Rare 17th Century cello loaned to teenager for life

Sheku Kanneh-Mason
Image caption The BBC Young Musician of the Year winner has been reunited permanently with the rare 1610 Amati cello

A cello worth hundreds of thousands of pounds has been given on a lifetime loan to a gifted teenage musician.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, 17, used the early 17th Century Amati instrument - which is 50 years older than the earliest-known Stradivarius - to scoop the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year title.

An anonymous donor has agreed to let the teenager use the cello, one of the first ever made, indefinitely.

The teenager, from Nottingham, said the loan was "a dream come true".

London violin maker Florian Leonhard described the cello, made in 1610, as "the ultimate instrument for a virtuoso soloist".

'Perfect pairing'

Mr Leonhard, who mentors young musicians and often matches soloists with top instruments, arranged for Sheku to use the cello for his performances at the BBC Young Musician of the Year final in May and his debut at the Royal Festival Hall in September.

The teenager said: "I immediately fell in love with this cello in the spring and I am thrilled.

"I can hardly believe that I can continue to develop my relationship with this cello, making the sound more completely my own over time.

"I could not be more happy and excited."

Image caption Instrument maker Florian Leonhard arranged for the lifetime loan of the cello to Sheku Kanneh-Mason

Mr Leonhard said: "It is so rare that we're able to facilitate such a perfect pairing.

"Sheku is something extremely special and is the most exciting young star we've come across - just pure talent and musicality."

The young cellist's sister Isata was a semi-finalist in the 2014 Young Musician of the Year contest, performing on the piano.

Sheku appeared with her on ITV's Britain's Got Talent in 2015, along with four other Kanneh-Mason siblings, in a classical ensemble.

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