Nicola Benedetti

Yet beyond sheer agility, Benedetti offers listeners something even more valuable: a dynamic personal interpretation, refreshing and convincing. – The Times

…it was thrilling to hear and watch Nicola Benedetti in a truly risk-taking performance that lived so much in the body and fused the sinews of the violin and the nerve-system of the player. – The Times

Benedetti has the technique, passion and energy to compete with the best. – The Observer

A talent to inspire. . . her maturity is striking. . . Her vitality is infectious. . . – BBC Music Magazine

Credit: Andy Gotts


Nicola Benedetti is one of the most sought-after violinists of her generation. Her ability to captivate audiences with her innate musicianship and spirited presence, coupled with her wide appeal as a high-profile advocate for classical music, has made her one of the most influential classical artists of today.

Winner of the 2020 GRAMMY Award for “Best Classical Instrumental Solo,” as well as “Best Female Artist” at both the 2012 and 2013 Classical BRIT Awards, Nicola’s live performance at the 2020 GRAMMY Awards marked the first classical solo violin appearance at the Premiere Ceremony in over ten years. Nicola was appointed a CBE in 2019, awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music (2017), and an MBE in 2013.  Aside from extensive touring with the world’s most exceptional orchestras and ensembles, Nicola is one of the leading advocates for quality music education and has worked with over 4,000 students and 700 teachers.  She has formalised her vision and expanded her commitment to the education of young people and supporting of music teachers by establishing a charitable organisation: The Benedetti Foundation.

In the 2019/2020 season, Nicola makes her debut with the Wiener Symphoniker and undergoes a tour of Asia with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Robin Ticciati.  She will also reunite with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and embark on a tour with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra led by Thomas Søndergård.  She performs the Marsalis Violin Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony and James Gaffigan and with Cristian Măcelaru firstly with the Gothenburg Symphony and then again with the Orchestre de Paris.  Nicola has also been appointed as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Artist in Residence for 2020 which will include a concerto performance with Sir Andrew Davis, a European tour and education sessions and masterclasses.


From The Green Room


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    12 Mar 20 Concert Scottish Chamber Orchestra
    Usher Hall, Edinburgh


    “But inevitably, Benedetti was the star of the show, and she gave a vividly characterised, deeply involved performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, each movement carefully differentiated: a turbulent, troubled opener, brisk and poised slow movement, and appropriately crisp, strongly defined finale. Even without a conductor, it was a remarkably supple account, with tasteful rhythmic inflections here and there adding to its abundant charm.”

    13 March 2020 – David Kettle, The Scotsman

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    23 Jan 20 Concert Royal Scottish National Orchestra
    Audimax Der Universitât Regensburg


    “It was a triumph of grace, inner warmth, dazzling dexterity and nuanced suppleness, underpinned by an orchestral performance that had density, strongly defined colour, yet never once overstepping the mark. Benedetti’s encore – an enchanting, unaccompanied arrangement of Auld Lang Syne (using the original melody) – drew a melting silence, its heartfelt simplicity and tenderness hushing the near-capacity house.”

    24 January 2020 – Ken Walton, The Scotsman

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    02 Oct 19 Concert Vladimir Jurowski, London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Royal Festival Hall, London

    “Benedetti’s first entry was tastefully nobilmente and she gave the beguiling and enigmatic second subject a rhapsodic quality, finding sensuality and intimacy in the second movement, the LPO sensitive in support… The long ‘accompanied cadenza’ was transfixing with more than a touch of fantasy.”

    Brian Barford, Classical Source, 2 October 2019

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    27 Jul 19 Concert BBC Proms, Mark Wigglesworth, National Youth Orchestra
    Royal Albert Hall, London


    “Soloist Nicola Benedetti had been working with the orchestra during their week-long course and the rapport showed. For herself, Benedetti shaped a secure and expansive performance, giving a real kick to the dance sections of the finale. Her encore, from the Fiddle Dance Suite written for her by Wynton Marsalis, kept on swinging as she walked slowly offstage.”

    Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 28 July 2019



    Spring rebirth came with Benedetti’s bewitching engagement in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, matched for forward-moving mobility by Wigglesworth… From the back of the hall, her upper-register sweetness sounded ravishing, and it wasn’t necessary to hear every note in the fast passage-work given the level of heady communication. Benedetti had already shown us what a Mensch she is as an ambassador for musical youth in last year’s BBC Young Musician Prom, and she did so again in a candid and typically generous speech before her encore, forestalling my own lines here by pointing out as a mark of teamwork the way the wind soloists handed lines to one another in the first movement’s second group of themes.

    She then gave them and us a treat with the wayward folksy wistfulness of “As the Wind Goes”, second movement of the Fiddle Dance Suite written for her by Wynton Marsalis, walking off the platform to infinity at the end.”

    David Nice, The Artsdesk, 28 July 2019


    ” The outer movements were brisk with an avoidance of rhetorical histrionics that will have appealed to some. The slow movement certainly struck deep. There is a naturalness about Benedetti’s interpretation which for me at least outweighs the scrawnier skittering… The encore, a lullaby blending ragtime, spiritual and Scottish ballad elements, was ‘As the Wind Goes’, the second of the five movements comprising the Fiddle Dance Suite written for her by Wynton Marsalis. She withdrew from the stage while still playing, an evocative touch.”

    David Gutman, Classical Source, 27 July 2019


    “Nicola Benedetti’s laudable work in the area of musical education for young people is well-known, and so it was appropriate that she should be welcomed by the NYO as the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. She always seems to be at her best in overtly romantic repertoire, and the quality of this performance underlined her excellent credentials. Her playing displayed an attractive warmth of phrase and tone and had a dedicated, inward quality. There was no showing off for effect.

    At the end of a superlatively played first movement, by both soloist and orchestra, there was widespread and prolonged applause.

    In the middle-movement ‘Canzonetta’ Benedetti responded beautifully to Tchaikovsky’s wonderful flow of melody, and vividly conveyed the music’s rather achingly sad nature.

    After more sustained applause Benedetti addressed the audience, paying generous tribute to the commitment of the young musicians throughout the previous week of rehearsals, especially in conditions of extreme heat, and then played the charmingly reflective ‘As the Wind Goes’ from Wynston Marsalis’s Fiddle Dance Suite.”

    Alan Sanders, Seen and Heard International, 28 July 2019

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    26 Apr 19 Concert Sakari Oramo, BBC Symphony Orchestra
    The Barbican, London


    “Elgar’s Violin Concerto is a big beast in every respect: big in passions, technical requirements, interpretative challenges and, definitely not least, demands on the soloist’s stamina. Yehudi Menuhin famously recorded it, under the composer’s baton, at 16 — but that’s not to be recommended.

    The concerto is generally believed to evoke a love affair that, for whatever reason, didn’t work out. Why it didn’t depends very much on who you think Elgar was writing about in the quotation he put on his score (“Herein is enshrined the soul of . . .”), but that’s not the point. What matters is that the soloist can bring some life experience, as well as terrific violin playing, to this epic work.

    How wise of Nicola Benedetti, then, to wait until her early thirties to tackle Elgar. And in this gripping performance (the first time she has played the concerto in London), what a thrilling rush of passions she brought to it. With some interpretations you feel as if emotion is being recollected in a haze of nostalgia, regret, dejection or whatever. Not so here. After a slightly nervy beginning, this was life being lived in the moment and in its full tumble of complexity.

    Maybe in the future Benedetti will veer towards a gentler, less pressurised approach here and there — in the first movement’s disarming second subject, for instance, or in the rhapsodic slow movement, or in that famous final cadenza accompanied by thrumming strings — but in some ways I hope not. Her full-blooded approach to Elgar reminds me of the great Ida Haendel’s, but with a much more assured technique. That’s saying a lot.

    Having provided a robust and in places bombastic accompaniment to the Elgar, the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo tackled Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony in much the same heavy-handed spirit. Pity. The piece benefits from taut rhythms and lean textures that disclose the richness of its inner details. Oramo ploughed through as if oblivious to what lay under the surface.”

