Spring Song (arr. Parkin); Elgar: Enigma Variations – Nimrod (arr. Parkin); Cello Concerto; Romance in D minor (arr. Parkin); Fauré: Élégie (arr. Parkin); Klengel: Hymnus; Traditional: Blow the Wind Southerly; Scarborough Fair
Sheku Kanneh-Mason (cello), et al; London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle
Decca 485 0241 66:55 mins
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, still a student at London’s Royal Academy of Music, is already a fine artist: witness the works that follow the Elgar Concerto, whether the very beautiful and pertinent Elgar Romance, Op. 62, Bridge’s charming ‘Spring Song’, or the soulful Bloch pieces.
The Concerto is decently performed – as one would expect since Simon Rattle has already made distinguished recordings of that work with Truls Mørk and Sol Gabetta. Both these earlier recordings, it has to be said, are far more compelling and touching than this newcomer. For all his experience with this work, Kanneh-Mason seems in comparison too ‘on the surface’, perhaps not helped by his recording being made in a few takes within a single day. The sound itself is claustrophobic, with the orchestra rather too ‘present’ yet with no compensatory highlighting of significant instrumental detail: hugely disappointing from a company once renowned for vividly vibrant recordings.
The Concerto is certainly not helped by being prefaced by an arrangement of ‘Nimrod’ for cello sextet. Elgar’s profound and eloquent hymn to friendship, its original orchestral concept blossoming so suddenly yet seamlessly from intimate to all-embracing statement, is here reduced in more than one sense to simply a well-loved tune for a star cellist. The effect of placing this arrangement immediately before Elgar’s final tragic masterpiece – when appropriate alternatives such as the Romance were available – is crass.