Nicola Benedetti



A VERY experienced Scottish string player recently went out of her way to impress upon me the importance of Nicola Benedetti in galvanising musicians like her in their teaching practice during the last tricky year. She may not stretch her talents to composition as well, but there is an almost-Bernstein level of assurance and confidence with which Scotland’s superstar violinist has combined her roles as educator and performer.

She has previously referenced her Italian heritage, as well as her roots in Scotland, in her recording work, and there are explicit nods to that in this new collection, inspired by her touring partnership with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, but performed with her own new bespoke Benedetti Baroque ensemble which will make its Scottish debut at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival.

As with her last Elgar-focused album, there is an education initiative by the Benedetti Foundation running in parallel with the release, using the opening track, written by Francesco Geminiani and based on a sonata by Corelli. “La Folia” is a mighty piece to set out the stall of the soloist and her group, and it establishes the very full sound of the recording, and robust, dynamic playing of everyone involved.

The rest of the disc is filled with the Violin Concertos of Vivaldi – music chosen, it would seem, to illustrate the variety in his music, even when the structure of the compositions is very similar. Benedetti is on terrific form herself, leading by example with propulsive and precise playing, but her hand-picked colleagues – including many names that will be familiar to listeners of other Scottish and UK-based groups – are with her every step of the way.

From an educative point of view, one might have wished for fuller notes in the album booklet on the music (the soloist limits herself to discussion of that opening Geminiani Concerto Grosso), but that is a very minor quibble. It is what’s in the grooves that counts, and, in an area of early music that has become quite crowded in recent years with many fine ensembles producing excellent recordings, Benedetti Baroque are very good indeed.

Doubtless Decca would have been prepared to whisk her to an historic Venetian palazzo to make this album; there is something characteristically business-like that Benedetti made it in Battersea in four days before Christmas in this most difficult of years.

Keith Bruce