Breaking: Mirga makes a double record debut

Breaking: Mirga makes a double record debut


norman lebrecht

November 10, 2017

All year, record labels have been trying to sign a deal with Birmingham’s explosive music director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla – and this is not it.

The conductor has decided to make her first record together with the young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, showcasing his extraordinary promise. As for the labels, they can wait a bit longer before she signs on the dotted line.

UPDATE: We’ve been reminded that Mirga recorded a Weinberg chamber symphony last year on a Gidon Kremer ECM release.

Details of the double record debut below:


Teenage cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, is teaming up with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla for his debut album ‘Inspiration’ – to be released on Decca Classics on 26th January 2018.

Recorded in Birmingham and Sheku’s hometown of Nottingham during two CBSO concerts conducted by Gražinytė-Tyla, the album features Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1 – the piece which propelled Sheku to fame as the first black winner of BBC Young Musician in the competition’s 38-year history.

Sheku’s debut album ‘Inspiration’ is a deeply personal collection of pieces which have inspired him in his career so far. From his school music teacher who first encouraged him to play ‘Evening of Roses’ to the great cellists – Mstislav Rostropovich, Pablo Casals and Jacqueline du Pré – who inspired him to play ‘Tears for Jacqueline’ and ‘Song of the Birds’, while Sheku’s passion for Bob Marley gave him the enthusiasm to write his very own arrangement of ‘No Woman, No Cry’. Sheku’s friends and fellow musicians are also a source of inspiration for the album, including BBC Young Musician winner Guy Johnston, who joins him for ‘Sardana’.

Inspiration – Tracklisting:


  1. Evening of Roses (Erev Shel Shoshanim)

Yosef Hadar, trans. Sheku Kanneh-Mason, arr. Tom Hodge

Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Cello), CBSO Cellos


  1. The Swan (Le Cygne)

C. Saint-Saëns, arr. Tom Hodge

Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Cello), CBSO Cellos


  1. Song of the Birds (El cant dels ocells)

Trad, arr. Pablo Casals

Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Cello), CBSO Cellos


  1. Nocturne – The Gadfly, Suite op. 97a

Dmitri Shostakovich, arr. Levon Atovmyan

Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Cello), Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (Conductor), CBSO


Dmitri Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in Eb Major, Opus 107

  1. I. Allegretto
  2. II. Moderato
  3. III. Cadenza – Attacca
  4. IV. Allegro con moto

Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Cello), Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (Conductor), CBSO


  1. Jacqueline’s Tears (Les Larmes de Jacqueline), Op. 76, no. 2

Jacques Offenbach, arr. Thomas Mifune Werner

Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Cello), Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (Conductor), CBSO


  1. Sardana

Pablo Casals

Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Cello), Guy Johnston (Cello), CBSO Cellos


  1. No Woman, No Cry

Bob Marley, arr. Sheku Kanneh-Mason

Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Cello)


  1. Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen, arr. Tom Hodge

Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Cello), Didier Osindero (Violin), Alinka Rowe (Viola), Yong Jun Lee (Cello)


  • Zelda Macnamara says:

    This CD should be worth buying. I was at the concert in Birmingham the other night when he played the Shostakovitch cello concerto and the Nocturne – both brilliant. And (in spite of some of my previous comments about Mirga) I have to say that she was also excellent and conducted energetically when required but also with restraint when required. So maybe she’s calming down a bit.

  • Mike says:

    It’s nice to know Decca don’t care enough to put her name on the cover.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      And Slipped Disc doesn’t care enough to put Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s in the headline.

      • Ben says:

        Yes agree. This recording is about Sheku. Not the over-rated Mirga!

        • Halldor says:

          Interested by your assessment that she’s “overrated”. Which of her concerts were you at, and can you say what precisely underwhelmed you about them?

          • harold braun says:

            Beethoven 5,Proms,a travesty.Tchaik 4,HR Frankfurt,directionless,without structure.Mahler 1,a mess….A joke,over hyped,….Karina Cannelakis is way better.

        • Anon says:

          I was at the concert on Wednesday and thought it was absolutely wonderful. Sheku played brilliantly and Mirga conducted equally brilliantly. The CBSO played sensationally for her even by their high standards – she’s certainly not ‘overrated’.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          Could the relentless hype over Mirga in this blog be taking a toll?

  • Alex Davies says:

    Tears for Jacqueline? Larmes pour Jacqueline? This got me wondering where the text had been copied from (I assumed it was a press release by the record label), but the only place it seems to appear is on this page.

  • Derek says:

    This album is Sheku’s debut and it will be a big hit in classical music because he is talented, engaging, fresh and he has caught the public imagination.

    This site has a habit of headlining Mirga when she is not the main story. It is as if she is being set up and it is not surprising that some then feel she is being hyped up.

    I attended the Birmingham concert and thought the Shostakovich Cello concerto and the Gadfly nocturne were excellent. Sheku brought personality and warmth into a thrilling performance.

    Mirga’s talent continues to develop, she was inspired and fully engaged with the music and orchestra. I was impressed with her throughout the concert and she caught the mood in all the pieces which were quite varied. The CBSO played brilliantly on top form.

  • Miles Removed says:

    A recording guaranteed in any case to shek u up.