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CD reviews

Nicola Benedetti

Nicola Benedetti

Homecoming: A Scottish Fantasy

(Decca)

Well, that's Alex Salmond's Christmas shopping sorted. A First Minister who posts out Jolomo cards will surely approve of this album, as "classical ambassador" Nicola Benedetti puts Robert Burns alongside Max Bruch.

You could question the commercial opportunism of releasing such a collection in this or any year (and, of course, this is not just any year). But there's no arguing against the decision to add Bruch's Scottish Fantasy to Benedetti's recorded output of major violin works (her lovely, expressive tone takes flight against a backdrop of brooding horn-section hills) or to allow her to reflect on her Scottish heritage as she did her Italian roots on the baroque Italia album.

The orchestral arrangement of Ae Fond Kiss hints at Debussy's impressionist grandeur, while Benedetti's dual string lines link hands on Auld Lang Syne Variations. However, the use of harp and the sweetness of the strings on My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose does succumb to Celtic Romanticism.

Benedetti is clearly having fun with the folkies, duetting with Aly Bain, playing a Phil Cunningham composition with the man himself, being part of a Gaelic band with Julie Fowlis. Her virtuosic cadenzas might rumple traditionalists' brows, but, going the opposite direction, her concert-hall fans will think this a thrilling expansion of her repertoire.

ALAN MORRISON

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