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Ghost Canyon

Title - 'Shostakovich / Glazunov: Violin Concerto'
Artist - Nicola Benedetti

Uber talented Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti MBE recorded the difficult and sumptuous Szymanowski Violin Concerto for her debut CD, so she is definitely unafraid of a musical challenge. Her recording of the demanding Shostakovich Violin Concerto No.1 here coupled with the beautifully autumnal Glazunov Violin Concerto is more than equal to the task.

For those not in the know, Benedetti was born in West Kilbride, North Ayrshire, to an Italian father and a Scottish mother. She started learning to play the violin at the age of four. At age eight, she became the leader of the National Children's Orchestra of Great Britain. By the age of nine, she had already passed the eight grades of musical examinations while attending the independent Wellington School, Ayr, and in September 1997 began to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School for young musicians under Lord Menuhin and Natasha Boyarskaya in rural Surrey, England.

At the end of her first year (1998), she played solo in the school's annual concert at Wigmore Hall, and performed in London and Paris as a soloist in Bach's Double Violin Concerto (together with Alina Ibragimova). She played in a memorial concert at Westminster Abbey celebrating the life and work of Yehudi Menuhin.

Here on Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No.1; Glazunov: Violin Concerto, Benedetti's technique is superb and her musical approach is quite mature for such a young musician. The Shostakovich Violin Concerto No.1 is filled with music of deep melancholy interspersed with episodes of acerbic wit and the composer's unique brand of brittle irony. The classic recording of it (1956) is the one played by David Oistrakh with Dmitri Mitropoulos conducting the New York Philharmonic, a brilliant performance released on Sony Masterworks Heritage in excellent mono.

In the Glazunov Violin Concerto, which makes up in luxuriant beauty for any deficit in musical depth, Benedetti's technique and style of play are perfect. The criticism of Glazunov's music has always been that it is all surface sheen and facile beauty but lacking in profundity. I find his music quite lovely, filled with instrumental color that is lush and even magical on occasion. Violin concertos - with a few exceptions - tend not to be profound, so the Glazunov concerto can be enjoyed without guilt.

Either way, Benedetti plays this music with just the right amount of opulence and beauty of tone. The music is often lush and warm and her performance strikes me as exemplary. In wrap, if I haven't made it clear by now, this lady delivers a delightful selection of modern music with style, elegance, energy and top shelf performance.

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