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Fanfare: Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Spencer Myer and more

Welcome to Fanfare — our weekly guide to live classical music in the Philadelphia area. Subscribe now to get the weekly mailing delivered straight to your inbox. To let us know about an event on the horizon, or share other feedback, drop us a line!

Spotlight: Sheku Kanneh-Mason – Tuesday, Perelman Theater

When this young British cellist last appeared with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in 2019 (alongside his sister, the equally exciting pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason), the recital was ecstatically received by a sold-out audience. Returning last season to solo with The Philadelphia Orchestra, the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year delighted a larger crowd with his elegant performance of Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 2, plus a whimsical encore: his own arrangement of Burt Bacharach’s “I Say a Little Prayer,” featured on his fourth solo album, Song.

Kanneh-Mason’s return to PCMS also draws from that album, along with Edmund Finnis’ Five Preludes. In fact, the entire recital is an intimate affair, devoted to solo cello; no accompanists or partners here. Such a rigorous program must include J.S. Bach — check, his Suite in D minor, BWV 2008. It also revives the first of Britten’s three neglected suites written for Mstislav Rostropovich (whom Kanneh-Mason has called one of his musical heroes). Another treat too seldom heard is a suite by the Catalan cellist Gaspar Cassado. Kanneh-Mason’s wide-ranging program also includes a sonata by Leo Brouwer and a new work by Gwilym Simcock.

Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m., Perelman Theater, Kimmel Cultural Campus, 300 South Broad Street, sold out; more information.

Jiyang Chen
Pianist Spencer Myer.

Spencer Myer — Wednesday, Benjamin Franklin Hall

Many a pianist enjoys offering a small group of Debussy’s Preludes as a palate cleanser in a wide-ranging recital, or as a satisfying “dessert” encore after a meaty concerto. The better-known preludes often elicit an audibly satisfied reaction as one-time piano pupils in the hall recognize “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” or “Puck’s Dance.” But it’s rare to hear both books of Preludes offered together in one main-course recital. Astral offers that attractive opportunity with a performance by the distinguished American pianist Spencer Myer, scheduled cannily in the after-work time frame. So if Debussy as the main musical course leaves you hungry for some actual dinner, you’ll still be able to make a restaurant reservation at a reasonable hour.

Nov. 8 at 6 p.m., Benjamin Franklin Hall, American Philosophical Society, 427 Chestnut Street, $25; purchase tickets.

The Songs of Solomon — Thursday, Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral

Italy around 1600: What a delicious musical time and place, as the late Renaissance and early Baroque met and merged in a particularly fertile moment. Granted the opportunity for time travel, I’d choose to land at the ducal court of Mantua for the opportunity to experience groundbreaking masterworks like Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo alongside their first audiences.

Tatiana Daubek
Tatiana Daubek

Less familiar to us today, but just as innovative, was the concertmaster of that court, Salamone Rossi, whose oeuvre includes chamber music, madrigals, and a collection of Jewish liturgical music in Hebrew. Songs of Solomon broke from the cantorial tradition by employing contemporary styles and forms that would have been familiar in the Roman Catholic Church. Mezzo-soprano (and my esteemed WRTI colleague) Meg Bragle is joined by the Baroque ensemble Filament in a recital surveying Rossi’s output and influence. For extra credit, as well as an introduction to this fascinating composer, attend a panel discussion on Nov. 7 at Penn’s Van Pelt Library.

Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m., Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 19 South 38th Street, $42; purchase tickets.

Anthony Heald and David Leisner — Friday, Benjamin Franklin Hall

Shakespeare and music promise to mix effortlessly in “Such stuff as dreams are made on,” a recital of sonnets, monologues, and musical selections for solo guitar. Film buffs will recognize the character actor Anthony Heald from The Silence of the Lambs; he’s also an accomplished Shakespearean, as well as a character actor on TV and Broadway. The eminent guitarist David Leisner offers complementary selections from Shakespeare’s contemporary John Dowland, as well as Bach, Schubert, and Britten. (If you can’t attend in person, watch a livestream here.)

Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m., Benjamin Franklin Hall, American Philosophical Society, 427 Chestnut Street, $30; purchase tickets.

Plan Ahead: The Publick Pleasure: Stop the Bells’ Tolling – Nov 19, The Church of the Good Shepherd

Another promising historical journey is coming up in a couple of weeks, as Main Line Early Music presents “Stop the Bells’ Tolling,” an examination of the ways in which Philadelphia’s musical life and daily soundscape changed amid an epidemic of yellow fever in 1793. The Publick Pleasure performs a program certain to evoke parallels with our modern pandemic, with Edmond Chan on violin, Amy Leonard on viola, Eve Miller on cello, John Walthausen on harpsichord, Steven Zohn on flute, and baritone Jean Bernard Cerin on vocals.

Nov. 19, 3 p.m., The Church of the Good Shepherd, 1116 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr, $30, with discounts for students and seniors; purchase tickets.

Melinda has worked in radio for decades, hosting and producing classical music and arts news. An award-winning broadcaster, she has created and hosted classical music programs and reported for NPR, WQXR—New York, WHYY–Philadelphia, and American Public Media. WRTI listeners may remember her years hosting classical music for WFLN and WHYY.