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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason’s Third Album 'Childhood Tales' Set To Be Released Worldwide

By Stevie Connor. Photo Credit David Venni.

Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason’s third album Childhood Tales will be released worldwide on May 26, 2023. Continuing her developing legacy with Decca Classics that began in 2019, this album uses Dolby Atmos Technology to capture Isata’s signature virtuosic flair. The first single, Mozart’s Variation 11: Adagio from Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”, is out now.

The eldest of the famous musical siblings, Isata’s first memory of playing the piano was as a five-year-old on holiday in the Caribbean and sitting in front of her grandparents’ instrument. With a reputation for inventive programs, expressive performance and accomplished technique, Isata is in increasing demand nationally and internationally and was the only classical artist to appear in TIDAL’s 2023 Rising Artists to Watch.

Isata evokes the magic of childhood in this charming collection of nostalgic music. The album is centred around Ernő Dohnányi’s rarely performed Variations on a Nursery Song, expanding the well-known ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ into a truly virtuosic work which takes the theme through eleven musical variations and a fugal finale. Subtitled “for the enjoyment of friends of humour, to the annoyance of others”, it saw great success when it was introduced in the UK in the 1910s, with its witty, kaleidoscopic mix making this a concert favourite for many years afterwards before falling out of fashion – it was subsequently performed almost every year at the Proms from 1920s to 1950s. Isata is joined by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom she previously recorded Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto for her 2019 album “Romance” on Decca.

From a young age, Isata has had a special affinity with Mozart and recalls playing the composer’s Variations on the French song ‘Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman’ with the same recognizable melody transformed through twelve sophisticated and inventive variations. Composed by Mozart when he was around Isata’s age, it is the perfect showpiece to pair with the Dohnányi.

Debussy’s enchanting Children’s Corner is a six-movement suite written for his 6-year-old daughter that symbolizes a return to the innocent world of children, featuring familiar tunes like Cakewalk and the playful Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum. The suite is full of child-like charm and sentiment and portrays the experiences of childhood.

Robert Schumann’s simple and unpretentious collection of 13 short pieces, Kinderszenen (‘Scenes from Childhood’), were intended as adult nostalgia. The most well-known of which is Träumerei (Dreaming), a touching tribute to memories and experiences of childhood from an adult perspective, portrayed through the rich and poetic musical lens of Schumann.

Isata Kanneh-Mason commented: “It was in childhood where my love of classical music first blossomed. The pieces in this album carry with them a certain nostalgia, and I feel almost a sense of longing for childhood in some of them. That wistfulness for childhood is something that I wanted to express, as I think it’s a time when one’s love of music is at its most uncomplicated. Games were as big a part of my childhood as music. It was musical…very vibrant…and very noisy. We also came up with lots of games together! Long, elaborate games, often involving running around the house and making up stories. Dohnányi’s ‘Variations on a Nursery Tune’ is where this album all began. I heard it live in a concert, years ago, but knew nothing about it, not even its name: I thought it must be a Dohnányi concerto, so it was such a surprise finding out what it was. I had to play this piece. It’s so humorous, so exciting. I had such a strong reaction to it! Mozart’s Twelve Variations on ‘Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman’ was a natural twinning and it’s also a piece that I played in my childhood. It fitted very naturally, and it was lovely re-learning it.”

Bringing new life to treasured works and shining a light on the nostalgia of childhood in music, Isata’s artistry carries the flame for a new generation of concert pianists at the forefront of recorded music.

Live Performances

On 3 May Isata will perform Dohnányi’s Variations on a Nursery Song with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Antony Hermus at Cadogan Hall.

Isata Kanneh-Mason: Childhood Tales

Mozart Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”

Dohnányi Variations on a Nursery Song for Piano and Orchestra

Debussy Children’s Corner

Schumann Kinderszenen

Isata Kanneh-Mason piano

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason is in great demand internationally as a soloist and chamber musician. She offers eclectic and interesting repertoire, with her recital programmes encompassing music from Haydn and Mozart, via Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann, Chopin and Brahms, to Gershwin and beyond. In concerto, she is equally at home in Felix Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann, whose piano concerto featured on Isata’s chart-topping debut recording, as in Prokofiev and Dohnányi.

In 2022/23 Isata steps into her role as Artist in Residence with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, performing three concerti across the season at London’s Cadogan Hall. She returns to Dortmund’s Konzerthaus as one of their Junge Wilde artists and makes multiple visits to both the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Other highlights of the season include recital performances at the Barbican, Queen Elizabeth, and Wigmore halls in London, the Philharmonie Berlin, National Concert Hall Dublin, Perth Concert Hall, Prinzregententheater Munich, and the Sala São Paulo. As concerto soloist, Isata appears with the Orchestra of Opera North, New World Symphony Miami, City of Birmingham Symphony, Duisburg Philharmonic, Barcelona Symphony, Geneva Chamber Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, and Orchestra of Norwegian Opera. She returns to the Baltimore Symphony and recently made her long-awaited debut with the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.

Isata is a Decca Classics recording artist. Her 2019 album, “Romance – the Piano Music of Clara Schumann”, entered the UK classical charts at No. 1, Gramophone magazine extolling the recording as “one of the most charming and engaging debuts”. This was followed in 2021 by “Summertime”, an album of 20th-century American repertoire featuring Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata and a world premiere recording of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Impromptu in B minor.In November 2021, along with her cellist brother, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Isata released her first duo album entitled “Muse”, beautifully demonstrating the siblings’ musicality and refined skill borne from years of playing and performing together.

She was an ECHO Rising Star in 21/22, performing in many of Europe’s finest halls and is also the recipient of the coveted Leonard Bernstein Award and an Opus Klassik award for best young artist.



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