A message to Scotland from its foremost violinist

A message to Scotland from its foremost violinist


norman lebrecht

September 17, 2014

From Nicola Benedetti:

The world is watching Scotland. Please let us keep our dignity during the next 48 hours. Advocating for one thing needn’t result in energy spent being against the other.

I wish Scotland luck in one of the most important days of our history, and I have full confidence, no matter what the result, this new found political and social engagement will remain with us to cultivate a better future for our country.

Love to you all, and good luck to you all.’

benedetti (1)


  • Oswald says:

    Wow. Some people really have too big thoughts about themselves.

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Can’t get more committed to… her career.

  • Rgiarola says:

    I’m not good reading english. Is she standing as a candidate to be the new Queen?

    • Ks. Christopher Robson says:

      She is Scottish, and writing “us” and “we” is perfectly correct when you read her letter. She talking of “us” & “we” the Scottish people, nothing royal about her language at all. Perfectly obvious to me, at least(being Scottish myself 🙂 ). It comes across as a perfectly balanced plea to let sense rule our (we Scots), decision whichever way we vote (although, sadly, I am not allowed to since I currently live in Germany and not in Scotland 🙁 ).

  • If she’s Scotland’s leading violinist, I feel sorry for Scotland.

  • MWnyc says:

    Sounds like what she’s saying is, “My fellow Scots, however the vote comes out, please don’t riot.”

    Unfortunate that she should think it needs to be said.

  • elizaf says:

    If she was a school teacher taking a group of eight year old children to the local museum, she would be quite right to remind them of the need to be on their best behaviour. But here she is addressing a whole nation – five million people, or thereabouts. Just who does she think she is? What qualifies her to advise the nation of its responsibilities or to articulate a vision on its behalf?

    • MWnyc says:

      I don’t think that saying Please let’s try to get along and not start riots after the vote, because we’ll all have to live together afterward, and besides, rioting will make us look really bad on worldwide television qualifies as “to advise the nation of its responsibilities or to articulate a vision on its behalf”.

      What qualifies her to say what she said? Nothing more or less than what qualifies you or me or anyone else to make any given statement. And I’m sure she’d agree with that.

      The rest of us can pay as much or as little attention to what she (or anyone) says as we care to do.

      (I’m constantly surprised at how frequently people forget that, especially on the Internet.)

      I myself would wager that Benedetti’s statement would go over better with Scots if she’d said plainly, Please let’s try to get along and not start riots after the vote, because we’ll all have to live together afterward, and besides, rioting will make us look really bad on worldwide television. But her publicists would probably blanch and the insist on rewriting it. (Heck, maybe that’s just how it happened.).

  • Richard Hallam says:

    Really Boring File Clerk?? Was it never suggested to you that if you’ve nothing nice to say, don’t say anything? Your comment comes across as just plain nasty.

    • From what I can ascertain she is a very lovely person. All of my friends say that she is a genuinely nice gal. But her playing leaves a lot to be desired. It isn’t quite up to the level of an international artist. Nothing personal. I don’t hate her personally, I just have no idea how she was able to get a career as a touring artist.

  • Martin says:

    She’s a trained violinist who is not qualified to give a political opinion, as her status as a leading violinist would mislead people to believe she knows more about the impact of a political decision that the regular Jane Doe.

    Bernhard Russi, a world famous Swiss skiier said, that his sharing his political opinion belongs the pub, not the media, exactly for above reason. He is an expert in skiing, but not other fields.

    So in other words, I agree with Benedetti for once. Whatever the outcome of the vote, the people in Scotland will have to continue to live and work together.

  • Gav says:

    i think most of the comments say more about the senders than nicola benedetti….. pretty pathetic…..

  • RGiarola says:

    We’re almost there. Almost there


  • Max Schubert says:

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Some have the courage and conviction of their thoughts and motives to express them openly – and in their real name – as Nicola Benedetti has. Others, like so many here, hide behind anonymous pseudonyms, contributing to debates with sneering ad hominem attacks on a generous spirited artist.

    The jeers here range from questioning whether a classical musician has the right to share political opinions in public (“Elizaf” and “Martin”) to whether Benedetti is engaged with the Referendum in order to promote her career (“Olaugh Turchev”) via unpleasant contributions from “Boring Fileclerk” (never was a nom de plume more appropriate), hell bent intent on inflicting his or her opinions of Benedetti’s playing as if these opinions matter one tiny jot. “Fileclerk” may deride her playing but many others rate it very highly and more still are inspired by it and by her. Conversely, “Fileclerk” has a paucity of spirit so ungenerous as to inspire pity or outrage.

    We live in a democracy and we have freedom of speech (libel and slander being two of the main exceptions) yet here we have “Elizaf” pronouncing that a trained violinist must not share political opinions. Would a brain surgeon be better qualified? A physicist? A philosopher? A professor of political studies? Does (s)he really believe that the public is so stupid and so gullible that opinions from well known people are going to radically change their minds? Rather than attacking Benedetti, (s)he might exercise his or her own intelligence by wondering aloud if the predominantly right wing media has more impact on voters.

    Benedetti is pleading for tolerance and calm, post Referendum. This sits absolutely with her well known views of tolerance, equality and inclusivity as demonstrated by the way she has handled her career not just as a performer but as an educator and as someone who has reached out to audiences way beyond the confines of classical music without making excuses for it or cheapening it.

