Interview: Cover Story – Strings Magazine

“To play Vivaldi’s music, you must have wings, you have to fly—and if you cannot fly, it’s difficult to play Vivaldi. Nicola can fly very high!” That’s Venice Baroque Orchestra director Andrea Marcon talking about Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti—lavish praise indeed coming from one of the world’s great Vivaldi specialists. When I relay this compliment to Benedetti when we meet in London in early December, she seems quietly pleased. Marcon, with whom she’s making a North American tour in early 2017, has been a guiding light for her explorations of the Baroque. “Before we worked together publicly, I studied with him,” she says. “It was only a day here or there, but a lot can be passed on in that time, especially when you have someone as extremely eager to learn from him as I am and you have someone so keen to pass on knowledge as he is. Time with him is time well-spent.”

Throughout her career, the 29-year-old has shown a similar willingness to open herself up to new ideas, although when she signed the £1 million, six-album contract with Universal Records after winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2004, the British press was skeptical, to put it mildly. Surely this young player was being signed mainly for her striking good looks and not her durable musical talent? Her many well-received recordings and her high performance standards have silenced many of the critics, and confirmed that Benedetti is in it
for the long haul.

Last year, she released a CD with Glazunov’s only violin concerto (1904) and Shostakovich’s First Concerto (1947). I ask if the pairing came out of the fact that Glazunov was Shostakovich’s teacher. “The cultural significance of that connection is endless, but actually the reason for putting them together was not just to represent opposites in personalities—they could not have been more different characters if they tried—but to showcase what sort of a country and a feeling and a culture they were both reflecting. It shows us all that can happen in a space of time.”