    Richard Morrison, The Times, 29 April 2019

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    06 Sep 18 Concert Bristol Ensemble
    St George’s Bristol

    “…After the interval, the audience were treated to a nuanced, intimate performance of Mendelssohn’s Notturno from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, before the arrival on stage of Nicola Benedetti, the undoubted star of the show, for Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2.

    This Concerto is regarded as more conservative than Prokofiev’s first; however, it includes some of Prokofiev’s more unconventional choices, that Benedetti illuminated beautifully throughout. Alone for the Concerto’s very first phrase, Benedetti drew out the hope lurking within the melancholy folk-like line. When the orchestra entered the fray, at first it was with a minimum of colour from the strings of the Bristol Ensemble. The mood gradually brightened, anticipating the second theme, seemingly aiming for a simpler means of expression. The virtuosic Benedetti developed these dual motifs with their diverse harmonic and rhythmic flights throughout the first movement.

    The sensually warm tone of her violin somehow soared above the Bristol Ensamble’s orchestral massed ranks without ever losing the strong sense of connection between soloist and orchestra.

    After the much-admired Andante assai, Benedetti cut loose in the concerto’s vivid finale. A dance in accented triple time, sprinkled with displaced beats. She didn’t shy away from the menacing mood that emerged and during the dramatic coda Benedetti rose to the heights of virtuosity, demonstrating why her name on a programme is a guarantee of a sold-out show and an evening to remember.

    The night ended with Benedetti receiving a deserved ovation from St George’s discerning and attentive crowd. The familiar sound of stamping feet amid the applause setting the seal on a triumphant night. Bristol is lucky to have such a vibrant venue for classical performance and with this ambitious and bold extension project now fully realized, the future of music at St Georges feels secure for decades to come.”, 7 Sep 2018

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    05 Aug 18 Concert Edinburgh International Festival, Academy of Ancient Music
    Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh


    “With due respect to Simon Rattle et al, I will be amazed if the music programme at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival produces anything more electrifying than the first piece played on the first morning. Normally I go into a coma when I see the word Vivaldi on a programme, and full rigor mortis if Telemann follows — but Nicola Benedetti is on such sensational form at present that she could play the Midlothian Yellow Pages and still mesmerise a crowd.

    And Vivaldi’s Concerto in D, RV208, the “Grosso mogul”, is even more interesting than that. In fact it’s arguably the most challenging violin concerto written before Beethoven, full of ferociously virtuosic passagework yet with a contrasting wistfulness that needs poise and subtlety. Benedetti, holding her bow in the baroque manner at least four inches from the frog, supplied all that and suppleness too, with minimum vibrato and a timbre whittled to a sinuous silken thread. Great work, too, from the Academy of Ancient Music led from the harpsichord by Richard Egarr. They had their fun later, evoking all the bizarre onomatopoeic effects of two of Telemann’s most pictorial works.”

    Richard Morrison, The Times, 6 Aug 2018

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    24 Jun 18 Concert London Symphony Orchestra
    Barbican Hall, London


    “In a programme mounting two of Dmitri Shostakovich’s most personal of works, it is hardly surprising that each piece contained a wealth of the DSCH motif – the composer’s musical monogram. Yet given the presence of Nicola Benedetti and Gianandrea Noseda, if one entered the Barbican tonight only expecting a musical portrait of the Soviet composer, one would have left with a pleasant surprise.

    Behind a memorable performance of the First Violin Concerto were the charisma and expressionistic prowess of Benedetti. With Noseda – the London Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor – very much playing in empathic subdue, the Nocturne had covert momentum following the soloist’s hypnotic lead. Certainly, the Scherzo had its bite, but it was in the latter two movements where the deal was. Capitulating on the stately pulse the LSO brass and timpani set for the Passacaglia, there was a cantabile quality in Benedetti’s tone. Yet the rawness of her expressions were rich, finding their blossom in the cadenza soliloquy, even if one could have expected a bit more subito in phrasing. The resultant Burlesque, limping in its own subversive intent, was all any Shostakovich enthusiast could have wished for, full of zest and a smirk. If Benedetti has made a name in recent times for her Shostakovich, this performance only added another layer to her growing reputation.

