One violinist sees further than the rest

One violinist sees further than the rest


norman lebrecht

May 24, 2021

Surveying a future of pocket orchestras and scaled-down audiences, the Scottish international virtuosa Nicola Benedetti has formed a Benedetti Baroque Orchestra to perform early classical music on gut strings.

The group has already recorded a Decca album of Vivaldi concertos, along with Geminiani’s arrangement of Corelli’s ‘La Folia’.

Nicki says: ‘This music is so deeply invigorating, energy-giving, freeing, grounding and moving. I am so excited to be releasing my first baroque album with this wonderful group of freelance musicians, and to have the opportunity to perform it for people in the hauntingly beautiful setting of Battersea Arts Centre. I have long dreamt of presenting a project which brings together a recording, live performance and our education work and with Baroque we are finally achieving this. Emotionally and psychologically musicians crave making music together and performing for people, live. As we hopefully emerge from this dark pandemic period, we want to bring hope and uplift and baroque music, especially Italian Baroque with all its song and dance, does this to the fullest. It expresses joyousness and drama in equal measure. It celebrates and embodies dance, community, and improvisation. It has rhythmic continuity and solidity, discernible harmonic sequences and patterns. This music must be stepped into like you are stepping into an opera. We musicians are all acting, all giving and taking demonstratively and with fervor. It’s full of stories we all relate to, and was intended to be understood and enjoyed. Early eighteenth-century Venice’s public wasn’t any old public, though. Everyone made music of some kind, be it at home, in the street, on or offstage. Amateur music-making was shared, and inspired sharing. Music was a part of people’s lives; written, played and sung for and by the people. But I’ve also long believed that Baroque music in general is an untapped secret for the world of collective and community music making and occupies an odd place in our formative years of learning instrumental music. We have so much more to learn from the energetic and revolutionary advancements in baroque interpretation. We can approach these works in ways that inspire fun and enjoyment, a greater sense of togetherness and community, a true abandonment of caution, and an embracing of scratches and scrapes. We can, through this music, connect more thoroughly to dance and rhythm, and contemporise its relevance. And I absolutely cannot wait!’

The new orchestra is composed of
Violin I: Kati Debretzeni, Jane Gordon

Violin II: Matthew Truscott, Michael Gurevich

Viola: Louise Hogan, Rebecca Jones

Cello: Jonathan Byers, Sarah McMahon

Double Bass: Nikita Naumov

Lute: Elizabeth Kenny

Harpsichord: Steven Devine


  • Andy says:

    She is quite a force of nature, particularly when you consider the Foundation she has launched too. All power to her. She plays wonderfully too.

  • Alexander says:

    that new chamber hall next door to Wigmore would be perfect for that baroque orchestra .
    PS love her ? 😉

  • Philip G says:

    I loved Nicola!

  • David K. Nelson says:

    There is such a rich repertoire for string orchestra, and violin solo with string orchestra – largely but not entirely confined to the Baroque. There is so much more to Vivaldi than “just” the Four Seasons (as even Nathan Milstein demonstrated over 50 years ago when he recorded 11 Vivaldi concertos that were off the beaten path, one of them with Erica Morini), and so much more to the Baroque and early classical violin concerto literature than “just” Vivaldi. Perhaps Nicola Benedetti knows this but I suggest she acquire and peruse Chappell White’s 1992 survey “From Vivaldi to Viotti – A History of the Early Classical Violin Concerto.” It makes your head spin to realize there is so much that in all likelihood we might never hear, even on recordings. Another resource: Gabriel Banat’s 6 volume collection of MS and early publication reproductions, plus analysis, comment and corrections: “Masters of the Violin.” It takes up a foot of shelf space, and I do not begrudge that foot.

    It is also instructive to read Louis Kaufman’s (1905-1994) autobiography “A Fiddler’s Tale – How Hollywood and Vivaldi Discovered Me” because he was among the first to insist that the music of Vivaldi was something audiences would actually enjoy hearing rather then merely being music that scholars felt they had to explore because Bach had found some of it interesting. It was a real battle, and step one was in making the music readable and performable by musicians not trained in or accustomed to the era’s notation and the musical shorthand of the time. Kaufman’s wife Annette played a role in that. Until Kaufman did this, Kreisler could fool the public for a long time with “his” Vivaldi concerto (which actually sounds more like early Haydn), and a popular Siloti arrangement of a Vivaldi concerto grosso was considered echt-Baroque because except for a handful of scholars there was no way to know better, and even those scholars had read the authentic music and understood it but had not heard it.

    • Saxon says:

      Agree, there is so much Baroque violin repertoire that almost nobody has really heard of. However, is there an audience who wants to pay to hear it?

  • Christopher Clift says:

    Good luck, both with the new ensemble’s formation, AND the possibility of performing great (and often unknown) repertoire. I wish you every success Nicola.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    No knock on Nicola Benedetti, who is excellent, but Vivaldi and Gemigniani?
    Not very imaginative programming for a debut recording.