The 2011 City of Discovery Charity Concert
Concert Review – Courier 6th June 2011
The organisers of any musical event, be it in church hall or concert hall, can be excused a bit of self-indulgence by picking their favourite music and favourite artistes. Those behind the two-yearly Discovery Charity Concert are no different and have a maxim of getting the best to play the best. Their “resident” orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, are certainly one of the best, and from where Alfie Boe (tenor) and Christina Lawrie (piano) left off in 2009, two stunning violinists carried on in sensational style, a golden combination that you are unlikely to see on the same bill ever again. Laura McGhee and Nicola Benedetti are two performers that individually would brighten the dullest programme, but as a double-act make an impression that is everlasting.
The performers were the perfect choice for this year’s concert, held at the Caird Hall on Saturday night, and the choice of music also hit the right notes, a selection of individual “pops” that seldom appear on concert programmes. The idea was to attract and entertain and the music and performers did exactly that, with over 1500 enjoying a marvellous evening’s entertainment.
The soloists have made gigantic strides over the past few years, and although their chosen musical genre are miles apart, they share identical gifts of virtuosic talent and power of presentation. Laura McGhee, a Monifieth lass now making a huge impact in the States, brought her own composition the Arbroath Suite to the proceedings, with the work given its world premier in this form, a superb and inspired orchestration by Oliver Searle. It was a marvellous mix of emotions from the haunting Banks o’ Cree to the foot-tapping Jacobite Jigs and the March to Bannockburn, with the eight-movement selection including the evocative Commemoration, once played by Laura at the site of 9/11. It was stunning performance, and a highly impressive way to mark your Caird Hall debut.
Nicola Benedetti is no stranger to the Caird Hall stage, and her performance was just as stunning as Laura’s and with equally mixed musical sentiments. Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy (only the last movement as she is saving the whole work for a performance with the RSNO in September) mixes the solemn with the spritely and is an excellent vehicle for any violinist to show off deep resonant tone and flamboyant showmanship, two facets which are meat and drink to someone like Ms Benedetti’s. Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen was chosen particularly to highlight the flair, elan and panache that are part of her make-up, and she gave a performance of this fantastic work of which the word “exciting” doesn’t come close.
The icing on the cake was the two girls joining forces in a repeat of Commemoration, the two parts beautifully entwined.
Another massive plus on the night was conductor Christian Kluxen, the RSNO assistant conductor for only a year but one who could easily have been directing the orchestra for years. His interpretation of the works on offer was one of youthful exuberance, but there was also strong signs of maturity, natural style and expert manipulation of the players. The opening Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture was full of bravado and this carried on into the Rimsky Korsakov Cappricio Espagnol, underlining its reputation as one of classical music’s most exciting works. The Rossini overture to the Thieving Magpie, a pot-boiler if ever there was one, had as marvellous build up to its careering final moments and the age-old favourite Finlandia never disappointed. Perhaps the orchestra enjoyed this little mix of standard favourites as their performance was as enthusiastic and exuberant as I have ever seen them.
The nominated charity for this year’s concert was Macmillan Cancer Relief and their coffers will be considerably swollen after Saturday’s concert. There can’t be many more enjoyable ways of raising funds for a worthwhile cause.
The City of Discovery Charity Concert – Performers
Violinist Nicola Benedetti has captivated audiences and critics alike with her musicality and poise. Hilary Finch recently wrote in The Times,”it was thrilling to hear and watch Nicola Benedetti in a truly risk-taking performance that lived so much in the body and fused the sinews of the violin and the nerve-system of the player”. This sums up Nicola’s ability to communicate and enthrall audiences with dynamic and energy-filled performances.
Throughout her career, Nicola’s desire to perform new works has shown her to be one of the UK’s most innovative and creative young violinists. Nicola’s choice of the Szymanowski Violin Concerto for the BBC Young Musician of the Year, her success in which catapulted her to fame in 2004, was just the beginning of her focus on less-often programmed repertoire and new music. She has recorded newly commissioned works by John Tavener and James Macmillan, has studied jazz with Wynton Marsalis and others, and explored authentic baroque performance. Her performances of all repertoire are influenced by this wide-range of interests and study.
In recent seasons Nicola has performed with almost all of the UK and Ireland’s major symphony orchestras including the London Philharmonic, Philharmonia and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras, and as word of her immense musicality and ability to reach audiences has spread, she has received invitations to work with a list of international orchestras that include the Deutsche Symphony Orchestra in Berlin, the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich, NDR Orchester in Llubjiana, Het Brabants Orkest, the Orchestre de Picardie, KBS Symphony and the Japan Philharmonic. Nicola’s busy schedule has also seen her perform in North America with the Vancouver, Colorado, Phoenix and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras.
In the 2009-2010 season Nicola will perform the Glazunov and Sibelius violin concerti with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Ashkenazy and Segerstam and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Russian National Orchestra under Pletnev. Performances in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Jakub Hrusa are followed by a tour of the UK and she will also be performing with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony orchestra and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. In North America she will perform with the Toronto Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and the Vancouver Symphony.