    Young-Jin Hur, Bachtrak, 25 Jun 2018

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    31 May 18 Concert Richard Egarr, Academy of Ancient Music
    Barbican Hall, London

    “In this belated celebration of Telemann following the 250th-anniversary of his death last year, Nicola Benedetti joined the Academy of Ancient Music to demonstrate the cosmopolitan character of his music through juxtaposition with his most prominent Italian contemporary.

    Telemann’s first appearance here was reserved until the end of the first half, with one of his rare Concertos in an Italianate three-movement form, rather than the Germanic four-movement structure he usually favoured. In the descriptive ‘Frogs’ Concerto, he uses the violin in a notably un-virtuosic fashion, by having its first entry imitate a frog with the use of bariolage (the rapid alternation of the same note between fingered and open strings) just as Haydn would employ in his String Quartet Opus 50/6. Despite that, this Concerto is particularly Vivaldian in terms of its defined, melodic ritornellos with suspensions, and a less intricately Germanic harmonic progression. Benedetti subsumed her playing within the overall good humour of the work, ending in the purposeful stride of the Minuet Finale.

    Benedetti and Richard Egarr made a robust start to the concert with Vivaldi’s vigorous ‘Il Grosso Mogul’ Concerto (perhaps at least as well known in Bach’s arrangement for organ, BWV594). In the lengthy written-out cadenzas of the outer movements, Benedetti impressed with the crisp and precise attack that brought out the intermittent melodic notes amidst the anchoring harmonic ones, combined with a skittish approach in general. By contrast, the recitative-like Grave middle movement was lyrical and yearning.”
    Curtis Rogers, Classical Source, 31 May 2018

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    30 May 18 Concert Richard Egarr, Academy of Ancient Music
    Chiltern Arts Festival, Dorchester Abbey

    “It was already set to be remembered as one of the highlights of the classical music year — but now the newly launched Chiltern Arts Festival is returning for an encore.

    On Wednesday (May 30), star violinist Nicola Benedetti will join the festival’s orchestra in residence, the Academy of Ancient Music, for a concert at Dorchester Abbey.

    A past winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, Benedetti’s ability to captivate audiences with her innate musicianship and dynamic presence has made her one of the most sought-after violinists of her generation and one of the most influential classical artists of today.

    Looking ahead to Wednesday night’s concert, Director Richard Egarr said: “I’m so thrilled that the AAM will be orchestra in residence for this festival. I hope that it is the beginning of a lasting relationship which will bring joy and excitement to both the audiences and the musicians.” Back in February, the inaugural Chiltern Arts Festival ran for nine days in towns and villages in and around the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

    Henley Standard, 28 May 2018

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    04 Feb 18 Concert Marin Alsop, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
    Royal Festival Hall, London

    “The expansion into the Finale was beautifully achieved and Benedetti’s immaculate technique coped with the virtuosic moments ensuring that they were part of the music’s unfolding rather than momentary showpieces. As an interpretation this was among the most attractive that I have heard…”
    Antony Hodgson, Classical Source, 04 January 2018

    “With lean, athletic orchestral partners, it allowed Benedetti to explore a wide range of dynamic gradations between mezzo-piano and pianissimo, which she did with great sensitivity along with an impeccable trill.

    If the first movement had fire and imagination, it was the contemplative Larghetto that impressed most. Slow and tender, but never schmaltzy, it approached religious reverence in tones so hushed one could sense the audience holding its collective breath. The Rondo finale was amiable rather than ebullient, a simple expression of joyous music-making in the company of friends. Benedetti looked entirely at home with her new family, which is just as well as they’re soon touring this programme, minus Alsop, to the United States and Abu Dhabi.”
    Bachtrack, Mark Pullinger, 05 February 2018

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    11 Jan 18 Concert Leonard Elschenbroich, London Mozart Players
    St. John’s Smith Square, London

    “Having Nicola Benedetti’s performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto before the interval – and not ending the concert – was brave as she left the packed St. John’s with her searing performance in all our minds throughout the second half. It was interesting to see how involved she was in the music even when she was not playing, even appearing to seem to add to Elschenbroich’s encouragement of this players with slight shrugs of her shoulders. Watching Benedetti close to, clearly her technique is so secure that it provides an always reliable base on which to develop her interpretations. As much as is possible – for a concerto which has such an emotionally broad palette – Benedetti made it look and sound easy, but, of course, it really is not.

