Youth reigns supreme at CBSO

Richard Lutz takes his pew for a CBSO concert infused with youth.


Nice to take in the deep resonance of a Shostakovich cello concerto at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. And twice as nice to see that the soloist is only 18, a mere stripling amid an orchestra populated by many musicians who could be his parents or even grandparents.

But what a wunderkind. Sheku Kanneh-Mason won the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year in 2016 and is now just starting his second year at the Royal Academy. He took to the stage in African daishiki, red socks and a brow rippled in concentration. This teenager is a master cellist in the making, if not already made, and his grip on the complexities of the instrument, his mastery of Shostakovich’s 28 minute Cello Concerto Number 1, is truly remarkable.

Besides this striking first appearance at the Symphony Hall, also worth remarking upon is that conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla is all of 32 years old. Good to see classical music performed in such a commanding way by two young performers; one a teenager already mature in expertise, the other in charge of the CBSO. And good to see youth infused in the CBSO, which is so often presented to an ageing audience.

Kennah-Mason, from Nottingham, is off to Carnegie Hall for his first professional visit to New York. Then, a full string  of dates to slot within a formal education. And then there is the seven piece ensemble he has put together with his brothers and sisters. A man to watch…and hear.