Italia

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Gra­ham Strahle

Ni­cola Benedetti

Decca IDEAS about how to play baroque mu­sic ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal prin­ci­ples are, thank­fully, less doc­tri­naire than they used to be. Play­ers of the mod­ern vi­o­lin, for ex­am­ple, show a free­dom that was en­tirely ab­sent three decades ago in the way they are able to pick and choose el­e­ments of baroque bow­ing style, or­na­men­ta­tion and so forth. There can be a down­side, how­ever. Ni­cola Benedetti has al­ready achieved much. Hav­ing grad­u­ated from the Ye­hudi Menuhin School, the 25-year-old Scot­tish vi­o­lin­ist of Ital­ian ex­trac­tion was awarded a $1.78 mil­lion con­tract in 2004 to record six al­bums with Univer­sal Mu­sic Group, which takes in Decca. She also has re­ceived two hon­orary doc­tor­ates from Scot­tish uni­ver­si­ties. In her fifth disc, Italia, Benedetti moves from her usual ter­ri­tory of the ro­man­tic era into the Ital­ian baroque. She switches to a baroque bow but oth­er­wise sticks to her mod­ern-strung Stradi­var­ius. It is a mixed suc­cess. She plays with an en­liven­ing frisk­i­ness that gives real spark to con­cer­tos by Tar­tini, Veracini and Vi­valdi. Phras­ing is neat and vi­brato con­trolled well. Sum­mer from

The Four Sea­sons has bite and elo­quence. All the good work is un­done, though, when Benedetti re­verts to a generic mod­ern style in two Vi­valdi arias. She ex­plains in the sleeve notes that for these she chose a more vo­cal man­ner rather than a vi­o­lin­is­tic baroque style, but the re­sult sounds dis­rup­tive. Stylis­ti­cally fur­ther be­hind is the Scot­tish Cham­ber Or­ches­tra un­der con­duc­tor Chris­tian Curnyn. It probes at 18th-cen­tury style but sounds bland and half-hearted.

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