    Ever the alert accompanists, Elschenbroich and the understated LMP eloquently introduced the musical themes of the Allegro before Benedetti entered with a ferocious zeal creating a burnish tone with just a hint of grit. Neither the complexity of all this movement’s passage work nor its Joachim cadenza held any fears for her. The tone from Benedetti’s 1717 Stradivarius continued to shimmer on high and sizzle as the line sloped downward, and this gave an appropriately romantic expressivity to the Adagio. It had begun with Gareth Hulse’s sensitively delivered oboe solo and subsequently the violin seemed to flirt with LMP’s oboe, as well as, flutes and horn during this long, warm second movement.

    The Allegro finale was certainly ‘giocoso’, and competition – in a good way – seemed to be firmly established between soloist and musicians. I was wondering if it was on the brink of being the ‘too lively’ that Brahms wanted discouraging. In the end it seemed just right as Benedetti’s playing continued to be a perfect blend of the playful and the blood-stirring. This concerto was dedicated to another great violinist but of a much earlier generation, Joachim, who gave its first performance in 1879. We hear his ‘voice’ most when his Hungarian heritage receives a tribute in the echoes of the Zigeuner style of this final movement. Benedetti authoritatively embraced all this movement’s rhythmic complexities and double stops and paid her own homage to her great predecessor with her gloriously rendered rondo which was suitably energetic and had more than a hint of that gypsy about it.”
    Jim Pritchard, Seen and Heard, 13 January 2018

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    02 Nov 17 Concert Cristian Macelaru, The Philadelphia Orchestra
    Verizon Hall, Philadelphia

    “Thursday night, in the middle of Nicola Benedetti’s playing a cadenza in a violin concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra, a man walked through the ensemble to a spot just inches from the violinist and started playing drums.

    The man was percussionist Christopher Deviney, and, needless to say, the concerto was not the Brahms, Beethoven, or Sibelius.

    Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto in D Major, receiving its first Philadelphia Orchestra performance with these concerts, comes with a lot of bells and whistles (literally and figuratively), like orchestra musicians stomping their feet and clapping.

    Benedetti negotiated the stream of variegated material with great sensitivity to style. The music saunters and dances. A punchy circus-like atmosphere takes over for a bit, commented upon with short quips from the violin. The Blues hovers over the piece in various places.

    The orchestrations are some of the loveliest you’ll ever hear — and most inventive. A burlesque section has the violin soloist twisting and teasing. Brass blasts call out, and a couple of trumpets “shout” by blocking and unblocking their bells with cups.

    The debauchery doesn’t last. Strings come in and the mood turns sincere. In the end, Marsalis emerges as a musical raconteur of the best sort. Nothing he told us was exactly new, but there was great art in the telling.”
    Peter Dobrin, The Philly Enquirer, 03 November 2017

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    07 Oct 17 Concert Peter Oundjian, Royal Scottish National Orchestra
    Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

    “… That considered narrative approach was also evident in Benedetti’s account of the Elgar, the dynamic range of her playing perfectly calibrated for maximum ensemble engagement with the orchestra, particularly the strings. There may be virtuoso content aplenty in the solo part, but it was the intensity of the dialogue between her final movement cadenza and the combination of strummed and bowed notes across the sections that was unforgettably breath-catching.”
    Keith Bruce, Herald Scotland, 09 October 2017

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    19 Jan 17 Concert Scottish Chamber Orchestra
    Usher Hall, Edinburgh

    “With an all Beethoven programme, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with soloist Nicola Benedetti gave a balanced and insightful performance of three of the composer’s works on Thursday evening.

