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Nigel Kennedy – The Platinum Collection Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons (1725) (12 Concerti for Violin and Strings, 'Il ciment, Op. 8 - No. 1 in E, 'Spring', RV269; No. 2 in G minor, 'Summer', RV315; No. 3 in F, 'Autumn', RV293; No. 4 in F minor, 'Winter', RV297 [40:43])
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 (1844) [29:12] ¹
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op. 26 (1864-68) [25:11] ¹
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Rondo in A for violin and strings D438 [16:02] ¹ Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons – Summer (presto) (1725) [2:35]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Meditation from Thais [6:30]
TRADITIONAL

Scarborough Fair [4:37]
Danny Boy [4:10]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dance No.5 [2:49]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in C sharp minor Op. posth. [3:35]
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Gymnopédie No.1 [2:41]
Gymnopédie No.2 [2:02]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Prelude No.1 [1:51]
Prelude No.2 [4:16]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Orchestral Suite in D No.3 BWV 1068 – Air on the G string [5:22]
Vittorio MONTI (1868-1922)
Czardas [5:20]
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Solomon – The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba [2:57]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)/Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Ave Maria [2:28]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La Fille aux cheveux de lin [2:55]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
The Flight of the Bumble Bee [1:15]
William KROLL (1901-1980)
Banjo and Fiddle [3:01]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen [9:36]
Joni MITCHELL (b.1943)
Urge for Going [4:06]
Nigel KENNEDY (b.1956)
Melody in the Wind [5:51]
Nigel Kennedy (violin)
London Voices
English Chamber Orchestra/Nigel Kennedy
English Chamber Orchestra/Jeffrey Tate ¹
rec. Abbey Road Studios, London, December 1987 (Bruch, Mendelssohn, Schubert); Church of St John-at-Hackney, London, November 1986 and March 1989 (Vivaldi); Lyndhurst Hall, Air Studios, June 1998 (Classic Kennedy album)
EMI CLASSICS 3 88773 2 [3 CDs: 40:43 + 70:35 + 79:25]

 


Platinum Collection spells a rock star’s prerogative - Eric Clapton maybe. In classical terms naturally it means Nigel Kennedy. And EMI’s latest gambit is a repackaging of three of his albums – let’s keep to the rock side of the road – in a grey slipcase. His first Four Seasons is one; the Bruch-Mendelssohn-Schubert is another and the third is his Classic Kennedy set, a potpourri.

The 1986 Vivaldi – with a further or patching session from 1989 – is nothing like the increasingly mutational beast it’s since become in Kennedy’s hands. With a couple of glaring exceptions the playing is actually both buoyant and sensitive and Kennedy’s feeling for arioso and legato phrasing is a most pleasing one. He is expressive without undue exaggeration and his vibrato usage is subtle and intelligently varied. The quasi-Bartókian lassitude - in harmonics - in Autumn is a Kennedy-ism too far for me, as are the thwacking orchestral pizzicati. The rather Mendelssohnian introduction to the central movement of Winter is another telling interjection, though its historical and cadential implausibility doesn’t especially trouble me.

The Bruch and Mendelssohn disc is long established in the catalogue. Actually the Schubert Rondo might be the pick of the performances – alert, unshowy and very well played. The Bruch is warm but not ostentatiously romanticised. There are some moments when I felt that Tate and the orchestra stubbornly refuse to glow with the requisite feeling but that seems to be part of a general approach. For the Mendelssohn we get a rather weightier reading than is common. That’s a perfectly valid and valuable approach. The slow movement is however certainly affectionate and the finale refuses to indulge motoric excess, the better to convey full note values – and musical ones too.

The final disc is given over to a collection of sweetmeats, variously arranged, and once again buffed up by the English Chamber Orchestra. Many of these are violin and piano pieces and they can sound rather unnecessarily beefy no matter how adept and discreet the orchestrations may be. The Massenet is far too slow and self-conscious and grinds to a full stop. Scarborough Fair offers a role for London Voices – in the background – and for Kennedy’s folkloric improvisation. However his Brahms Hungarian Dances are rhythmically capricious and unconvincing, the First Gymnopédie is riddled with salacious slides and the achingly slow Sarasate is an exercise in mind-numbingly ineffectual rubati. His interest in pop can be heard in the Joni Mitchell song and in his own jazz and pop-influenced Melody in the Wind.

I suppose that this is a well-balanced selection for the Kennedy admirer. His baroque and romantic sides are complemented by the showpiece and encore selection. Much certainly is platinum though some of this is pretty much lead.

Jonathan Woolf

 


 


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