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Supremely talented young musicians' impress at Cambridge Classical Concert Series concert

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Cambridge Classical Concert Series - Michael Sanderling
Cambridge Classical Concert Series - Michael Sanderling

Last night's (Tuesday, February 20) concert was smaller in dimensions than previous shows in the Classical Concert Series, but certainly not in scope, grandeur or the impact that it made.

BBC Young Musician of the Year Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Classical Concert Series, Corn Ex, Feb 18
BBC Young Musician of the Year Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Classical Concert Series, Corn Ex, Feb 18

The European Union Chamber Orchestra - 19 musicians from across the EU, on strings, oboe and horns, and playing without a conductor - managed to fill the venue with gloriously rich yet restrained sound, bringing us first Handel’s Suite from the Water Music in F major. Uplifting and intricate, this was an inspiring opening to the evening and a worthy prelude to what was undoubtedly the main attraction.

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, still just aged 18, is something of a rising star in the classical world. Having won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2016 (and, as he told us at the pre-concert talk, having passed his Grade 8 cello at the tender age of just 9) he performed a show-stopping interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah at last year’s BAFTA ceremony and is gaining quite a following, performing around the UK and beyond. Tonight, he gave us a sensitive, emotional interpretation of Haydn’s Cello Concerto No 1 in C, his star quality evident in his impressive interpretation in the two cadenzas, his confident yet unshowy performance holding the audience rapt.

After such a peak, it would have been easy for the second half of the concert to feel anticlimactic. That it didn’t is down to the intelligent choice of programming – Delius’ romantic Two Aquarelles (the second water-themed piece of the evening) followed by a real barnstormer performance of Mozart’s glorious Symphony No 29 in A major.

Written when Mozart too was just 18, the beauty, detail and perfection of this symphony was burnished and brought out so wonderfully by the small band of performers that the last piece of the evening felt every bit as spectacular as the first half – no mean feat. This was a superb evening that brought us some of the very best music from the classical canon and a chance to see a supremely talented young musician in the early days of what seems set to be a long and eminent career.

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