    The second half saw Benedetti give a stunning performance of Beethoven’s only violin concerto. This is an artist who exudes star quality; her exquisite playing, combining true virtuosity and a deep musical intelligence made this a memorable performance. Benedetti’s intimate understanding of the work is evident, with her compelling playing seemingly guiding the orchestra through Beethoven’s vivid musical landscape. Her dazzling cadenzas filled the hall, perhaps most notably in the first movement, before the orchestra behind her stealthily re-entered the scene with softly cushioned pizzicatos. The main theme of the final Rondo seemed to take on a different guise each time it was heard, as the orchestra constantly refreshed and reinvigorated the music.”
    Miranda Heggie, The Sunday Herald, 22 January 2017

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    18 Jul 17 Concert BBC Proms, Thomas Søndergård, BBC National Orchestra of Wales
    Royal Albert Hall, London

    “Nicola Benedetti was the star of this show, no doubt about that. She is a Proms regular and favourite, attracting a large and enthusiastic audience, the Royal Albert Hall filled almost to capacity. And she didn’t disappoint, giving a performance of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto that demonstrated all her strengths: precision, focus, variety of colour and mood, but above all the passion and conviction needed to make sense of this long and emotionally complex work.

    The concerto is in four movements, with an extended cadenza linking the last two. The first movement has the mood of a serene introduction, at least under Benedetti’s fingers. Her rich, bronzed tone in the lower register was ideal, and her light vibrato delicately applied. For the Scherzo second movement, her musical persona completely transformed, now digging into the strings for biting attacks and a rich, buzzing sonority. The slow movement was more about beauty of tone than intensity of expression, but Benedetti’s sense of line proved ideal in unfolding this long soliloquy. The cadenza can feel sullen and joyless when performed by lesser violinists – it’s more a confessional than a virtuoso showcase – but again Benedetti found all the musical potential in its many contrasts. The last movement is a virtuoso showcase, and Benedetti’s performance was energetic, vibrant and, of course, note-perfect.”
    Gavin Dixon, The Arts Desk, 19 July 2017

    “… she can certainly summon a headlong rhythmic energy, as she proved in the furiously energetic finale.”
    Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, 19 July 2017

    “… in terms of sheer technique, I’m not sure if I’ve heard this magnificent work better played.”
    Geoff Brown, The Times, 20 July 2017

    “… one of the finest performances of this masterpiece that I’ve yet heard.”
    Andrew Morris, Bachtrack, 19 July 2017

    “… throughout, the violinist impressed with her unaffected emotional sympathy as well as her fine tuning and variety of sound and articulation.”
    David Gutman, Classical Source, 19 July 2017

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    07 Dec 16 Concert City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
    Symphony Hall Birmingham

    “The pinnacle of the evening, however, came in the first half with Nicola Benedetti’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35. My earlier misgivings on the hyperbole bestowed on Nicola Benedetti had been misplaced. This young woman not only met the expectations created by the marketing team, she exceeded them and then some with a truly mesmerising and absorbing solo performance. Her interpretation of the Tchaikovsky’s concerto, one of only three works he wrote for violin and orchestra, was nothing short of sublime.

    “The concerto, deemed unplayable by the violinist Leopold Auer to whom the composer initially presented it, is a technical challenge for any virtuoso. Yet Benedetti is so masterful on her instrument that the immense technique the concerto demands seemed as natural to her as breathing. But this was not a performance to marvel at her technical brilliance. It was that these demands were never the slightest distraction from her delivery of the narrative.

    “That narrative was completely at odds with the Strauss that was to follow. If Ein Heldenleben is about strident epic (and somewhat narcissistic) heroism, Tchaikovsky’s concerto explores human warmth and companionship. The main theme of the Allegro moderato – moderato assai is lyrical and enchanting. Benedetti’s interpretation was warm and intimate, and her cadenza transfixed with tonal depths and glints of light that outshone even the glittering shimmer of her sparkling indigo gown. The Canzonetta: andante was beguiling in its beauty. Once Benedetti had drawn us into the character of the concerto she led us a-dance in a folk theme that conjured up images of convivial Russian village life. This was a masterful and memorable performance and clearly, on this occasion, the Benedetti-hype was wholly justified.”
    Robert Gainer, Bachtrack, 09 December 2016

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    23 Sep 16 Concert Vladimir Jurowski, London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Royal Festival Hall

    “Vladimir Jurowski began his latest season as Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic with a typically bold and adventurous programme. At its core were the two Szymanowski violin concertos performed by Nicola Benedetti, and these were framed by Debussy’s Prélude à l’après–midi d‘un faune and Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin Suite. The two concertos are stylistically distinct, the First impressionistic, the Second folk-influenced, so the pairings were apt. As ever, Jurowski delivered supple, well-crafted performances, and Benedetti shone, but the highlight of the evening was the Bartók, an orchestral showpiece delivered with consummate mastery by the London Philharmonic forces.