Nicola has captivated audiences with recitals across Europe and North America, giving performances at the Wigmore Hall; the Sage, Gateshead; Fazoli Concert Hall, Sacile; the Lincoln Center, New York, the Gardner Museum, Boston; and the Terrace Theater in Washington DC.
During 2008 and 2009, Nicola has been performing in chamber music concerts throughout the UK with her regular trio. Along with cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk, she has performed at Schloss Elmau and as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, the Jersey International Music Festival, and the Thaxted Festival. Nicola has also played chamber music at the Verbier Festival, Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona, at Lockenhaus and at Prussia Cove.
Winner of the Classical BRIT Award for Young British Classic Performer in 2008 and an exclusive Universal/Deutsche Grammophon artist, Nicola is soon to release her fourth album, featuring works by Sarasate, Fauré, Rachmaninov, Pärt, and Ravel. Nicola’s debut album included Szymanowski, Saint Saëns, Massenet and Brahms with the London symphony Orchestra, followed by a second release featuring works by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schubert and Macmillan with the Academy of St. Martin In The Fields. Nicola’s third album is comprised of newly commissioned works by Tavener and Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Nicola has also taken part in many prestigious events, including a performance at Windsor Castle for her Majesty the Queen, at the opening of the Scottish Parliament, the G8 Summit at Gleneagles, and for Comic Relief’s Gala concert ‘Classic Relief’. In addition to her performance and recording activities, Nicola has devoted herself to humanitarian and educational causes. Since 2005, she has visited schools throughout the United Kingdom in conjunction with the CLIC Sargent Practice-a-thon, in which she encourages pupils of all ages to pick up their instruments and enjoy classical music. Nicola is also a UNICEF Celebrity Supporter.
Born in Scotland of Italian heritage, Nicola began violin lessons at the age of five. In 1997, she entered the Yehudi Menuhin School, where she studied with Natasha Boyarskaya. After leaving the Yehudi Menuhin School she continued her studies with Maciej Rakowski in London. She is currently taking lessons from Pavel Vernikov in Vienna.
Nicola plays the Earl Spencer Stradivarius (c 1712), courtesy of Jonathan Moulds.
Raised in Scottish traditional Scottish fiddle genre, Laura won many composition awards before graduating with honours degree in classical violin from the RSAMD, her Arbroath Suite Concerto a personal journey of Scotland’s music from The Declaration of Arbroath till the present day, the suite was premiered in Arbroath in 2008, and has subsequently been performed in USA.
In March this year she became the first Scottish artist ever to break the Americana Top 40 Charts, with her album “Celticana” a fusion of country roots and Celtic fiddle.
Laura is now established as one of Scotland’s most gifted artists whose breathtaking vocals and groundbreaking fiddle skills have seen her work from traditional Scottish music to recent classical collaboration with USA classical composer & legend David Amrams and headline concert at the Country Music Hall Of Fame with The Cash Family.
The London Times as the “Musical Heroine of the Y Generation.” Since first hitting the American shores, Laura has performed with many of the greats, including Ricky Skaggs, Jim Lauderdale, Jack Clement, Pete Seeger, Odetta and Roddy Crowell.
“Commemoration,” her traditional concert piece reached #2 on the UK Indie Charts, while her recording of “Road To Paradise” with Shane McGowan reached #16. In 2009, Laura was a featured artist on the BBC-TV’s Award winning Scotland’s Music; and again on the 12/31/09 New Year’s Eve BBC-TV Special about Robert Burns and his song “Auld Lang Syne.” Her composition, “Arbroath Suite” was featured on NPR special.
In USA Meanwhile, her multi-culturalism anthem recording of “One Scotland,” Was featured on Sean Connery’s New York Charity event Dressed To Kilt.
Laura has been honoured with appointments as: UK Youth Ambassador to the September Concerts (formed with UNESCO, and with the support of Quincy Jones and Ravi Shankar to foster awareness and world peace through music concerts); Scottish Youth Ambassador of the Prince’s Trust; and Youth Ambassador to the British Memorial Gardens in New York (commemorating the UK citizens lost in 9/11). Currently, she is touring America promoting the release of her Celticana album. On April 7th, Laura hosted the Scottish Roots Celebration at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, where she was joined on the performing stage by country music legends Jim Lauderdale, Rodney Crowell, Jack Clement and John C. Cash, and later presented Johnny Cash’s family with the Scottish Heritage Award. Laura will be starred NPR on the nationally broadcast radio and filmed concert Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour.
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra is one of Europe’s leading symphony orchestra. Formed in 1891 as the Scottish Orchestra, the company became the Scottish National Orchestra in 1950, and was awarded Royal Patronage in 1991. A host of renowned conductors has contributed to its success, including Walter Susskind, Sir Alexander Gibson, Bryden Thomson, Neeme Jarvi, Waler Weller, and Alexander Lazarev. In July 2007 Stéphane Deneve was joined by Austrian David Danzmayr as RSNO Assistant Conductor.