Wednesday 17 January 2018

The Scottish child prodigy who grew up to enchant the world

Born in Scotland of Italian heritage, Nicola Benedetti began playing violin at the age of four. By the time she was nine, she had already passed the eight grades of musical examinations.

She began her studies at the Yehudi Menuhin School for young musicians and, at the age of 16, won the BBC Young Musician of the Year. In 2004, she agreed to a £1m six-album recordings contract with Deutsche Grammophon/Universal.

When she was 21, her concerts numbered more than 100 a year. At that point, she decided to step back and refocus on how much she should be performing and what sort of repertoire she wanted to play, and this maturity in such a young musician seems to have paid off.

Now aged just 24, Benedetti continues to captivate audiences and critics alike with her musicality and immense talent. Her 2008 recording of Ralph Vaughan Williams's 'Lark Ascending' and works by John Tavener impressed, as did her 2006 recording of the Mendelssohn 'Violin Concerto'. Earlier this year she decided to record the Tchaikovsky and Bruch violin concertos -- two giants of the violin concerto repertoire.

"A lot of people I speak to after concerts have been asking about the romantic concertos, asking when was I going to record Tchaikovsky and Bruch?" she said. As an artist who prides herself on creative, imaginative programmes, recording two of the most well-known works in the violin canon was a heavy decision. "I've been performing Tchaikovsky and Bruch quite a lot and just thought, why not? Perhaps now was the right time."

Benedetti is not just another star violinist though; what sets her apart is her preoccupation with music education and her potential as a role model.

She came to Ireland in 2008 to perform the 'Sibelius Concerto' with The National Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. To these young musicians, Benedetti is an inspiration. She is young, vibrant, stunning looking and plays a Stradivarius (c 1712). Above all else, though, she shows that hard work, practice and determination is needed to reach her level of musicianship.

Benedetti returns to the NCH on October 25 accompanied by pianist Alexei Grynyuk. The programme includes sonatas by Brahms and Beethoven. The following night she will play a selection of romantic trios at The Aula Maxima, NUI Galway.

Aedín Gormley presents Movies and Musicals Saturday 2-4pm and Sunday Matinee Sundays at noon on RTÉ lyric fm.

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