    “Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto is the more intense and demanding of the two, but Nicola Benedetti performs it regularly and has clearly got under the music’s skin. It’s technically demanding, but the greater challenge is in the interpretation. The mood and texture seem to switch constantly, with the long, lyrical lines often cut off abruptly as the music changes direction. But Benedetti is able to make all this seem logical and coherent. She applies a rich but varied vibrato to much of the music, sometimes wide and fast, but just as often narrow and slow. The result is a tone and expression as varied as that of the orchestra beneath. She also has the sheer aural presence required to command those expansive orchestral textures, and Jurowksi, while always sympathetic, never felt the need to constrain the ensemble for her.

    “The Second Concerto is inspired by the folk music of the Tatra Mountains, where the composer spent his last years. The violin lines here a just as lyrical, but the structure is more straightforward and there are fewer of those unexpected changes. Again, Benedetti had the measure of the music, and this was another commanding performance. Particularly impressive was her ability to integrate the brief folk-fiddle episodes into the otherwise cosmopolitan textures – seamless integrity achieved through interpretive conviction.

    “The orchestra was on top form throughout both concertos. Jurowski worked hard to raise, and maintain, the intensity of sound and texture. That was particularly true of the coda following the cadenza in the First Concerto – he seemed to be worried that the tension would slacken here, but he needn’t have worried, it was as intense as ever.

    “But everyone last night rose to the challenge. A spectacular season opener, then, imaginatively programmed and delivered with precision and flair.”
    Gavin Dixon, The Arts Desk, 24 September 2016

    “In the Szymanowski that followed, this inspiration took full flight. Benedetti proved to be ideal partner in the First, finding all the elements of this structurally complex piece at her fingertips. Her playing was refined and accurate in the stratospheric passages, balanced by a gutsy earthiness when called for and supreme virtuosity in the cadenza. Most importantly she was clearly following the heartbeat of the concerto, which is a difficult and illusive work to bring off. Jurowski and the LPO were also completely in tune with Benedetti’s vision, with extraordinary playing which at no point overshadowed or swamped the soloist.

    “Written at the end of Szymanowski’s career in 1933, the Second replaces the impressionistic, Straussian style, with something leaner and more Bartókian, while nevertheless maintaining that individual sense of ecstasy and spontaneity. In many ways it is a more coherent and accessible work than its predecessor, replacing that work’s magical logic with something more earthbound, but equally satisfying. Benedetti again found the perfect balance between refinement and strength, as well as exercising great stamina and concentration, well supported by Jurowski and the LPO. A truly brilliant piece of programming, spectacularly brought off by all concerned.”
    Chris Garlick, Bachtrack, 25 September 2016

    “Nicola Benedetti, refreshingly candid on matters of music and education, is also unfazed by hard graft, as demonstrated in her mastery of the Polish composer Szymanowski’s two Violin Concertos. The First was written just before the Russian Revolution (although it had to wait until 1922 for its premiere), the Second was finished in 1933.

