The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Nicola Benedetti (violin) Alexei Grynyuk (piano) Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Litton
Composer: Sarasate, Vaughan Williams, Saint-Saëns, Massenet, Ravel, Pärt, Rachmaninoff & Fauré

This recital by the young Nicola Benedetti, stemming from several sessions with various accompanists, is notable for one of the finest, freshest accounts of The Lark Ascending that I have heard (a reissue from her Vaughan Williams/Tavener disc reviewed in November 2007). Player and music make a perfect fit, Benedetti fiddling with lovely tone yet always getting into the character of the piece. The atmospheric double-stops, rather glossed over by some rivals, do not disappoint. The recording and the partnership with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Andrew Litton are first-rate.

I also enjoy Arvo Pärt’s simple, somewhat repetitive Spiegel am Spiegel, because Benedetti does not try to do anything with it. Helped by her excellent pianist, she keeps the interest by concentrating on line and phrasing. Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise ideally needs a wider range of colours and Fauré’s Aprés une rêve transcription is disfigured by too many bulges in the tone.

Four pieces with Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic are nicely played but a little careful – and Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen has more bulges. Benedetti avoids the vulgarity that can creep into this piece and Ravel’s Tzigane, but unfortunately she also avoids the devilish excitement that they should generate. Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo capriccioso is nicely shaped, with appealing tone, and Massenet’s Thaïs ‘Méditation’ (the disc’s other reissued track) is pleasant. The recordings are less open than the Vaughan Williams.