Nigel Kennedy: ‘Critics were pretending I was playing out of tune because I’d sold a few records’
In this interview, first published in The Strad’s March 1999 edition, the crossover violinist hits back at snobbery in the classical music world
Nigel Kennedy would stand out in most places even in New York, but in this particular hotel, populated mostly by mid-town Manhattan business types, his spiked, two-toned, Mohawk hairstyle lights up the room like neon. As we head to a table in the bar, he samples food along the buffet, the twinkle in his eye no doubt harbouring some boyish excuse in case someone tries to stop him.
That combination of impulsiveness and good excuses helps explain where Kennedy is today. Five years ago, before his self-imposed sabbatical from the classical-music world, the violinist had climbed both peaks of classical Kilimanjaro, his best-selling recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons balanced by the most artistic performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto recorded in recent memory. Though he was still in demand as a soloist, Kennedy began to talk more about his other interests – improvisation and composition, mostly – which he finally decided to pursue by dropping out of the concerto circuit entirely.