SHEKU KANNEH-MASON MBE
For the latest in our ‘dunhill Profiles’ series we sat down with pre-eminent British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE. The 2016 BBC Young Musician performed at our 130-year anniversary celebrations in London this week with his trusty Matteo Goffriller cello, made in 1700. The conversation ponders the power of music and why the feeling of performing in London is always unique.
We are at Florian Leonhard Fine Violins in North London, can you tell us about this place? How come we’re here today?
I’m really glad that we’re here today. This is the home of cellos and violin making, and selling and repairing. I got my cello from here and so this is always a special place for that reason.
What’s it like performing in London in comparison to other cities that you’ve played in?
I always find there’s more pressure when I perform in London. I think I’m more likely to know more people in the audience because I live here and my teachers and people I studied with might be there. I love the feeling of performing in London, but I think it’s always the one with the most pressure.
Do you have a favourite place to perform in London?
Wigmore hall in London, the acoustics are amazing when you walk into the space.
When do you think you landed on your performance style? Do you remember there being a line in the sand moment?
It’s something I think about if I watch videos of me playing when I’m younger. There are certain characteristics or mannerisms or things that I recognise in my playing now. There are some things which hopefully are not there anymore and have been improved and changed in lots of different ways. I suppose some of the essence of me has stayed, but a lot has either changed or developed I hope.
Do you have any memorable experiences that have left a real impact on your career?
It’s tricky to pick specific moments because somehow I think every performance is often an enjoyable one, but also a chance to learn something from it. There is always a lesson to be learned from every performance.
The Royal Wedding performance is a big, notable part of your career. What was your perspective of that experience?
It was an enjoyable one. A beautiful space to perform in. It was very, very hot – I remember that quite vividly. I was playing some very nice music that I liked performing. It was nice to have the opportunity to perform for so many people, that was lovely.
What was it that stood out with this cello in particular – Was it the tone, was it the depth, was it just the way it made you feel, holding it?
I think with what I do, I spend so much time thinking about sound and the subtle differences between sounds and the range of colours you can get within the music. The instrument itself is a big part of what’s possible in what you can find. And I think this cello particularly has such a wonderful range of possibilities and a real personal sounding depth, which I think is very direct when you hear it.
What’s your experience like listening to music?
It’s weird because there aren’t any specific words to describe sound other than loud and quiet. We always have to use a secondary word, like harsh or bright or an emotion or a specific image or analogy, or sometimes colours. So, in a way, that’s really, really nice because it means there are endless ways to describe and to interpret and to think about music and I find that really, really fascinating. But it also means it’s endless – this search of finding something in the music. And I love that. But it’s also a very addictive task.
What’s it like being able to move people with your music?
It’s one of the greatest joys and privileges to be in a room and be sharing this music that I really care about. Of course, I can’t tell people what to feel, but I can inspire them to think about what I’m doing and hear and respond in whatever way they feel. It’s a real luxury to be able to do that so frequently and be in contact with many different audiences and that’s a special feeling and I’m very lucky to be doing it.
Sheku was photographed at Florian Leonhard Fine Violins wearing pieces from our new collection.
TIM MARLOW OBE
Tim Marlow serves as the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Design Museum. His career journey, from historian to arts and culture advocate, has uniquely positioned him to shape the museum’s mission.
For our ‘dunhill Profiles’ series we sat down with Paul Noble, the founder and Creative Director of Spiritland – a listening bar in King’s Cross aimed at connoisseurs of high fidelity music. This iconic London destination was first established to embrace the energy and DJ culture of the city at that time.