Leonard Bernstein prize for Kanneh-Mason

Leonard Bernstein prize for Kanneh-Mason


norman lebrecht

February 05, 2021

It has been decided that the Leonard Bernstein Award 2021 will be presented on August 20 at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival to the English pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason. She will celebrate with a performance of the Clara Schumann concerto, a speciality of hers.

‘Isata Kanneh-Mason has inspired us from the first note. Her expressive piano playing is captivating and leaves no doubt that she will soon be one of the great pianists,’ said the sponsor’s citation.



  • yujafan says:

    yay! well deserved Isata!

  • mel says:

    Another bonus — more exposure for the Wieck-Schumann concerto, which should be played/recorded more.

  • Geoff Cox says:

    Congrats Isata! Have a good year!

  • christopher storey says:

    She is a fine pianist and her talent justifies a long-term career

  • Anna says:

    Fantastic. So well deserved. Congratulations Isata! So look forward to live performances again.

  • William Lansbury says:

    Can someone explain all the down votes? What is the situation fill me in

    • nobody special says:

      To be blunt, I think because there are a lot of racist trolls that lurk on this site. Rather than celebrating a young talented artist of color being recognized for her artistry, they feel that this is a threat to classical music’s status quo of whiteness. It makes me sad to write that, but I am also optimistic that classical music is moving (albeit slowly) away from its long history of male dominated white supremacy towards being more inclusive and accessible to anyone.

  • Dr. Michael Kaykov says:

    She’s a phenomenon.

  • Herbie G says:

    Yes, there are undoubtably racist trolls around, and other kinds of troll who seek to politicise everything. Isata earned her award because she’s a superb pianist. It’s as simple as that. I would like to think that she’s pleased to have won it but I doubt that she sees it as ‘one up for the black community’. In fact, that would be an insult to her because it might suggest that she got this award not only for her musical ability but through some kind of ‘affirmative action’.

    That you should burden, nay pollute these congratulations by tacking on grandiose but spurious political theories. You say ‘classical music is moving (albeit slowly) away from its long history of male dominated white supremacy towards being more inclusive and accessible to anyone’ you are echoing a canard that would win you a prize – honorary membership of the Society for Politicising Everything White.

    In case it has passed you by, Europe was, throughout the classical period, and is still, predominantly white, So who were the victims of this alleged European white supremacy? There were black performers and composers during the classical era – such as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges and George Bridgetower – the dedicatee of Beethoven’s famous Bridgetower violin sonata – or so it would have been if he had not fallen out with Beethoven (easily done) after which the sonata was dedicated to Rodolphe Kreutzer. And nearer to our own time, there was Samuel Coleridge Taylor, a genius who was taken too young. His ‘Hiawatha’ trilogy was a huge success, having been regularly performed until the outbreak of WWII.

    To say that ‘classical music is moving away from its long history…’ is ridiculous. Classical music is non-corporeal and cannot move anywhere. Similarly, to say it’s more ‘accessible’ and ‘inclusive’ is just a lazy use of reach-me-down words from the dictionary of that organisation mentioned above.

    Classical music is accessible to anyone who cares to hear it. Never before has so much of it been available – there’s hardly a classical piece that is not on YouTube. Anyone can try to learn a musical instrument and if they are as talented as the members of the remarkable Kanne-Mason family they too will sooner or later enjoy their success. I won’t need to add a list of hundreds of non-white composers, singers and instrumentalists who have enhanced the so-called ‘white supremacist’ classical music tradition to the acclaim of audiences throughout the world – I am sure the SD community knows who they are.

    • nobody special says:

      Dude, those are your politicized theories. I never said ‘one for the black community,’ that was all you.

      The question was why are there so many downvotes and I offered an opinion.

      You are also assuming that anyone can get access to instruments and to quality instruction and that is just not the case.

      Have a nice life.

      • Herbie G says:

        That’s a more promising effort – rather defensive but all your own thoughts rather than lots of second-hand ones, and it’s far more lucid than your previous offering.

        You now wisely change tack and mention access to musical instruments; a huge advance on your original specious posting about music’s inherent male dominated white supremacy.

        To learn a musical instrument you don’t need a Strad or Steinway to begin with. One can easily get cheap instruments to get started on. Lots of people wouldn’t think twice about spending a grand on the latest iPhone or even more for a state-of-the-art laptop to play games on; for the same cost anyone could probably pick up an adequate instrument just to see whether learning it is a viable proposition. It’s a matter of priority.

        You don’t need to go to the Royal Academy either. There are plenty of local teachers around who charge reasonable prices. Some schools loan out instruments too.

        The evidence is there if you look around you. There are tens of thousands of classical musicians around who play in pubs, local halls, at weddings and other special occasions. There are hundreds of small orchestras and ensembles. Very few of these players are affluent but they all had ‘access’ to instruments and teachers early on to set them on the right course.