Marsalis: Violin Concerto; Fiddle Dance Suite

Reviewed on Thu 08 Aug, 2019

Both works are mercurial mash-ups of the soloist and composer’s shared but very different heritages, each dispatched with deceptively consummate ease.

Is there a more intelligent, musically open-minded violinist at work today than Nicola Benedetti? This latest offering – a concerto and solo suite written for her by jazz luminary Wynton Marsalis – offers further, characteristically eloquent proof of her considerable abilities and her admirably acute appetite for the new. Both works are mercurial mash-ups of the soloist and composer’s shared but very different heritages, each dispatched with deceptively consummate ease. The four-movement Violin Concerto in D – key of choice for Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky’s sole excursions in the form – is expressively realised. Beginning in dark-hued reverie, it ends in a raucous hoe-down lit up by violinistic fireworks and combustible orchestral hi-jinks. In between is a deliciously knowing, multi-accented rondo burlesque cast off with meticulous aplomb and a sublime, Gershwin-esque sojourn into the Blues. The five-part Fiddle Dance Suite plays to Benedetti’s manifold strengths, the sophistication of Marsalis’ multi-accented writing realised with almost casual nuance but altogether winning virtuosity.
–Michael Quinn