To me, ‘diversity’ is just a buzzword that has nothing to do with reality. But because it is almost obligatory now and quotas still have to be met, the classical music business too has had to conform. And I am not talking here about opera characters like Aida or Otello, who contrarily need to be ‘decolorized.’ That is why orchestras and record companies are almost desperately looking for people of colour.
Now don’t understand me wrong: I think diversity is a good thing and I applaud it wholeheartedly, but on one condition: there must be quality! And the quality of the English pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason is high, very high. She is the eldest of the seven Kanneh-Mason children. They are all musicians: four of her siblings study at The Royal Academy of Music, where 22-year-old Isata herself still takes lessons. Her cellist brother Sheku has already preceded her in fame.
Clara Wieck-Schumann was a child prodigy who grew into a piano virtuoso. The fact that she also composed was ignored for a long time: as a mother of eight she was expected to look after them, as well as take care of her famous husband.
On her first CD recording, Isata Kanneh-Mason plays the works that dominated almost all of Clara’s life. She begins, for instance, with the piano concerto that Clara composed when she was just thirteen years old. She played the premiere when she was sixteen, on which occasion Mendelssohn conducted.
Isata Kanneh-Mason plays it with virtuosity and makes the most of it: which is not very much, actually. That is not a bad thing, because when played this way, the concerto is lifted to higher realms. She is excellently accompanied by the Liverpool Orchestra. However, I like the violin romances best, they were composed for Joseph Joachim. Together with violinist Elena Urioste, Kanneh-Mason provides us with an unforgettable experience. Top!