    “The First Concerto is the more rhapsodic and hedonistic, and Benedetti rose to the occasion with her signature sumptuous tone, relishing the almost ceaseless outpouring of melody. This is a work that she has made her own, and it showed in her involvement with individual players and her command of the music’s layers of sound. The Second Concerto is about the same 20-minute length, but it seems the more lived-in, its music bigger and more experienced, the changes of direction and mood more considered. Benedetti lacks nothing when it comes to perception and engagement, and she surpassed herself here, expressing the composer’s retreat into the reassuring safety of folk-music, the moments of ecstasy more integrated, and her dips into a dark, ambiguous tone anticipated the bleakness of Shostakovich. There are also passages of full-blown glamour, when it became clear that Benedetti at her most energised, unforced and elegant is perfect in this music.”
    Peter Reed, Classical Source, 23 September 2016

    “Hearing either of the violin concertos by Karol Szymanowski is always a treat, so getting both of them together in one concert feels like a special occasion. For its season-opening concert at the Festival Hall, the London Philharmonic put these magical works at the heart of its programme and found a soloist up to the challenge of playing both side by side. Since that soloist was Nicola Benedetti, the hall was packed – a good way of winning new admirers for the still sometimes elusive music of Poland’s greatest early 20th-century composer.

    “Benedetti has made the Violin Concerto No. 1 a calling-card ever since she won the 2004 BBC Young Musician of the Year playing it. The work also featured on her debut album.

    “Benedetti’s sweet-toned playing was poised where required, and her no-holds barred approach to the high-lying violin part was engaging….it was wonderful to hear her and Jurowski enter into the spirit of Szymanowski’s final masterpiece (1933), from its haunting opening to its unbridled celebration of Polish folk culture.”
    John Allison, The Telegraph, 26 September 2016

    “But then, Szymanowski’s First concerto has been Benedetti’s speciality ever since it won her the Young Musician of the Year award 12 years ago, and she keeps getting better at it. Here she played it with a veteran’s fluidity, each glassy bow stroke dissolving into the next. Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto was even more successful, not least because it is a more interesting piece: more complex in its textures, more colourful, more punchy thanks to its Polish folk influences. It certainly drew better things out of Jurowski and his orchestra, who, together with Benedetti, embraced its rustic drive.”
    The Finanical Times, Hannah Nepil, 26 September 2016

  • More info  
    30 Jun 16 CD: Shostakovich/ Glazunov Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Kirill Karabits
    Decca Classics

    “This might just be Nicola Benedetti’s best recording yet. Two very different 20th-century violin concertos show her at her most generously expressive and succinct, her most agile and commanding. Shostakovich wrote his seething First Concerto in the late 1940s but kept it mainly suppressed until after Stalin’s death in the 1950s; Benedetti unfurls the painful opening melody with a wan, broken, beautiful sound, then, when it comes to the Passacaglia, she really soars. And what makes it so worth hearing her interpretation of the Glazunov – an altogether lighter, sweeter business – is that she retains some of that urgency and makes a convincing case for the dark corners as well as the big-hearted tunes. Another big plus is the playing of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra​ under Kirill Karabits​, a sound that broods and simmers in the Shostakovich and adds lustrous depth to the Glazunov.”
    Kate Molleson, The Guardian, 30 June 2016

    “This riveting performance of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto (released on July 1) is Nicola Benedetti’s best recording to date. The work is a colossal emotional challenge, as well as being technically fiendish. Written in the late 1940s during one of the Soviet Union’s perennial purges on music deemed too progressive or insufficiently optimistic, it was wisely suppressed by the composer until after Stalin’s death in 1953.

    “The eerie Nocturne, the frenetic “ride to the abyss” nature of the second and fourth movements, and most of all the central Passacaglia, freighted with references to Beethoven’s Fifth and Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony; all this suggests a tormented man unflinchingly reflecting horrors that could not be named in words.

    “Well accompanied by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Kirill Karabits, Benedetti captures all this with a stunning array of timbres — hoarse and whispery at first, as savage as a slashing razor in the scherzo, and vividly expressive in the massively demanding cadenza (after which the first performer, David Oistrakh, insisted that Shostakovich insert 16 bars of orchestral music to allow him to recover before the blistering finale). There’s a tiny bow tremor towards the end of the passacaglia that a bit of patching could have eliminated; otherwise this is an interpretation worthy to stand alongside Oistrakh’s classic recordings.

    “The “filler” is Glazunov’s Violin Concerto, sounding as if from another universe, though actually written less than half a century earlier in the same country. It’s a concerto for people who find Tchaikovsky too impassive; Benedetti does its schmaltzy lyricism proud…”
    Richard Morrison, The Times, 24 June 2016