Concert review: Kanneh-Mason Trio, Proms at St Jude’s, Hampstead Garden Suburb

Kanneh-Mason Trio

Kanneh-Mason Trio - Credit: Archant

Meghan Markle’s cellist and siblings are still students but a real talent to be reckoned with




Black, Asian and minority ethnic musicians may be under-represented in classical music, but the Kanneh-Masons do not intend to let that stand in their way: there are no fewer than seven musical siblings in this Nottingham family. The three eldest make up the Kanneh-Mason Piano Trio: Isata, 21, plays piano; Braimah, 20, is the violinist; while cellist Sheku is 19, and, in truth, is the main reason for the large and enthusiastic audience for this Proms at St Jude’s concert: not only did he win BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2016, but he also played, to a TV audience of billions, at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

That kind of celebrity does not guarantee talent, but the Kanneh-Masons are the real deal, even if they are still students. They opened with Beethoven’s first published work, his Op1 No1 trio. At first the playing showed a tendency to over-emphasis, while the Adagio seemed somewhat hesitant, as if the players were still feeling their way. But the collective energy and momentum built, the movement’s closing moments displaying a lovely shared intimacy, while the Scherzo radiated good humour.

The forthright drama of Brahms’s Third Piano Trio suited the them well, the strings blending smoothly, notably in some caressingly delicate pizzicatos. As the Brahms approached its climax, the collective synergy took on a mischievous air, hovering on the verge of impetuosity, but always held in check by Isata’s measured keyboard work.

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A glitch with Braimah’s chin rest necessitated an unplanned halt in Shostakovich’s Second Piano Trio, but the players returned to the fray with renewed vigour. The work’s shifting moods, from eerie near-silence to slightly crazed exuberance, pose a challenge to any players, but these three had it all under their fingers. The tone of Sheku’s cello (a 400-year-old Amati on permanent loan) had real richness and warmth, but there was a throaty intensity from Braimah. As the work soared, lurched and swooped to its unsettling close, it was apparent that, while Sheku may be the star of the show, the Kanneh-Mason Trio is a partnership of equals.

Nick Kimberley