Nicola Benedetti: Elgar Violin Concerto review I Erica Jeal's classical album of the week

Benedetti/London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Jurowski/Limonov
Benedetti’s tone and decisiveness is made for this work, and she brings an understated edge to the added miniatures, too

The violin was Edward Elgar’s instrument, and when he was composing he thought as a string player: you can hear the idiomatic shaping of lines, the relishing of sonorities, in everything he wrote. Nicola Benedetti’s new recording – out today as a download, with the CD release planned for July – brings together his huge, sumptuous 1910 Violin Concerto with three miniatures for violin and piano that nevertheless say a lot in a few minutes.

Nicola Benedetti: Elgar Violin Concerto album art work
Nicola Benedetti: Elgar Violin Concerto album art work Photograph: PR HANDOUT

Benedetti’s vibrant, beefy full-throttle tone is made for the concerto, and she’s an assertive soloist, never disappearing into the glowing textures the London Philharmonic weaves around her. Vladimir Jurowski conducts with a clear eye on the work’s huge dimensions, and Benedetti, too, shapes the violin’s restless music into long, sinewy paragraphs. Her interpretation may lack the introspective quality of the revelatory recording Nigel Kennedy made back in the mid 1980s, and you occasionally wish Jurowski would risk letting the orchestra run away from him, but the end result is a performance with a sure sense of direction and lots of heart.

The pieces with piano – Salut d’Amour, Sospiri and Chanson de Nuit – are almost the flipside to this. Benedetti and pianist Petr Limonov are quiet and pensive, her violin silky-toned, the sound scaled back but just as electric. Sospiri is beautifully done, Benedetti’s tone silky and contained yet electric; it’s an initially bleak picture of despair that lifts just slightly into something hopeful at the end. Salut d’Amour sounds fresh, and is played with an understated sigh that draws the ear in. Unsurprisingly from such a tireless campaigner and educator, that’s not quite all: Benedetti has filmed five video lessons on Salut d’Amour for her YouTube channel, inspiring lockdown practice material for violin or viola students of any age.

This week’s other pick

Another Beethoven recording that urgently demands shelf (or disc) space. Stephen Hough’s long-awaited recording of the complete five piano concertos is a partnership with conductor Hannu Lintu and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the sparks struck between their crisp responsiveness and Hough’s immaculate blend of imagination and control are considerable. Magisterial one moment, wry the next, Hough is a whole orchestra in himself, and not a note is wasted. He is donating his royalties from this to the charity Help Musicians, so every purchase potentially improves someone else’s day as well as yours.


Erica Jeal

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Elgar: Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata review – sheer beauty and subtle playing
Simon Rattle takes the concerto back to the 19th century and Renaud Capuçon’s partnership with Stephen Hough for the sonata is a meeting of equals

Andrew Clements

25, Feb, 2021 @3:00 PM

Article image
Skalkottas: Violin Concerto; Concerto for Violin, Viola and Wind review – little-known works give glimpses of greatness
Violinist George Zacharias’s belief in this hugely demanding music shines through, but the stylistic differences between the concertos is bewildering

Andrew Clements

13, Apr, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
Clyne: Dance; Elgar Cello Concerto review – calm, motoric energy and gorgeous fusions
Anna Clyne’s impressive new work is a cello concerto inspired by Persian poetry and outshining the familiar Elgar work in Inbal Segev’s performance

Andrew Clements

18, Jun, 2020 @2:00 PM

Article image
Shostakovich/Glazunov: Violin Concertos CD review – agile, commanding Benedetti

Kate Molleson

30, Jun, 2016 @2:00 PM

Article image
‘I’m not saying we won’t make mistakes’ – violin sensation Nicola Benedetti on becoming EIF’s first female director
She was leading an orchestra at the age of eight and won Young Musician of the Year at 16. What is the virtuoso’s vision for Edinburgh international festival? Audiences moved to tears and bagpipes going global

Alex Needham

17, Oct, 2022 @2:55 PM

Article image
LPO/Adès review – effortful UK premiere of ferocious piano concerto
Kirill Gerstein relished the more rampaging parts of Thomas Adè’s new concerto, which often sounded like wrong-note Rachmaninov

Andrew Clements

24, Oct, 2019 @12:09 PM

Article image
Coll: Violin Concerto; Mural, etc review | Andrew Clements's classical album of the week
The violinist has unlocked new expressiveness in the Spanish composer’s music since Gimeno introduced them

Andrew Clements

10, Jun, 2021 @5:00 PM

Article image
Schoenberg: Violin Concerto; Verklärte Nacht review | Andrew Clements's classical album of the week
Faust/Swedish RSO/Harding
(Harmonia Mundi)
Isabelle Faust’s performance of Schoenberg’s violin concerto is exceptional, and Daniel Harding matches her in musical understanding

Andrew Clements

27, Feb, 2020 @3:00 PM

Article image
Stravinsky: Violin Concerto; Pastorale, etc review | Classical album of the week
Performed on original instruments, the composer’s neoclassical works – particularly his Violin Concerto, brilliantly played by Isabelle Faust, come into sharper focus

Andrew Clements

02, Mar, 2023 @3:14 PM

Nicola Benedetti / RPO, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London

Erica Jeal

17, May, 2005 @11:05 PM