Thursday, 18 September 2014

Don’t miss Nicola Benedetti’s new release from Decca, Homecoming; A Scottish Fantasy, for wherever you live the pull of Nicola Benedetti’s Scottish homeland will be strong

Nicola Benedetti learnt to play the violin at the age of four, became the leader of the National Children's Orchestra of Great Britain at the age of eight, passed the eight grades of musical examinations by the age of nine, began to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School for young musicians at the age of 10, at the age of 15 began studying privately with Maciej Rakowski (b.1951), in 2004 won the BBC Young Musician of the Year at the age of 16, soon signing with Universal Music Group,  played at the Last Night of the Proms in 2012, appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours and, to date, has received five honorary degrees.

Nicola Benedetti is one of the most sought after violinists of her generation and is in much demand with major orchestras and conductors across the globe. She has played with many of the best orchestras in the world under some of the finest conductors. Her recordings for Decca (Universal Music) have received acclaim winning Best Female Artist at both 2012 and 2013 Classical BRIT Awards.

Her most recent recording, Homecoming; A Scottish Fantasy, has recently been released by Decca  and includes Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy together with works by James Scott Turner and Phil Cunningham (b.1960). For this she is joined by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rory Macdonald and the folk musicians, singer, Julie Fowlis , Éamon Doorley, Tony Byrne , Phil Cunningham , Ewen Vernal , Duncan Chisholm , James MacIntosh  and Aly Bain

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Rory Macdonald brings a gravitas to the orchestral opening of the Adagio cantabile of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy to which Nicola Benedetti adds a sweet, poignant tone as she enters. Macdonald draws much orchestral beauty from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. There is some lovely crisp playing from Benedetti in the Scherzo – Allegro; Adagio with such fine flourishes and some beautiful slower passages that are beautifully shaped by this violinist.

There is a reflective transition into the Andante Sostenuto with Benedetti bringing out more poetry than I’ve heard in this work before. McDonald brings some beautiful orchestral playing to support Benedetti’s exquisite tone. Benedetti brings some fine sonorities to the Finale (Allegro guerriero) as she weaves around the orchestra, showing her fabulous technique to the full.

Nicola Benedetti and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Rory Macdonald continue with the Ae Fond Kiss, a glorious traditional Scottish air that receives an equally fine and poetic performance, blending so well after the Bruch. Benedetti gives a solo performance in the Auld Lang Syne Variations (Traditional) drawing more very fine textures from her instrument, full of Scottish pathos. Rory Macdonald and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra return for My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose (Traditional) providing more beautiful moments.

Nicola Benedetti is joined by the folk instrumentalists Éamon Doorley, Tony Byrne, Phil Cunningham and Ewen Vernal for James Scott Skinner’s The Hurricane, a fine Scottish reel showing how this violinist can really play a stomping good tune, quite infectious. There is a lovely Scottish lilt to the Banks Hornpipe (Traditional) before the piece works its way to a lively conclusion.

Nicola Benedetti and Phil Cunningham come together for Cunningham’s Aberlady that has the feel of a Scottish lament, a most beautiful piece.

For Bothan a bh' aig Fionnghuala (Traditional) Nicola Benedetti and her fine team of players, Éamon Doorley, Tony Byrne, Phil Cunningham, Ewen Vernal, Duncan Chisholm, James MacIntosh with singer Julie Fowlis, whose vocal dexterity in this Gaelic song with a drone of instruments is terrific. Soon Benedetti enters as the pace quickens even more into a reel.

Phil Cunningham: The Gentle Light That Wakes Me brings the violin and piano of Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham to join Nicola Benedetti in another fine melody where the two violinists eventually weave the melody around each other. The traditional, Coisich a Rùin (Walk My Beloved) brings together Nicola Benedetti, Phil Cunningham, Ewen Vernal, Éamon Doorley, Tony Byrne  and singer Julie Fowlis, with some beautifully atmospheric instrumental accompaniment and Benedetti’s violin shining through as it weaves fine textures. Julie Fowlis is an exceptionally fine Scottish folk singer.

Nicola Benedetti ends with the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond (Traditional) where, as the tune slowly rises, pointed up by drum gentle taps, she develops the melody over the orchestral accompaniment of the BBCSSO. There is a lively dance rhythm in the central section with some terrific playing from Benedetti before a return to the slower melody of the opening.

Nicola Benedetti has chosen some very fine pieces to celebrate her homeland as well as some especially fine musicians.

Nowhere does one think of classical, folk or traditional, merely fine music making in these attractive, foot tapping and, often, poignant pieces. My downloaded recording is excellent.

Don’t miss this disc - wherever you live the pull of Nicola Benedetti’s Scottish homeland will be strong.

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