Performer: Nicola Benedetti
Reviewer : Steve Turner
Reflecting the appeal of one of classical music’s brightest stars, last night’s concert at the Brighton Dome was played in front of an enthusiastic audience with a wide age range. Ostensibly the same tour began earlier this year to promote her most recent recording, the concert featured a first half of pieces related to the silver screen, hence the title The Silver Violin. The temptation to play safe, and pick populist pieces clearly does not sit well with this most engaging of performers, so the audience was treated to some marvellous renditions of less well known works, with the obvious exception to this being the theme from Schindler’s List. The programme is well thought out flowing easily from one work to the next with only minimal disruption as chairs are moved around on stage, while Benedetti introduces the next piece. By ending the first half with a spirited rendition of a tango, featuring an accordionist as well as Benedetti’s older sister Stephanie on violin, the audience is left eagerly anticipating the second part of the performance.
With the violin in her hands Benedetti comes across as confident and outgoing and very much the star, whereas when she addresses the audience she is modest and disarmingly unassuming. Introducing her fellow musicians Alexei Grynyuk on piano and Leonard Elschenbroich on cello she stops herself in the midst of saying ’accompanying me’ and corrects it to ‘joining me’. Her description of ‘scrubbing away’ at a particularly forceful passage in the Tchaikovsky work does scant justice to the hours of practising and the consummate talent she possesses. This is the sort of talent that means she can make such feverish ‘scrubbing’ look almost effortless and together the trio produce a mesmerising sound, particularly in the Tchaikovsky piano trio which forms the entire second half.
Benedetti is very keen to engage and educate people and by dedicating the first half of tonight’s programme to the ‘lighter’ side of her repertoire, and then turning the second half over to the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio, you suspect that she is challenging that part of her audience that would buy a CD featuring excerpts from works, to go on and listen to the full work. If the reaction from tonight’s audience is anything to go by then she is succeeding as the hall rang with rapturous applause long after she had left the stage. If the secret is to always leave the audience wanting more, the lack of encore is perhaps a disappointment, but given the emotionally draining aspect of the Tchaikovsky piece is not a surprise.
Throughout the evening the sound is crystal clear, with Benedetti playing a 1717 Stradivarius – the Gariel. As each note carries beautifully to the back of the auditorium, it is incredible to think that this same instrument has been in the hands of maestros entertaining audiences for nearly 300 years.
Runs until 25th September 2013 in the UK, then touring worldwide.