Isata Kanneh-Mason

Romance: The Piano Music of Clara Schumann

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The Kanneh-Mason family has a website covering all seven siblings, plus a piano trio, who are active musically. Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has gotten the headlines with his appearance at the Prince Harry-Meghan Markle wedding, but now comes older sister Isata Kanneh-Mason, elegant indeed in an off-the-shoulder African dress. She deserves credit for choosing an off-the-beaten-path program for her debut: a recital of Clara Schumann's piano music. These pieces are played more often than they used to be, but most of them, especially the concluding Piano Sonata in G minor that was not published until 1991, still qualify as novel. Kanneh-Mason takes the works chronologically, which has the virtue of showing Schumann's compositional development but the disadvantage of leading with the weakest suit, the Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7, which the composer wrote in her teens. It's a precocious and at times clever work, but it is no match for Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54, and the performance with Holly Mathieson leading the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is straightforward but no more. Things improve as Kanneh-Mason traverses two sets of Romances, a Scherzo, and two arrangements of music by Robert Schumann. The best is saved for last with the Piano Sonata in G minor. Clara Schumann modestly titled this work a Sonatine and gave it to her husband as a Christmas present. The latter should not disqualify it from consideration in the least, and the Sonatine title was given when the work had only two movements; Schumann returned to the work twice and ended up with a substantial four-movement work that is more sonata than sonatina. Sample its muscular Scherzo, which also shows Kanneh-Mason developing some lively power. She's definitely a pianist to watch, and this is a worthwhile addition to the Clara Schumann discography.

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