Violinist Nicola Benedetti followed in 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 with her eight-years-older sister Stephanie to a violin lesson 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. 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
© James Manheim /TiVo
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Classical - Released July 12, 2019 | Decca
The great African-American jazz trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, born in 1961, expands his extensive and diverse musical repertoire every year. His Violin Concerto in D – like those of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky (Sibelius’ is in D minor) – was made especially for violinist Nicola Benedetti. In fact, the incredibly versatile jazz virtuoso admits that the work takes inspiration from her life and the way she “enlightens and delights communities all over the world with the magic of her virtuosity”.“Scored for symphony orchestra, with tremendous respect for the demands of that instrument, it is nonetheless written from the perspective of a jazz musician and New Orleans bluesman” writes Wynton Marsalis. “We believe that all human beings are connected in the essential fundamentals of life: birth, death, love, and laughter; that our most profound individual experiences are also universal (especially pain); and acknowledging the depth of that pain in the context of a groove is a powerful first step towards healing”.The piece is skilfully composed in four movements and is a delightful montage of sounds from one of today’s most world-renowned virtuosos, with jazz influences and a style like that of Stravinsky’s American period which was itself a patchwork of all different types of music. The Fiddle Dance Suite for Solo Violin is a kind of 21st century urban “Sonata” or “Partita” in five movements which fuse Irish and American influences in a clever mix of folk and scholarly music, a fusion that Bach was well accustomed to and which Marsalis now brings to the modern world with a softness and sense of humour. © François Hudry/Qobuz
Classical - Released July 12, 2019 | Decca Music Group Ltd.
Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis' first forays into classical music in the 1980s were celebrated as some kind of unique breakthrough, but that overlooked the fact that Marsalis was classically trained at the Juilliard School, absorbed all kinds of traditions, and has always had aspirations in the classical sphere. Credit Marsalis with broad ambitions when he turns to classical composition, as in his Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio Blood on the Fields (1997), and again here with a Violin Concerto and Fiddle Dance Suite, written for violinist Nicola Benedetti. Both works are impressive, not least in their idiomatic writing for the violin; they flatter Benedetti considerably. The Violin Concerto is in some respects the concerto for the instrument that Charles Ives never wrote. Not only are there polystylistic march passages that sound a great deal like Ives, but Marsalis draws on the early 20th century American in other respects. Sample the third-movement "Blues," which in addition to that style broadens out into a sort of gospel church service. This is something Ives would have loved. Moreover, there is the range of styles in the work: jazz and blues are present, but only as one element of a palette. The final "Hootenanny" picks up where Copland left off in terms of old-time country music. Marsalis sticks with traditional styles, more Scottish than American, in the Fiddle Dance Suite that rounds out the album. Leave aside the novelty of an African American composer writing a movement called "Nicola's Strathspey" and just enjoy the original harmonic universe Marsalis spins out of this dance. The Philadelphia Orchestra, not much heard on recordings in recent years, sounds great under conductor Cristian Măcelaru, and all in all this is a strong outing on the classical side from Marsalis, and a productive stretch for Benedetti as well. © TiVo
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Nicola Benedetti in the magazine