Nicola Benedetti is a mature and accomplished violinist at a very young age. It takes courage to present a programme like this - the hugely often-recorded Mendelssohn Concerto, two little Mozart pieces that require the art which conceals art, some ersatz Schubert and an uncompromising Macmillan contribution. What it does seem to say is that it is her CD, not some kind of marketing exercise or 'themed' or 'concept' programme, but the music she wanted to do at this particular point, and that's good. It is all most compelling, too. The Mendelssohn is entirely without frills, no fancy insights, just straight, in tune, very poised, well controlled and honest. The Mozart is quite lovely, with a splendid interplay between soloist and orchestra. I can't say I'm a great fan of the arrangements of the Serenade and Ave Maria, but they are well done. And the Macmillan is full of character and played with great commitment. It's a fine CD, and a fine achievement.
Five HUGE Stars. Nicola Benedetti, the brilliant fiery Scottish violin prodigy, continues her ascent up the classical music hierachy with stunning and beautiful performances of Mozart, Mendelssohn, and James MacMillan on her second CD. The 'Piece De Resistance' is the tenacious 27 minute 'Tour De Force' performance of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 that has many moments of pure euphoric musical delight rippling from her bow, especially the Allegro non troppo movement, as she superbly negotiates the tricky currents. Her soliloquy during the Allegro molto appassionato is spellbinding. Not announced on the cover are two wonderful performances of Schubert: a deeply reverential Ave Maria D839 (violin and harp), notable for the declarative multi-string second pass thru, and the elegant Serenade ("Standchen" No 4 from Schwanengesand D957) with orchestra. The Academy of St Martin in the Fields orchestra with James MacMillan at the baton is absolutely stupendous. The Mozart pieces are delivered with great empathy and panache with Nicola, I'm told, doing double duty as performer and conductor. Quite a feat.
When composers begin writing music specifically for an artist, you know the artist has arrived. As in her debut CD, there is music composed especially for her herein. This time countryman James MacMillan has composed two movements entitled "From 'Ayrshire' " for his fellow Scot to tantalize us with in a world premier: the Largo is florid beauty with Nicky spinning out yearning 5 note and 6 note motifs; and the second movement, which is instructed to be played "like a very fast reel", is bombastic wonder with Nicola's sizzling violin work producing multi-string incandescent notes. One day she'll have to give us a full CD of these specially composed works, to include the complete expansion of the "Fragment for the Virgin" from her debut CD.
This CD is totally enjoyable and at times even overpowering. Ms Benedetti seems to have the natural capability of producing emotional, powerful performances, far beyond her teenage years, that directly impact the listener's emotions. Her debut CD with Daniel Harding and the London Symphony Orchestra was a shot across the bow of the classical world, announcing her arrival as a member of the leading edge of the 'next wave' of young virtuosi, in the wake of the marvelous Hilary Hahn and company. And the excitement continues with this CD. I can't say enough about Nicky's musicianship. My Highest Recommendation. Five BLAZING Stars.
(*Trivia: Nicola plays a 1751 Petrus Guarnerius of Venice violin.)
Having been a fan since first seeing Nicola on Young Musician of the Year I can honestly say that this is my favourite album of hers to date. At still such a young age Nicola has an incredible talent that definitely seems to be rapidly increasing and the pieces on this album really showcase her brilliant ability. The Mendelssohn and Mozart pieces are played with such skill, emotion and verve that it is hard to believe that Nicola is still only 18 years old. Schubert's Serenade is just marvellous and premiere of a newly composed piece by James MacMillan, entitled 'From Ayrshire' is a fitting end to a superb album.
A brilliant young talent, ever growing in confidence and ability this album is an essential for all classical music fans and one that will see Nicola Benedetti's reputation grow and grow.
I cannot stop playing this album. the Mendelssohn is definitely my favourite violin concerto; very moving and beautifully played by this young violinist. I was not too keen on the arrangements of the latter pieces on the CD but, even so, they are played immaculately.