Violinist Nicola Benedetti’s Baroque Journey

Violinist Nicola Benedetti keeps fascinating classical music lovers with her dynamic and refined performances. Below you can find my interview with Benedetti about her album “Italia” (Decca, 2011) for the Turkish classical music magazine “Neo Filarmoni”. The interview was published in Turkish in the March-April 2012 issue of the magazine. Photo credit: Decca/Simon Fowler

To what extent and in what ways do you think your Italian heritage has played a role in the making of your album “Italia”?
Italy is in my blood and my heritage, although I was born and raised in Scotland. I can’t say for sure if it has changed or helped my approach, but I would like to think that it has. The Baroque scene in Italy is so fantastic at the moment, and a lot of my inspiration came from Italian musicians.

Can you tell us about when/why you wanted to explore the Baroque repertoire? How did you decide on the program of your album “Italia”? How do you think your choice would define the Baroque journey through the album?
I have been working on Baroque music since I was at school, from Vivaldi to Bach, and have been working more intensely on the style of Baroque for the past three years or so. But preparing the repertoire for this disc was very different as I wanted to choose repertoire that was slightly out of the ordinary. It took me a long time to choose, as there is so much Italian Baroque repertoire to choose from. Hundreds and hundreds of concerti!

In what ways do you think playing the violin Baroque style is different from playing Romantic concertos? What changes/amendments have you made in the way you play or use your instrument?
Baroque playing is different in every way. With Romantic music you rely on the core of the sound being full and luscious, and on long lines being pulled through a legato stroke. You also need projection to carry over what is usually a large and heavy orchestral accompaniment. With Baroque, the gesture, articulation, rhythm, poise, bounce and uplifting character is all much more important. Playing Baroque music is a bit more like movement and dance.

In what ways do you believe you, as a violinist, have benefitted from this Baroque journey? Any future plans regarding Baroque music?
What I have learnt from studying Baroque music is to allow myself a sense of freedom I never felt before. To take risks and to focus primarily on the character and the message I am trying to convey, over the quality and accuracy. Years of studying violin can make one focus on the wrong things, and with such a competitive world, we are all trying to be as ‘good’ as we can with our instruments. When in fact, what the public wants is to hear your love for the music you play and they want to be moved. My understanding of this has grown hugely through playing Baroque music.

“El Sistema” is something we would like Turkish musicians and authorities to discuss in our country. Can you please provide us with some perspectives by referring to your involvement with “Sistema Scotland”?
Sistema Scotland has become one of the most important parts of my life. I was there teaching the children just last week in fact! They children are developing so much, in every area of their lives. Any El Sistema inspired project is one I would encourage every country to implement. My hope is that it can become as widespread as it is in Venezuela, all over the world


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