Search - Antonio Vivaldi, Jules Massenet, English Traditional :: Classic Kennedy

Classic Kennedy
Antonio Vivaldi, Jules Massenet, English Traditional
Classic Kennedy
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Folk, Special Interest, New Age, Classical
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #1

Just in case you thought Nigel Kennedy--fresh from his Hendrix tribute album--had left the classical music repertoire for good, think again. On Classic Kennedy, the fiddler is situated with the English Chamber Orchestra i...  more »


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Just in case you thought Nigel Kennedy--fresh from his Hendrix tribute album--had left the classical music repertoire for good, think again. On Classic Kennedy, the fiddler is situated with the English Chamber Orchestra in a program that spans from Bach to Satie. (Yes, you also get a Joni Mitchell tune; "Scarborough Fair"; and the fiddler's own forgettable "Melody in the Wind," too.) The sequencing is a bit disjointed--the summer storm from The Four Seasons is followed by Massenet's blissful "Meditation" from Thaïs--and Kennedy's performances range from good to fair. The English Chamber Orchestra does an admirable job on these diverse works (it deserves a lot of credit here), but it'll be up to the listener to decide whether he or she wants to hear "Air on the G String" followed by Kennedy's version of "Danny Boy." As with most Kennedy discs, you'll either love it or hate it. --Jason Verlinde

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CD Reviews

A matter of taste
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 04/07/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)

"As one commentator has put it, you will either love or hate on EMI (56890-2), spotlighting that cross-over badboy of music, Nigel Kennedy and his violin. My estimate falls somewhat between the emotions: amused tolerance. If Streisand wants to do German Lieder, that is her privilege; and no one is surprised when it comes out lousy. If Kiri Te Kanawa wants to do Cole Porter, you might argue that her style is simply not that required for "Anything Goes," all the while being influenced by how you feel about her as an opera superstar. Kennedy, however, stimulates more violent reactions from his fans and from his detractors, as witness the other reviews on this site. Here we have 20 cuts of violin music ranging from Vivaldi to Joni Mitchell and the modest soloist himself. The order is not at all carefully thought out and if you hit the random play button the results will be much the same (except for the Kennedy work which he carefully put at the end). Then again, any program that has the hauntingly beautiful Gershwin "Prelude No. 2," the Debussy "Girl With the Flaxen Hair," and the traditional "Scarborough Fair" is not to be despised as long as the melodies are not wrenched out of all recognition. Here they are given respectful treatment and the other 17 pieces are either on the mark stylistically or very far off it but enjoyable on their own terms. The English Chamber Orchestra gives the soloist fine support, although the sudden vocal for the Scarborough cut is intrusive but eerie enough to be interesting."
An Interesting Concept, A Failed Production
David Methot | Norwich, CT United States | 09/07/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)

"A while back I had heard about a British violin soloist named Nigel Kennedy, who was working on transcribing songs by Jimi Hendrix for the violin. I had altogether forgotten his name until my friend lent me a copy of Kennedy's 1999 release 'Classical Kennedy', and when I saw the pictures of him with his Morrisey haircut, stubbly facial hair, and his leather jacket, I recognized this controversial figure, the so-called "Bad Boy" of classical music.

'Classical Kennedy' is an exploration of the violin not as the solo voice of a gargantuan half-hour concerto but, rather, the lead voice in a three to five-minute song, and it explores this concept from Bach to Joni Mitchell. Right away this poses a serious undertaking- it is difficult to achieve continuity in a classical album that practically spans the history of Western art music. However, this conflict is partly resolved by the consistency of the tracks' lengths.

Kennedy has a distinct sound, and his little "trick" is that he sometimes plays really hard and really fast. He occasionally draws an elegant and pure tone that listeners expect from a great soloist, but he also has the tendency to turn a beautiful phrase into a crude and apathetic statement. These days the idea of a violinist who isn't utterly predictable, and is willing to take liberties with the repertoire, is a pleasant muse, but Nigel Kennedy is certainly not the ideal solution.

Kennedy's gimmick becomes his fatal flaw- in classical music, the notes speak for themselves. He makes Bach and Brahms sound hoarse and nasal. Ask any professional violinist and they'll tell you that, though there isn't one exact way to play any piece, there are limits on what one should do with a phrase, and that rule is implicit through understanding the composition. It's a hard truth to face, and perhaps only a trained musician fully understands this phenomenon. Either way, there needs to be an intimacy between the performer and the listener. All in all, Kennedy's technique caves in on itself. He plays as if taking great liberties at every turn were in itself a good thing. He cuts off a note that should sing, his sense of tempo is awkward at best- he seems to be driven by self-indulgent whims rather than musical passion. There are points in the album where I think that his approach does utter disservice to the piece. For example, his interpretation of Massenet's 'Meditations' simply does not compare to Itzhak Perlman's flawless, dramatic performance on 'A La Carte'. Kennedy's Chopin 'Nocturne in C#' (which really sounds better with just a piano) doesn't at all capture the emotion and power of Sarah Chang's performance on 'Sweet Sorrow'. I'm not saying that every single track on this album is a loser. But where he fails miserably in some regards is that his playing strays into avant-garde quirks, and it becomes somewhat ignorant to the music in the piece. Ivry Gitlis quoted in the DVD 'The Art of Violin' that 'of course it's an insult to music when somebody says 'that's the benchmark performance' or 'that's how it's supposed to be played''. But in a lot of classical works, the personality and individuality of the performer lay in the subtleties of the performance, not in urinating on the very things that made the piece wonderful and then hoping that the listener will somehow connect with it. Nigel Kennedy, from a technical standpoint, is a musician to be envied, but I am certainly not one of his defenders. I am a violinist, and I have a life-long love and respect for some of these compositions. When I see these works become so utterly removed from the things that made them great in the first place, I become disappointed and depressed- but not because 'Classic Kennedy' has somehow offended me. Rather, these days it seems that classical record labels, big-shot corporate management, and major symphony orchestras, seem to think that a soloist with a clever gimmick is a cure for a disease effecting a dying genre. But classical music has upheld itself through discipline, conservation, and passion. In a lot of the pieces on this album, Kennedy abandons those values, and unfortunately the result is music that is surprisingly un-musical."
Clearly Kennedy
F. Behrens | 01/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I had only heard Kennedy one other time and knew that this would be good, as it is. I'm not new to classical music and can say that Kennedy's playing is clear and beautiful. I don't know why others have such a hard time with it, but if it's talented and artistic violin music that you're looking for then this is for you..."