Accompanied by the Göteborgs Symfoniker (Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra), Scottish classical violinist Nicola Benedetti performs Dmitri Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Opus 77. Conductor: Thomas Søndergård. Recorded in Gothenburg in April 2017.
The piece was written in 1947–48 Cfor renowned Soviet violinist David Oistrakh, and Shostakovich initially played the work for the violinist in 1948. In the intervening years, the concerto was edited by Shostakovich and Oistrakh. Oistrakh gave the premiere of the concerto on 29 October 1955 with the Leningrad Philharmonic with the Soviet-Russian conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky (4 June [O.S. 22 May] 1903 – 19 January 1988) conducting. It was well received in Russia and abroad as an “extraordinary success”.
The concerto has four movements, with a cadenza linking the final two:
- Nocturne: Moderato – A semi-homage to the first movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto.
- Scherzo: Allegro – Demonic dance. The DSCH motif can be heard in the background at times, with a final appearance near the end in the solo violin part.
- Passacaglia: Andante – Cadenza (attacca) – Utilizes Beethoven’s fate motif, incorporating it into the pre-burlesque cadenza. The DSCH motif is incorporated into a set of chords in the cadenza.
- Burlesque: Allegro con brio – Presto – The theme in the solo violin’s entrance resembles that of the solo flute’s entrance in Stravinsky’s Petrouchka.
Nicola Benedetti MBE HonFRSE (born 20 July 1987) is a Scottish classical violinist. She started learning to play the violin at the age of four. At age eight, she became the leader of the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain. By the age of nine, she had already passed the eight grades of musical examinations while attending the independent Wellington School, Ayr, and in September 1997 began to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School for young musicians under Lord Menuhin and Natasha Boyarskaya in rural Surrey, England.
At the end of her first year (1998), she played solo in the school’s annual concert at Wigmore Hall, and performed in London and Paris as a soloist in Bach’s Double Violin Concerto (together with Alina Ibragimova). She played in a memorial concert at Westminster Abbey celebrating the life and work of Yehudi Menuhin.
In 1999, Benedetti performed for the anniversary celebrations at Holyrood Palace with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland in the presence of HRH The Prince Edward.
In 2000, Benedetti performed with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Scottish Opera.
She played to the Prince again in 2001 when she performed a concerto with the London Mozart Players at St. James’s Palace. Subsequent performances followed with the City of London Sinfonia, as well as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Scottish Opera, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, etc.
In August 2002, she won the United Kingdom’s Brilliant Prodigy Competition, broadcast by Carlton Television. She left the Menuhin School shortly after, and at the age of 15 began studying privately with Maciej Rakowski, former leader of the English Chamber Orchestra.
At the age of 16, she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in May 2004, performing Karol Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto in the final at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Because of this victory, she won the music section of the Top Scot award in December 2005
Benedetti received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2010.
In September 2012, she played at the Last Night of the Proms.
In the New Year Honours 2013 Benedetti was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to music and charity.
Nicola Benedetti plays the Gariel Stradivarius (1717), courtesy of Jonathan Moulds.