CD of the Week – Nicola Benedetti
The violin world is short of big beasts and big ideas at its summit. A handful of well-known soloists play the same old programmes ad infinitum and the new bloods are pressured by their agents to do much the same. So when one of the up-and-coming brood does something different, there is cause for applause.
Nicola Benedetti won BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004 at the age of 16 and was awarded a £1 million Universal contract for six recordings. It has taken a while for her playing to catch up with the hype, but recent concerts have been impressive and her new album is a considerable cut above anything she has done before.
The Silver Violin presents music from film and much of it is shameless shmaltz, as you would expect. The surprise is that the selection is so intelligent and the running order so astute that the album acquires a personality far greater than its content.
The central piece is the Korngold concerto in a finely judged performance, not perhaps as passionate as Capucon, Trusler and some other recent releases, but framed between two Korngold arias from Die tote Stadt, it gains a context in the composer’s pre-Hollywood life and an interpretation that is aptly rounded.
The inescapable Schindler’s List theme by John Williams is deftly balanced by two laconic movie episodes from Dmitri Shostakovich. A student piano quartet by Gustav Mahler is included as the soundtrack to Shutter Island, while Howard Shore’s Concertino from Eastern Promises sounds even more exotic than it does on screen.
Orchestral accompaniment is by the Bournemouth SO with Kirill Karabits and the sound (by K&A Productions) falls some way short of Decca’s best standards. What stands out here is the style and the sophistication of the soloist, along with the promise of more intriguing projects to come.
Norman Lebrecht is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other publications. He has written 12 books about music, the most recent being Why Mahler? He hosts the blog Slipped Disc.