Nicola Benedetti in performance with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, on their U.S. tour
The reviews are in! Critics have given high praise to Nicola Benedetti and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for their highly successful tour of the U.K., U.S. and the Middle East! In an all-Beethoven program, Benedetti performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major to the delight of audiences from Orange County to London, Abu Dhabi and beyond.
Of the Royal Festival Hall performance, Mark Pullinger of Bachtrack wrote in his glowing review: “This programme marked the very first time that Nicola Benedetti had played with the OAE, although it was not her first time playing on gut strings. The difference in her sound from previous hearings was huge. What was glossy and silvery on steel strings, in a concerto such as Korngold’s, was here replaced by a nutty sweetness in timbre shaded by a dusky charcoal in the lowest register. With lean, athletic orchestral partners, it allowed Benedetti to explore a wide range of dynamic gradations between mezzo-piano and pianissimo, which she did with great sensitivity along with an impeccable trill. If the first movement had fire and imagination, it was the contemplative Larghetto that impressed most. Slow and tender, but never schmaltzy, it approached religious reverence in tones so hushed one could sense the audience holding its collective breath. The Rondo finale was amiable rather than ebullient, a simple expression of joyous music-making in the company of friends. Benedetti looked entirely at home with her new family, which is just as well as they’re soon touring this programme, minus Alsop, to the United States and Abu Dhabi.”
In review of the same concert in London, Antony Hodgson from Classical Source raves: “The eloquent interpretation of the Concerto which found Alsop and Benedetti to be at-one in their reading and again forward momentum was of the essence…. This attention to impetus ensured that the daringly slow tempo adopted for the Larghetto allowed the solo line to be touchingly expressive without appearing to linger. The expansion into the Finale was beautifully achieved and Benedetti’s immaculate technique coped with the virtuosic moments ensuring that they were part of the music’s unfolding rather than momentary showpieces. As an interpretation this was among the most attractive that I have heard.”
Of one of their California concerts, Charles Donelan wrote in the Santa Barbara Independent: “Benedetti’s lively elegance of tone was a perfect match for the group and for the Concerto in D Major, surely one of the finest concertos in the repertoire. A swift, dynamic approach to the opening movement led to the highlight of the evening, a dazzling new cadenza duet between violin and timpani. Benedetti and OAE principal timpanist Adrian Bending traded phrases back and forth while the orchestra was silent in a composition on which the violinist collaborated with composer Petr Limonov especially for this tour. It’s based on transcription made during Beethoven’s lifetime that arranged the concerto for piano, rather than violin. Limonov and Benedetti took the piano-timpani cadenza from that manuscript and recomposed it to suit both the violin and Bending’s unusual period instrument, the Schnellar timpani. The result was a fascinating interlude in what is otherwise a familiar piece. Raw, rhythmic, and searching, the passage leapt from its context as though some long-hidden force embedded in Beethoven’s music were only now being released. The new Benedetti-Limonov cadenza may not be for everyone, but to these ears it fairly sizzled. Multiple standing ovations later, the violinist obliged the rapt audience with a short encore, but the memory that lingered most was of the dialogue between her violin and Bending’s drums.”
James Roy MacBean from Berkeley Daily Planet praised their Valentine’s Day performance: “Performing with London’s Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on Valentine’s Day at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre, Scottish-born violinist Nicola Benedetti gave a thrilling rendition of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61. The technical demands on the solo violinist are many and challenging. Nicola Benedetti handled these demands with artistic aplomb. [Her] handling of the extremely high tessitura of this Larghetto was a thing of beauty, softly played and infinitely poignant. The finale is a Rondo featuring an exuberant theme played in many different variations, though always recognizable. Here, too, Nicola Benedetti displayed technical virtuosity.”