The publicity machine
keeps on turning for Nicola Benedetti.
Eight photos in the booklet and one
on the back cover, all projecting a
glamorous persona - versus one tiny
pic of MacMillan. All speak of Benedetti
as Deutsche Grammophon’s great violinistic
hope of the younger generation.
Taking on the much-recorded
Mendelssohn is in one sense brave. But
this is music that suits youth perfectly,
so perhaps it is not so brave after
all. Certainly there is an impetuosity
here that works well enough, but at
no point does this actually sound like
great music. One can admire the
sweet-toned beginning and, indeed, Benedetti’s
credo to leave the music alone, but
in the final analysis there should be
more to it than this. Her cadenza sums
it up – very good, very clean, very
It is true there is
some passion to the Andante and that
the finale flits between the scampering
and the suave. There is even drama near
the end. But taken as a whole this is
merely acceptable. There are so many
recordings to choose from – Heifetz,
Milstein, Campoli to name the first
three that spring to mind – that the
rest of the CD had better offer something
The two Mozart offerings
form a convincing Adagio-Rondo pairing.
The Adagio emerges as some sort of Mozartian
cooling breeze after the hectic finale
of the Mendelssohn, although Benedetti’s
legato is not perfect, and neither is
her purity of tone of the angelic variety.
The charming Rondo that follows on nicely
The Schubert Serenade
seems to have been recorded on the bass-heavy
side at the beginning. Benedetti sounds
almost like she is spinning a gypsy
tune – it is a pity the orchestral reply
is aural confectionery. But that is
nothing on the Ave Maria. Working
with a throaty tone to begin with, this
turns into pure syrup. Purists will
give up at this point, aghast. I have
to admit I heard it through because
I had to.
James MacMillan is
one of the UK’s most interesting composers.
From Ayrshire is very, very beautiful
as well as highly evocative. There are
some typical MacMillan ‘keening’ figures
on the solo violin in the part; the
second part is a reel, brought off with
panache by all concerned.
Only the MacMillan
seems to justify this release. There
is no doubting Benedetti’s talent –
if only she had been left to develop
more before being given all this exposure.