Nicola Benedetti released this her fourth album on the Deutsche
in September 2009. “Fantasie
” reflects the work of an artist
undergoing the maturing stages of her career. The concerto repertoire held centre-stage
in her previous albums. “Fantasie
” moves into the realm of
violin favourites and showcases Benedetti’s almost instinctive virtuosic
and gypsy-rich rhythmic sensibilities. These she indulges in the most genuine
and beguiling manner. Whether it is in the nostalgic sonorities of Pärt’s Spiegel
(lit: “Mirror in the Mirror) or in the devilish runs of
, Benedetti’s sound and execution blend with
the most natural finesse.
According to Benedetti, violin virtuosity is “not simply about dazzling
display”. It entails all the “attributes required to project the
violin’s full expressive range and intensify its lyrical voice.” The
purpose is to develop what she calls “a full technical arsenal.” Take
, where Benedetti fulfils what she preaches.
She projects the violin’s expressive range and deploys a vivid and lyrical
palette. Like the Sarasate, Ravel’s Tzigane
has a rich lineage that
goes back to the rich gypsy violin tradition. This showpiece reflects a marriage
between Benedetti’s gifts of musicianship and wizardry. The Saint-Saëns Introduction
and Rondo Capriccioso
, once the war-horse of the Belgian violinist Arthur
Grumiaux, receives an equally sensual interpretation from the younger violinist.
Here, Benedetti matches the intrinsic beauty of Saint-Saëns’s melodic
writing with solid articulation. In the trinity of phrasing, bowing and balance
she achieves the highest standards.
One other aspect to this album is what Benedetti identifies as “the introvert
elements”; in other words, the underlying meaning of the music. Take Massenet’s Méditation
This intermezzo captures the essence of love in musical form. Benedetti and her
English musicians make a heartfelt dialogue of this exquisite work and also bring
out its “religious conscience”. Likewise, Vaughan Williams’s The
Lark Ascending -
a “Romance for Violin and Small Orchestra”.
It is a visionary statement, inspired by George Meredith’s eponymous poem
of 1895. Benedetti pours out her inner self with a solemn grace that hovers over
the sustained orchestral platform.
The highlight comes with Pärt’s Spiegel Im Spiegel
a musical prayer, that adopts the most simplified and minimal materials to establish
a spiritual essence. Triadic arpeggios in the piano part are skilfully played
by Alexi Grynyuk. The violinist complements these with stepwise melodic statements.
This moving account brings to mind what Pärt himself has said of this music: “(It
is) like white light that contains all colours.” The other pieces, including
(transcribed by the composer and edited
by Josef Gingold) and Fauré’s Après une Rêve
by Mischa Elman), also serve to “transport the listener.”
Benedetti takes her listener by the hand on a musical journey and brings to the
violin a rare virtuosity.
Patrick P.L. Lam