Grammy award-winning violinist Nicola Benedetti’s new Baroque album is released worldwide today, Friday 16 July on Decca Classics. This is the first album Benedetti has released on a period set-up including gut strings, and she is joined by a leading group of freelance baroque musicians, forming the Benedetti Baroque Orchestra for the very first time. The album features a selection of concerti by Vivaldi plus Geminiani’s incredible arrangement of Corelli’s ‘La Folia’, one of the oldest western classical themes which has been arranged by many composers over time, particularly during this period. Geminiani was one of the greatest violinists of the era and taught by Corelli whilst growing up in Italy. Later when he moved to London, Geminiani reworked a number of Corelli’s compositions for local audiences including this arrangement of ‘La Folia.’
Audiences can enjoy a series of eight intimate, live concerts of music featured on the new album in the beautiful setting of Battersea Arts Centre’s Grand Hall from 18–21 July, the same venue Baroque was recorded in. These concerts will last approximately one hour and are presented by Nicola Benedetti and Askonas Holt. The atmosphere will be conversational, spontaneous, uplifting and personal. The concerts will prove to be a unique offer bringing much needed joy as we emerge from the pandemic, and audiences are welcomed back into the COVID-secure concert hall. Nicola Benedetti and Askonas Holt are very grateful to Fortnum & Mason for providing a glass of sparkling and a sweet treat to accompany the intimate performances and to Maker&Son for its support in making these events possible.
For the first time the Benedetti Foundation presents the Baroque Virtual Sessions which are now in full swing through to the 25 July with a final celebratory concert on 1 August. Baroque music is a gift to the world of music education: it embodies dance, community and improvisation and expresses joyfulness and drama in equal measure. The Sessions are being approached in a way that inspires fun and enjoyment, a greater sense of togetherness and a true abandonment of caution. Following the enormous success of the four Virtual Sessions which have taken place during the pandemic, the Benedetti Foundation is working with musicians of all ages and stages on Geminiani’s La Folia which features on the Baroque album. This work is a ‘Theme and Variations’ and a new multi-level arrangement has been written specially for the Sessions by the Ayoub Sisters for all levels of playing from beginner to advanced. The Sessions are led by experts in baroque performance and supported by the Foundation’s brilliant team of tutors.
Nicola Benedetti commented, ‘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 was not 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 Benedetti Baroque Orchestra also performs as part of Nicola Benedetti’s three concert residency at the Edinburgh International Festival. She charts the history of her instrument in her solo performance ‘The Story of the Violin’ (17 Aug) and is joined by the Benedetti Baroque Orchestra to perform the multifaceted musical creations of Vivaldi (14 Aug). In Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale
she performs alongside a specially selected ensemble of musicians and actors to bring this unique mix of theatre and music to life (21 Aug). More information here