Hailing from a highly musical family, the pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason is a rising star in the classical music scene. As my first show of this year's Brighton Festival, and indeed, the first indoor performance I've attended in over a year, I was greatly anticipating this Tuesday lunchtime concert at the Dome, and it did not disappoint. Resplendent in a sparkling silver dress, Kanneh-Mason paused thoughtfully at the Steinway before launching into Mozart's Piano Sonata in C Minor, demonstrating her mastery of dynamics, and featuring swooping legatos and pulse-pounding runs up and down the full range of the keyboard. Transitioning instantly between boldness and delicacy, tempo turning on a dime, she demonstrated a complete command of the instrument and repertoire.
Between movements the audience was so rapturously silent that my attempt to unfold the programme sounded like a gunshot. We were captivated, leaning forward, a feeling surely enhanced by the fact that this was, for many, their first show in a very long time. Kanneh-Mason leaned into the performance herself; gazing wistfully off during more contemplative moments and bending toward the keys when leaning into the more turbulent moods. Delightful as the Mozart was, the shorter Ballade No 2 in F Major by Chopin was more of a showcase for Kanneh-Mason's virtuosity; cascading arpeggios and bold harmonies showcasing a full range of musical emotion.
She also bought tremendous swing and bounce to Gershwin's Three Preludes, a favourite piece from a favourite composer of mine. There was a splendid insouciance to the first movement, transitioning to a more downtempo andante and finally the playful flourishes of the third movement. Finally was Barber's Piano Sonata, the most musically challenging of the afternoon with its discordant beginning and bursts of stabbing intensity, but it allowed Kanneh-Mason to show her blinding speed while maintaining her poise but for occasional punctuating head-bobs. The audience demonstrated their appreciation with a deafening ovation. Kanneh-Mason would certainly be welcomed back by the Brighton audience with open arms in future, and I would strongly recommend readers seek out any such performances when they come.
To find out more about Isata Kanneh-Mason, visit http://www.kannehmasons.com/project/isata-kanneh-mason/