There are obvious precedents for a performer’s wholesale change of approach to a beloved staple of their repertoire – one thinks of the differences between Glenn Gould’s 1955 and 1981 Goldberg Variations, for instance.
Gould, a jazz aficionado himself, might have enjoyed Nigel Kennedy’s updating of the Four Seasons: his augmentations here are rarely rudely iconoclastic, restricted mostly to the use of drones, with the occasional understated jazz trumpet or vibes colouration.
He serves notice right at the start, when a subdued skirl of electric guitar presages the opening of Spring. Birdsong is added too, while the familiar riff surges and ebbs like pulsing EDM disco.
But Kennedy’s fingering is reliably fleet and fiery, with energised passages of buoyant spirit balanced by fine high, feathery lines as in, for instance, the depiction of the sleeping goat-herd
I tried to put a link to this on here, but The BBC hates me and won’t have it. So here’s a link to Nigel’s official page on Facebook. Go HERE and click on the link they provide.
Nigel talks about his infancy and youth as a musician in the making. He doesn’t say anything epic, but it’s nice to hear his voice, isn’t it ? Nigel comes on at 11.56.
If anyone has earned the right to mess around with Vivaldi’s
Four Seasons it is Nigel Kennedy,
the violin world’s Marmite violinist. Remember how fresh he made this music
sound on his recording of a quarter-century ago? This latest version offers a
ferment of all he’s played since – concertos, jazz, Jimi Hendrix. It’s
affectionate and irreverent in equal measure, and Kennedy and his Orchestra of
Life never sound less than riveting. Pretty much all Vivaldi’s notes are there;
around, above and in between them come interjections, overlays and linking
passages involving guest musicians from jazz and rock:Orphy Robinson, Damon Reece, Z-Star and others. Spring is welcomed in
by a distant-sounding intro on an electric-guitar. Summer’s storms bring
forth bursts of crazily sampled static. Autumn tears off at a cracking
pace, but with a jazz trumpet sauntering lazily over the top. It all sounds
like a colossal jam session from the inside of a Botticelli painting.
If, like me, you have trouble with the phrase “Marmite violinist,” here is the explanation, supplied by my friend Loz Etheridge in the UK. It simply means that Nigel is a violinist whom people either love or loathe…………there’s nothing in between. The phrase has to do with a spread called Marmite which is ubiquitous in the UK and which you have no need to worry about ! Thank you, Loz.