Nicola Benedetti featured in Gramophone Magazine (Photo credit: Andy Gotts)
Written by journalist Charlotte Garnder, the story shows an in-depth look at her experience with two pieces, Violin Concerto and Fiddle Dance Suite, written for her by jazz supsterstar Wynton Marsalis. The interview highlights the newest recording of these two works, from the origins of the compositions to their tonal colors. Benedetti also discusses how conductor Cristian Macelaru became involved in the process.
Read an excerpt here:
“Benedetti’s forthcoming performances are with orchestras such as the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, the Gothenburg Symphony and the Orchestre de Paris, while the recording is with the Philadelphia Orchestra (conductor Cristian Măcelaru had performed the concerto six times previously). ‘There were just lots of different connections,’ Benedetti explains. ‘I had performed with the Philadelphia, although not this piece; they wanted to play it, and Cristian has an amazing relationship with them. We did a pretty intensive week of rehearsals followed by two recorded performances, so the recording of the concerto is as-live.’
Technically, the concerto puts the soloist through their paces, and future violinists can blame Benedetti for that. ‘The first thing Wynton sent me was way too easy and I told him so,’ she says flatly. ‘I spend all my time working on pieces that I cannot sight-read. You can’t really sight-read Brahms’s Concerto; it takes you a while to sound remotely decent playing it. So I said that he had to make this one of those pieces that I would look at and think, “Help! I may not be able to play this”, and then with hours of work I would be able to. So he set about doing exactly that.’
There’s also the challenge of achieving non-classical tonal colours. Benedetti gives an example: ‘In the first movement, the section just before the main theme’s final recapitulation is a slow kind of a cold blues, and to help me try to get that warmth and coldness at the same time in the sound, Wynton sent me a load of different Miles Davis recordings.’ So how do you do it, I ask? ‘It’s all things at once,’ she returns, bringing an imaginary violin up to her shoulder to demonstrate. ‘You can try to play with less vibrato, but still have warmth in your sound; you want to have a kind of a pull through your sound, like a kind of longing – but not soupy, all-out expression; so essentially you have to be really, really controlled, and not do what you feel like doing.’”
To read the full story, purchase a copy of Gramophone Magazine’s issue in music stores today or click here.