Violinist Nicola Benedetti followed a line of British Isles teenagers hailed as revitalizers of classical music. In advance of making any recordings whatsoever, she was signed to a six-album contract by the Universal label in 2005 and assigned to its prestigious Deutsche Grammophon imprint, with a paycheck reportedly in excess of one million pounds.
Born July 20, 1987, in West Kilbride, Ayrshire, Scotland, Benedetti was the daughter of a prosperous manufacturer of plastic cases for first-aid kits. At four, she tagged along to a violin lesson with her older sister Stephanie and then took up the instrument herself (Stephanie has been active as an orchestral musician). Nicola attended the Yehudi Menuhin School. She gave performances at several top British concert halls, later moving to London to study with violinist Maciej Rakowski. When Benedetti was 14, she won a Prodigy of the Year contest on England's Carlton Television network. A hint of her potential crossover appeal came when she drew a crowd of 10,000 at the rock-oriented Glastonbury Festival's "Classical Extravaganza" in the summer of 2003. However, she told London's Independent newspaper that "I have not ruled out different types of music, but I was trained as a classical musician. I don't want to compromise what I do and what I love." At another stratum of British journalism, she told the Mirror that "I'm not really into clubbing and I've never smoked or drunk much -- and I won't wear anything tarty."
Benedetti took a big step toward mainstream classical stardom when she won the BBC's Young Musician of the Year award in 2004, performing Szymanowski's virtuoso concerto and becoming the first Scot to take home the prize. The Times of London noted that her youthful passion in performance is balanced offstage by a healthy streak of that quintessential Scottish trait: prudence." This led her to eventually slow down her performance schedule so that she could further her musical studies. By the following decade, Benedetti’s schedule was as full as ever, taking in a 2010 debut at the BBC Proms, chamber music recitals with her trio (Leonard Elschenbroich, cello; Alexei Grynyuk, piano), chamber and concerto performances in North America and Europe, and visits to schools in the United Kingdom to encourage new talent. Released to coincide with a trio of performances at the 2012 BBC Proms, The Silver Violin -- a collection of music made famous in films -- consolidated Benedetti’s position as one of the most popular British violinists of her generation. She moved to the Decca label in 2011 for the album Italia, in which she ventured into Baroque music, but mostly she has played standard Romantic repertory. Another new facet of her skills was revealed in 2019 when she recorded the Violin Concerto and Fiddle Dance Suite of jazz composer Wynton Marsalis, for which she won a 2020 Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo. 2020 saw her record Elgar's challenging Violin Concerto.
In 2017, Benedetti received the Queen's Medal for Music, becoming the youngest honoree up to that time, and in 2019 she was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
© James Manheim /TiVo