Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nicola Benedetti plays Brahms and Beethoven

I spend a recent weekend in Termonfechin, a sleepy village in Louth, where twice a year a whole slew of people go to play chamber music. I was playing Brahms (the third piano quartet). Our violinist was amazed that I didn't know of Nicola Benedetti, though I discovered she hadn't heard Alina Ibragimova or Amandine Beyer, so everyone came away with something to discover.

I think I had been put off Nicola Benedetti by the pouffy-lipped publicity photos that you see everywhere, making her look like a soviet supermodel. I have been listening to her playing, though, and have to admit that once again I let myself be fooled by the idiots in the publicity department.

It's a sweet, warm sound and a wonderful way of responding to the music that is close to the singer's art. People often think of cantabile as meaning seamless playing, but when you listen to singers you realise that the vowels are separated and shaped by consonants – tiny breaks that convey much of the meaning. Listen to her playing and you'll see what I mean. It's more about the attack and release of the notes than the beautiful tone in the centre.

And to decorate this posting, I've managed to find a great photo that shows Benedetti as a real, actual person, with a very ordinary Alexei Grynyuk slouching at the piano beside her. It's when the playing starts that you are suddenly aware of the magic.

And as a postscript, I have to add that I smiled when I heard the Brahms. Miriam, the violinist who recommended Benedetti to me, plays just like that though with, for me, a slightly darker vision. Thanks Miriam!

Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor Op. 30 No. 2
Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major Op. 78

Nicola Benedetti, Alexei Grynyuk (Piano)
Wigmore Hall, 10 Oct 2011

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