A starry line-up of soloists more than lives up to expectation

Nicola Benedetti, Sheku Kanneh-Mason: Beethoven


The Strad Issue: July 2024

Description: A starry line-up of soloists more than lives up to expectation

Musicians: Nicola Benedetti (violin) Sheku Kanneh-Mason (cello) Benjamin Grosvenor (piano) Gerald Finley (bass-baritone) Philharmonia Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali

Works: Beethoven: ‘Triple’ Concerto; folk song settings

Catalogue number: DECCA 4854624

A collection of celebrities doesn’t always add up to more than the sum of their parts, but this starry partnership combines brilliant individualism with cohesive ensemble playing.

The opening solo entries of Beethoven’s ‘Triple’ Concerto, led by cellist Kanneh-Mason, are all sweetness and light, the trio striking an immediate tone of bonhomie while maintaining (as do orchestra and conductor) rhythmic momentum. The nuanced playing, and the brilliant recording – expertly balancing the individual instrumentalists as well as their interaction with orchestra – are a delight throughout. The interplay between the soloists of upwards-rushing scales just before the exposition repeat is one of many ear-tickling moments.

The second movement is taken at a gratifying Largo, yet its pulse floats with quiet elegance. Kanneh-Mason’s opening theme – high up on the top string – is as self-effacing as it is shimmeringly beautiful; and the serenity continues as Benedetti takes it up. There’s no lack of swagger in the finale (and a vigorous moto perpetuo section), though not at the exclusion of poetic moments.

Irish, Scottish and Welsh folk-song settings by Beethoven are a thoughtful complement (although Gerald Finley, who sings in fully a third of the disc, is unaccountably absent from the cover). It’s all rounded off with a wistfully rhapsodic reading of an arrangement by Fritz Kreisler, with his cellist brother Hugo, of the ‘Londonderry Air’.