Violin

Nicola Benedetti

Credit: Simon Fowler

Introduction

Nicola Benedetti is one of the most sought-after violinists of her generation. Her ability to captivate audiences with her innate musicianship and dynamic 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.

With concerto performances at the heart of her career, Nicola is in much demand with major orchestras and conductors across the globe. Conductors with whom Nicola has worked include Vladimir Ashkenazy, Jiří Bělohlávek, Stéphane Denève, Christoph Eschenbach, James Gaffigan, Hans Graf, Valery Gergiev, Alan Gilbert, Jakub Hrůša, Kirill Karabits, Andrew Litton, Kristjan Järvi, Vladimir Jurowski, Cristian Măcelaru, Zubin Mehta, Andrea Marcon, Peter Oundjian, Vasily Petrenko, Donald Runnicles, Thomas Søndergård, Krzysztof Urbanski, Juraj Valcua, Edo de Waart, Pinchas Zukerman and Jaap van Zweden.

Nicola enjoys working with the highest level of orchestras including collaborations with the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra of Washington D.C., Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Camerata Salzburg, Czech Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival.


Contact


Performance Schedule

Discography

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

    “… 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

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

    “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

  • 19 Jan 17 Concert Scottish Chamber Orchestra
    Usher Hall, Edinburgh
    More info  

    “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

  • 07 Dec 16 Concert City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
    Symphony Hall Birmingham
    More info  

    “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

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

    “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

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

    “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