Nicola Benedetti

Wynton Marsalis Violin Concerto


THE recording catalogue of Scotland’s global violin superstar is quite the world tour. After discs showcasing her Italian heritage and Scottish upbringing, her last album was a very high quality performance of Russian repertoire. Now here is her “Atlantic Crossing” or “New World Record”, made in partnership with jazz trumpet virtuoso and composer Wynton Marsalis and conductor Cristian Macelaru directing the Philadelphia Orchestra.

As those who heard the RSNO play it know, Marsalis plays to the traditions of both composer and soloist, and is rewarded with the most fearless performance Benedetti has yet recorded. If the concerto perhaps seemed a little over-written live, there is not a note too much in this version. While Macelaru played a significant role in the final shape of the work, according to the violinist, and the orchestra is pin-sharp in a realisation assembled from live performances, it is a work that is always about the soloist, from the whispered beginning to the equally sotto voce conclusion. In between, Benedetti proves herself adept at any folk and blues idiom Marsalis throws her way, in what is a spectacularly virtuosic performance.

She repeats that level of commitment on the five-movement Fiddle Dance Suite for Solo Violin that Marsalis also wrote for her, and which follows the concerto on the disc, as she leaps through a sequence of reels, jigs and Strathspeys by way of a bluesy lullaby and ending with a foot-stomping hoedown.

Interestingly, I’d wager that US listeners hear much of this as “Scottish”, while buyers in Benedetti’s homeland will focus on the Afro-American side of the music. Between them Marsalis and she have made the complete world music experience that was the challenge she set the composer.

Keith Bruce