Nicola Benedetti Trades Wynton Marsalis for Beethoven With the DSO
by: Holly LaFon
This weekend, superstar violinist Nicola Benedetti will perform a feat of musical versatility. Fresh off two years of performing Wynton Marsalis’ wild, polarizing Concerto in D, she will return to the classical canon and tackle a giant of the past: Beethoven’s revered violin concerto.
Benedetti, 30, has been touring Marsalis’ concerto since its London debut in 2015. The final product, a piece the Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz genius wrote for and with Benedetti, unleashes Celtic, American, jazz and blues fiddle styles with European contemporary sounds, stormy sections, cleverly orchestrated percussive effects and some theatrics in its roughly 40 minutes. (Spoiler alert: It ends with the soloist walking off stage while still playing.)
But it’s no mashup. Amid all the praise Marsalis’ concerto has received, some have said that it tries to do too much. But Benedetti, who worked closely with Marsalis during the two-year writing process, says he made each musical choice deliberately, knowing the entire structure and melody of each movement from the moment he penned the first note. The result is “a really uplifting piece of music” and “a journey of diverse sounds,” Benedetti tells the Observer, calling her collaboration with the composer “one of the greatest experiences” of her life.
“He’s managed to take all of these forms and sew them together with material that is inextricable from each other and extremely connected,” she says.
Now that she has infused the complex new piece with life, her relationship to it continues to evolve as she performs with new orchestras and conductors.
“I look back to my first performances of it, and to me, they seem extremely conservative. And I’m sure in the next five years it will grow in dimensions I can’t even imagine right now,” she says.