    Throughout history artists and other creative people have challenged, questioned, advocated, divided opinion and unified through their work and their performances. This brave contribution to culture is what makes it so rich, so dense, so moving and so inflammatory. Anonymous internet trolls remain defined by their cowardice and their venom.

    • Thanks for your positive reply Max. I’m not sure why the angry tirade here. There was no malice in my comments, just an observation about her playing. For evidence, here is her playing the Bruch during the proms in 2012


      For comparisons sake, here is the impeccable James Ehnes performing the same piece for the 2010 proms.


      And here the lovely Janine Jansen with the same. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7erkjAOnjcE

      It’s quite apparent from the Jansen and Ehnes performances that they are light years ahead of Beneditti in technique, sound, and intonation. If you would like, I could provide more side by side comparisons.

      • Rgiarola says:

        Mr. Boring

        I think Benedetti would be really offended if you liked her just due to her attractive profile, but didn’t care about her music. At least you got your opinion based on the right matter. Some weeks ago here at this site, We got many people destroying Isaac Stern reputation as a violinist. No one is a unanimity, not even legends.

        • Thank you for your feedback. My opinion was due to the music only.

          As for Isaac Stern- I have mixed feelings. He was a formidable violinist early in his career, but let his powers decline considerably over the years. And he did use his influence to destroy other’s careers. For my money Rosand was by far the superior violinist. But this is for another discussion.

      • Max Schubert says:

        All good examples to sit alongside Benedetti. And all great and positive ambassadors for their artistry and country. So no need for you to feel sorry for Scotland.

      • Tom Johansson says:

        I agree with Max.

        Boring fileclerk – You give us a list of youtube performances to compare and contrast unfavourably. Perhaps you would like to tell us who you are, post some of your work and contribution to the world alongside similar work by your peers and we judge you?

        • Tom, this isn’t about me. Max said my opinion was unfounded, and I provided examples of her playing with other artists. Must we be cheerleaders for every player out there regardless of ability? If memory serves correct, this very blog posted a unflattering side by side comparison with Katherine Jenkins. I wouldn’t accuse Mr. Lebrect of having an unfair opinion of Ms. Jenkins personally, but he was baffled at her foray into opera. Something that she just is not able to sing. Please stop with the ad hominem attacks and focus instead on the music. We can agree to disagree without getting personal.

          • Tom Johansson says:

            Boring –

            Where dies Max say your comment was unfounded? You began your contribution with a sarcasm – you felt sorry for Scotland if she is their leading violinist. This is what Max rightly took you to task for. You now flinch from what you misinterpret as ad hominem attacks on you. Is is even possible to ‘attack’ someone in this way when they hide behind a facade?

            You bring up Norman Lebrecht. He criticises because he is a critic and a commentator, he identifies himself with his real name and his work and words can be attributed to him. He takes the flak in the full knowledge that everyone knows what he has said.

            Your unpleasantness is safeguarded by your own self imposed anonymity. I repeat. Tell us who you are and let us judge your work fairly or unfairly by letting us compare your work with your peers as you seek to judge violinists by your criteria.

            No. This is not about you because you are too afraid to reveal who you really are

          • Max Schubert says:

            Correct me if I am wrong but Katherine Jenkins may sing operatic arias but to my knowledge she has not actually ‘forayed’ onto an opera stage and sung a role. Not professionally anyhow.

            How does the example, therefore, of Jenkins begin to compare to Benedetti who is a classical violinist operating in concert halls with established orchestras? Jenkins is not an opera singer and I would be surprised if she referred to herself as one. What she is is a fantastic entertainer with a large following. Let’s not compare apples with pears.

    • Rgiarola says:

      Beautiful words, Max. However if “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.” and “We live in a democracy and we have freedom of speech”, why all those enlisted are trolls? I think they all could accuse you also as a Troll.

      What is anonymous? If they all signed their names here such John Smith, what would be the difference? How many JS are in the world? They will remain anonymous. By the way I’m Roberto Giarola, as many others. Benedetti as any other public person must be used to deal with this kind of situation. If it was any Roberto Giarola sending an open letter to all Scottish people, no one would care about and specially Lebrecht.

      • Max Schubert says:

        i quote Mary Beard:-

        “trolling is a status-enhancing activity: by attracting readers’ attention, upsetting people, sparking heated debates, and even gaining approval from others, trolls can feel important, perhaps much more than they are in their real lives. Thus trolling is yet another internet activity that promotes narcissistic motives, since trolls may be expected to be far less successful in attracting people’s attention in the physical world. The only effective antidote to their tactics is to ignore them, but even then trolls won’t suffer a public humiliation because nobody knows who they are. This is what makes trolling so ubiquitous – it requires no skills other than the ability to be obnoxious.”

      • Clara Richter says:

        I’m also sorry to read that ‘Boring FileClerk’ has used this as an opportunity to criticise Nicola’s playing, and, to compare with other violinists who are nearly 10 and 12 years older then her respectively. As a professional violinist myself, I can safely say that this many years of experience, at their age bracket counts for a great deal. Nicola is an extraordinary talent and who can argue with the New York Times who just a few months ago wrote of her playing:

        ‘Ms. Benedetti’s sound in the stratosphere of her register is almost improbably pure and gleaming; at times it resembled the supernatural song of a theremin.’

        Anyway; this is beside the point of what brought us here and a great shame that an inspirational young lady and role model gets criticised for expressing sincere wishes for her home country.