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I met star violinist Nicola Benedetti after she had appeared at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall in July 2012. She played Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending and Ravel's Tzigane. Nicola signed my poster, and Dad took this photo of us together.
Nicola Benedetti was born on 19th July 1987 in the small Scottish town of West Kilbride in Ayrshire. Her Italian father, Giovanni Benedetti, came to Scotland in the early 1950s and became a successful business tycoon, firstly in dry cleaning, and later in the cling-film industry. Her mother Francesca is Scottish. Nicola has an older sister Stephanie (b.1983), and both girls went to the Wellington private school in Ayr. Although neither of her parents were musical, Stephanie was strongly attracted
Wellington School, Ayr
attracted to the violin at Wellington school, showing much talent for the instrument. When Nicola was only four, she went to one of Stephanie's lessons and became hooked immediately, taking lessons which followed the Suzuki Method of learning to play the violin.
Nicola Benedetti aged 8
By the age of nine, Nicola (known to her friends as Nicky) had already passed her 'Grade Eight', was then the leader of the National Children's Orchestra of Scotland, and clearly had the ability to go a long way. In September 1997, aged just 10, she started off along her road to fame whensh
when she beat hundreds of other hopefuls to win a place at the world-famous Yehudi Menuhin School. She moved to the prestigious
prestigious school in Cobham, Surrey where she studied with Natalya Boyarskaya and Lord Menuhin himself. At the end of her first year, when 11 years old, she played solo in the school's annual concert at Wigmore Hall, performed in London and Paris as a soloist in the Bach Double Concerto for two violins and orchestra, and also played at Menuhin's funeral in 1999.
In 2002, Nicola received the Carlton TV's Brilliant Prodigy award from the Duchess of York. Shortly afterwards she decided that she could learn little more at the Menuhin School, and moved to London to study violin privately with Maciej
Maciej Rakowski, a music professor at the Royal College of Music. She settled into a practice routine of up to eight hours a day, and became intent on doing music for the rest of her life, without
without going to college or university.
Nicola Benedetti with her parents in 2002
Brilliant Prodigy Award
In 2004, Nicola won the BBC Young Musician of the Year, a televised national music competition which has been held every two years since1978. In the final, held at Edinburgh's Usher Hall, she played Karol Szymanowski's First Violin Concerto, accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Shewas
She was presented with her award by the competition's patron the Duchess of Kent. Nicola Benedetti became the first Scot to win the competition, and because of this highly-acclaimed
success, she went on to win the music section of the Top Scot Award in December 2005 - no mean feat for a classical music performer!
Young Musician of the Year final (2004)
Young Musician of the Year final (2004)
Three of Nicola Benedetti's recorded albums for Deutsche Grammophon
Winning BBC Young Musician of the Year led to a £1 million contract with Deutsche Grammophon to record six albums
albums which have included the Szymanowski concerto, along with others by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky and Bruch. She has also recorded newly commissioned music by the British composers John Tavener and James Macmillan, worked with jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis on repertoire influenced by jazz and explored authentic performance
Over the past six years, Nicola Benedetti has performed as soloist with all the top British orchestras, especially the Philharmonia, the BBC Scottish, the Royal Scottish National and the Royal Philharmonic. She has performed many times in Europe and America, with some of the world's leading conductors, giving more than 100 concerts each year!
performance of Baroque music (music written between about 1600 until 1750).
Classical BRIT Award
Nicola Benedetti with her
In 2008 Nicola won the Classical BRIT Award for 'Young British Classical Performer'. In 2010, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters degree by Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University, inrecogn
in recognition of her "outstanding contribution to music in Scotland
Nicola Benedetti DLitt
Scotland and internationally".
In 2009, Nicola released her CD called Fantasie featuring violin favourites such as The Lark Ascending
Ascending and Massenet's Meditation. The following year, came her CD of the Tchaikovsky and Bruch violin concertos, withthe
Publicity photograph for Italia
with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Then in 2011, Nicola came Italia, a CD of Italian baroque violin music, recorded in Edinburgh. It includes Summer from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and Tartini's famous
famous (and fiendishly difficult) Devil's Trill sonata.
Nicola became associated with the famous Henry Wood Promenade Concerts when, in 2005, she made her Proms in the Park debut at Hyde Park in London, performing with the BBC Concert Orchestra. In 2009, she appeared at the BBC Promsin
Proms in the Park inGlasgow.
in Glasgow. In April 2010, she launched the Prom season outside the Royal Albert Hall and in August 2010 made her debut Proms appearance that year playing
playing Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending with the BBC Scottish Orchestra and conductor Donald Runnicles.
Nicola at the Proms launch - April 2010
Nicola appeared at three different Henry Wood Promenade concerts in 2012One
2012. One of these was a lunchtime Prom from the Cadogan Hall, where she appeared with pianist Alexei Grynyuk and cellist Leonard Elschenbroich. Another Prom appearance was at the prestigious 'Last Night' when she played Max Bruch's first violin concerto and Shostakovich's 'Romance' from the film The Gadfly. Thisis
Nicola's lunchtime Prom at London's Cadogan Hall
This is one of the pieces
Nicola Benedetti playing The Gadfly at
Last Night of the Proms
pieces that she plays on her best-selling CD The Silver Violin. Other appearances in 2012 have been at the Titanic Centenary Concert in Belfast, and the T in the Park Rock Festival at Balado in Scotland.
Nicola has recently become closely
closely involved in the Big Noise project in Scotland, which helps children from all backgrounds to learn a musical instrument. She has even visited their homes to encourage very young violinists to work hard at their music.
Nicola supporting the Big Noise project
Nicola with the Gariel Strad
During the course of her career, Nicola Benedetti has been fortunate to have had the loan of two Stradivarius violins, both owned
owned by the Bank of America's European president Jonathan Moulds. The first was the Earl Spencer Strad, made in 1712 and valued at £2 million. Then in March 2012, in exchange for agreeing to perform for Moulds and his friends a few times a year,
year, she was offered the loan of the Gariel, a very muchmore
much more valuable Stradavarius, made in 1717, and valued at over £6 million. It is considered to be in the top 30 of the world's finest violins.
Nicola playing the Gariel Strad at the Last Night of the Proms
Already one of our finest and best known violinists, Nicola Benedetti's future appears to be very bright. She is in demand,
Nicola lives in Chiswick, West London with her partner, German 'cellist Leonard Elschenbroich.
demand, not only as a highly sought-after performer for mainstream classical concerts, but also other events where her charismatic presence is a real attraction. Playing at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Ryder Cup and performing at the 2012 Classic BRITs ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall (when she was awarded
signed by Nicola, Alison Balsom & Natalie Clein
My poster for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert,
awarded the prize for 'best female artist'), are just two such events.
Nicola with her 2012 Classic Brit Award
Nicola Benedetti was awarded the MBE in the 2013 New Year's Honours List.