Play it again, Nige

by Keith Clarke

Having ditched EMI after 15 years, demon fiddler Nigel Kennedy is making a splash with his new label, Sony Classical, his first disc re-exploring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, complete with improvisation, progressive rock, female vocals. Oh, and drums. As he gracefully explained to The Scotsman: “With Vivaldi I always think I f***ing own this music, but when I realised I was going to be touring it again, I had to do something new with it. I couldn’t do the same shit as when I done the last album.”

The something new includes an encore, “It’s Plucking Elemental,” sung by Kennedy, who introduces it with a belch.

It will all probably fan the flames of fundamentalist ire, although even die-hard traditionalists should have become inured to Nige’s wilder excesses by now.

Those of us who are long enough in the tooth to remember the clean-cut young middle-class boy who first appeared as Nigel Kennedy, with a neat short-back-and-sides and impeccable vowels, may have smiled at the in-yer-face wild boy that subsequently emerged. Ten years ago, he was upsetting then Proms chief Sir John Drummond with his plans to play the Berg Violin Concerto wearing a black cloak and Dracula make-up.

Whatever the silliness, and however much his manufactured street-kid accent grates, the one thing that Kennedy has to do to shut up all the tut-tutters is pick up the violin. He would be easy to dismiss as a style-before-substance also-ran if it were not for the fact that he still plays the violin as if his life depended on it. He could charm the pants off a dowager with a gypsy dance, bring tears to the eyes of a statue with a Bach partita. So forgive me if I don’t join in the chorus of disapproval.

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