An enchanting tour de force from a stunningly gifted musical family

Kanneh-Mason Family: Carnival

Kanneh-Mason Family: Carnival

The Strad Issue: February 2021

Description: An enchanting tour de force from a stunningly gifted musical family

Musicians: The Kanneh-Mason Family, Olivia Colman, Michael Morpurgo (narrators)

Works: Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals; plus music by Tchaikovsky, Bartók, Grieg, Rimsky-Korsakov, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Whitacre and Marley

Catalogue number: DECCA 48511586


Not even the phenomenally gifted members of the Kanneh-Mason family can manage to cover every part in the perennial Saint-Saëns favourite (at least not without over-dubbing), yet it is amazing how well they acquit themselves here - with pianists Isata, Konya and Jeneba, violinist Braimah and cellist Sheku leading the way. The two youngest – violinist Aminata and cellist Mariatu – can be heard alongside their older siblings in the enchanting selection of pieces by Tchaikovsky, Bartók, Grieg, Rimsky-Korsakov, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Eric Whitacre that comprise Grandpa Christmas, a heartwarming story written and narrated by celebrated author Michael Morpurgo (alongside Mariatu), who also contributes and narrates a fresh set of verses for Carnival of the Animals, with a little help from Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman.

The two piano showstoppers – ‘Wild Donkeys’ (a tour de force, dispatched at phenomenal speed) and ‘Pianists’ (playfully sent up) – are among the highlights, as is Sheku’s sensitively poised ‘Swan’. On this evidence, first violin Braimah is another star member of the family, who relishes the staccato pecking and clucking of ‘Roosters and Hens’ and whinnying thrown harmonics of ‘Personages with Long Ears’ with infectious aplomb. For an encore, all seven siblings join together in a sparkling arrangement of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, captured in typically wide-ranging and alluring Decca sound.