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Decca announces new album from Nicola Benedetti

Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto & Fiddle Dance Suite

Nicola Benedetti’s new album on Decca Classics features premiere recordings of two works written especially for her by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis: Violin Concerto in D and Fiddle Dance Suite for Solo Violin.

Benedetti performs Violin Concerto in D with The Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Cristian Măcelaru who has collaborated with the violinist to perform the work six times. The concerto was co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), Ravinia, LA Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra Washington, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. Benedetti performed the world premiere with the LSO under conductor James Gaffigan in London in November 2015.

Marsalis’ Violin Concerto in D is in four movements and draws on the entire sweep of Western violin pieces from the Baroque era to the 21st Century. It explores Benedetti’s and Marsalis’ common musical heritage in Celtic, Anglo and Afro-American folk music and dance. The work revels in the magic of virtuosity and takes inspiration from Nicola’s life as a travelling performer and educator. Each of the four movements reveals a different aspect of Nicola’s dream which becomes a reality through the long-form storytelling of the performance.

Wynton Marsalis outlines the four movements:

  • Rhapsody, is a complex dream that becomes a nightmare, progresses into peacefulness and dissolves into ancestral memory.
  • Rondo Burlesque, is a syncopated, New Orleans jazz, calliope, circus clown, African gumbo, Mardi Gras party in odd meters.
  • Blues, is the progression of flirtation, courtship, intimacy, sermonizing, final loss and abject loneliness that is out there to claim us all.
  • Hootenanny, is a raucous, stomping and whimsical barnyard throw-down. She excites us with all types of virtuosic chicanery and gets us intoxicated with revelry and then…goes on down the Good King’s highway to other places yet to be seen or even foretold.”

Wynton Marsalis commented, "Nicky said she wanted a piece that would allow her to inhabit an expansive range of human emotions. Though I have long loved the violin, she schooled me in its august history, in its tremendous expressive capabilities, and in a compendium of old and new techniques. From a very young age, Nicky’s dream was to move people with the magic of virtuosity and the warmth of her sound. The concerto begins with her telling us the story of her dream, the playing of it IS the realization of that dream, and it ends with her going down the road to play for the next gathering."

Fiddle Dance Suite for solo violin is in five movements and Marsalis describes each one as follows:

  • Sidestep Reel: In the 19th and into the 20th century, repetitive, even metered reels and hornpipes were the centrepiece of many a dance. Easy and fun, their infectious, sing-songy melodies stayed in the mind and on the tongue. The melodies of this reel, however, are a homegrown concoction of commonality between traditional fiddle tunes, the Baroque, ragtime, bebop, the quartal melodies of modern jazz and the fancy variations on themes as popularized in the 19th century.
  • As the Wind Goes: is the wistful late-night song of a lullaby, a campfire song, a ballad…a spiritual. It is sung as if on the wind, yearning to experience once again that which will only ever again live as memory.
  • Jones’ Jig: The Irish jig, the African 6/8 bell pattern, the shuffle rhythm of jazz and the drum style of Elvin Jones all play around with the relationship of three in the time space of two. The juxtaposition, negotiation and reconciliation of these opposing rhythmic perspectives create interesting musical relationships all over the planet.
  • Nicola’s Strathspey: in the traditional strathspey, improvised embellishments, syncopated dotted rhythms and the use of space between notes create expectation, momentum and surprise. These same elements and their effect on the listener are mirrored in the blues.
  • Bye-Bye Breakdown: this is good ol’ Saturday-night-barn-dance, hoedown fiddling. It revels in the whining cry of open double stops, in all types of musical onomatopoeia from train sounds to animal calls to country whistling, and in the steady 2/4 rhythm that is as basic as walking. The harmonic framework of several popular fiddle and folk tunes provides a practical grid for Nicky to cut challenging melodic and rhythmic figures. A relentless stream of sixteenth notes with double stops is designed to tire fiddler and dancers.”

Nicola Benedetti commented, “This project has been a deeply edifying experience – one I will always reflect on with immense gratitude. It has been a privilege to learn and perform these two inspired and unequivocal masterpieces, and to deepen my understanding of Wynton’s compositional language, cultural richness and philosophical insights. These compositions take us from the introspection of a Spiritual to the raucous celebration of a Hootenanny, from a lullaby to a nightmare, and from a campfire to a circus. We travel far and wide to distant corners of the world, the mind and the soul. Long-form musical pieces are often described as a journey. This sure has been a rich and fascinating one, and I am thrilled to now share the results with you.”

For more information visit www.nicolabenedetti.co.uk



Photo: © Robin Clewley

Decca Classics is thrilled to announce the signing of pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason. The eldest of seven musically-gifted siblings now joins her brother, superstar cellist Sheku, on the prestigious label and prepares to release her debut album, ‘Romance’, on 5 July.

22-year old Isata already enjoys a successful and increasingly busy concert career as a solo artist, with concerto appearances, recitals and chamber concerts throughout the UK and internationally. As she joins the new generation of classical music stars providing inspiration and bringing classical music into the homes of millions, here Isata’s phenomenal piano playing and vibrancy is captured for the rest of the world to experience.

On signing to the label, Isata said: “I am so excited to be recording this album with Decca Classics. I am really passionate about this music and hope that the album brings a wider range of people into the classical music audience!”

Dr. Alexander Buhr, Managing Director of Decca Classics, comments: “Isata is an immensely talented pianist with remarkable musicality and a curious mind, always ready to explore new musical horizons.”

Isata is undertaking postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, at which four Kanneh-Mason siblings are currently studying! Truly a sign of the outstanding dedication and talent of this unique family. The pianist also recently announced her signing to Enticott Music Management, joining a stellar roster of musicians alongside her younger brother Sheku.

‘Romance’ will take listeners on a journey through the extraordinary life of Clara Schumann, one of the most distinguished composers and pianists of the Romantic era who, unusually for the time, earned more than her husband – the famous German composer Robert Schumann. Clara Schumann made her performance debut aged nine and was one of the first pianists to perform from memory.

The disc marks the 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann’s birth and in releasing this album Isata champions the significance of female musicians throughout the years, and their continued importance in classical music. Recorded with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, ‘Romance’ showcases Isata’s outstanding skill and passion through an exploration of Clara Schumann’s exceptional output.  

Isata started learning the piano at the age of six. When the US network show CBS Sunday Morning visited the family home in Nottingham last year, Isata’s parents said that they knew she was gifted after she achieved the highest marks in the country for her grade 7 and 8 piano exams. She has won numerous awards, played in some of the world’s finest concert venues, appeared at international music festivals, and has performed with Elton John. This year Isata embarks upon a US tour (including a night at New York’s Carnegie Hall) performing duet recitals with Sheku. They regularly perform together internationally, often joined by their violinist brother Braimah as The Kanneh-Mason Trio.

Her parents, Stuart Mason and Kadiatu Kanneh, who have no professional music experience, have raised seven extraordinarily gifted children, each of whom are passionate about classical music and perform to a virtuosic level. Now, the release of 'Romance' gives a new insight into another member of this remarkable family of musical stars.

‘Romance’ is released on Decca Classics on 5 July and available to pre-order physically from 27 April and digitally from 17 May 2019.

Isata Kanneh-Mason will be a guest on Jess Gillam’s BBC Radio 3 show ‘This Classical Life’ on Saturday, 27 April. Listen live on BBC Radio 3 at 12:30 BST or download the podcast via BBC Sounds.