Classical review: Nigel Kennedy, Perth Concert Hall

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As RPO leader Clio Gould took to the stage for this closing Perth Festival concert, a raucous cheer could be heard offstage.

Nigel Kennedy and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall


It was the unmistakable sound of Nigel Kennedy, rascal violinist, injecting his trademark subversive tone, enhanced by his own entrance in a wonderfully shambolic outfit, right down to the short-cut trousers and clodhopping boots.

And so the scene was set – following a couple of quips with conductor Andrew Litton – for an unconventional, but remarkably convincing, viewpoint on Brahms’ Violin Concerto.

The boots had a part to play, enhancing the vigorous physicality of an interpretation that pitted punk-like aggression against sweet-scented lyricism – a kind of yin-yang combat that galvanised its extremes into a completeness of character and spirit that only sheer conviction could have brought off.

Moments of dubious intonation and slightly harsh tones side, who could fail to enjoy the flowing musicality of the Adagio, or the exaggerated rustic swagger of the finale.

That was just one part of the Kennedy show. What followed was a class musical comedy act on its own. For 20 minutes, he held the floor with a couple of Scots reels, some unaccompanied Bach, plenty of raunchy audience interchange and some fun and games with members of the band. Then he was off, fiddling as he went.

Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony hardly stood a chance after that. Litton gave it big licks, but issues of balance and co-ordination left it firmly in Brahms’ shadow. Or was it Kennedy’s?