Nicola Benedetti is ubiquitous these days. Such a media phenomenon that, alongside her excellent work with children, it’s easy to forget she is, first and foremost, a soloist of potentially supreme calibre.
RSNO: Benedetti - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
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She hasn’t always helped her case by generally sticking to a limited range of popular concerto repertoire – so many Bruchs and Mendelssohns, and so on – though it’s clear from the full houses she guarantees that she’s been giving her huge fan base exactly what they want.
All of which made this weekend’s RSNO appearance a phenomenon in itself. Here she was, playing one of the real toughies of the repertoire, Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1, and not only did we witness a performance of crunching intensity and absorbing musicality, but the audience genuinely lapped it up.
Had Benedetti not been on the bill, I’m guessing many would have given it a miss. But they came, and the ecstatic response suggested they were comfortable with, even converted to, a piece that sombrely and harshly reflects the guarded 1930s in Soviet Russia when Shostakovich’s music was under scrutiny from Stalin’s cultural henchmen.
From Benedetti, there was a delicious stillness and introspection in the opening Nocturne; demonic brilliance in the Scherzo; deep, penetrating conviction of the focal Passacaglia and electrifying bravado in the burlesque finale. Peter Oundjian’s RSNO went all the way with her.
There were also gutsy RSNO accounts of Rachmaninov’s March (Respighi’s orchestration of an Étude-tableaux) and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. But this was the night a new level of musical maturity emerged in Benedetti’s playing.
Seen on 15.11.14