On 20 July, Nicola Benedetti turned 30. She has just been made the youngest recipient for the Queen’s Medal for Music, and she has made it clear that there are other ways too in which she has reached a turning point. Most notably, she is starting to distance herself from the Sistema project which has seen her working with young people from housing estates in the most disadvantaged areas of Scotland. As she hinted to an interviewer last week, the problem with this scheme is that social-work aims can trump musical ones, and she’s not even sure that the former are achieving the hoped-for results.
Prom 6: Nicola Benedetti, BBC NOW and Thomas Søndergård *****
Royal Albert Hall, London
The other turning point in her life, she said, lay in the way her playing had matured: Prom 6, in which she was to play Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1 in A minor, would be the proof of that. And it was. Her one perennial weakness has been a failure to project her tone, but as she launched into the opening of the first movement her sound was both exceptionally clean and powerfully projected; supported by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Thomas Sondergard, she brought a wonderful serenity to this dreamy nocturne. Her playing in the demonic Scherzo had punch and precision, and in the Burlesque a contagious exuberance; she brought ravishing beauty to the Passacaglia, with the cadenza taking the breath away through its sheer perfection as her angular intervals climbed ever higher into the stratosphere. Her encore – an arrangement of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ by her friend Petr Limonov – had great charm.