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Nigel Kennedy performs two NZ concerts

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Nigel Kennedy performs two NZ concerts

Nigel Kennedy, Britain’s greatest living violinist, visits New Zealand in December to perform two concerts on Monday 15 December in Wellington, and Tuesday 16 December in Auckland.

For the first time since his worldwide multi-platinum success with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons more than a decade ago (becoming the highest selling classical disc of all time), Nigel Kennedy returns to Vivaldi to perform his new interpretation of the Four Seasons as well as the haunting Concerto in A minor for Two Violins and the late and rarely heard Double Concerto in D.

The concerts, which are sponsored by Mazda in association with the Lion Foundation and EMI, feature Nigel Kennedy accompanied by members of the Auckland Philharmonia, with guest artists Cora Venus Lunny (2nd Violin Soloist), Taro Takeuchi (Baroque Guitar and Lute) and Bogumila Gizbert-Studnicka (Harpsichord).

From “shattering intensity”, “bold and exhilarating” to “a violinist in a million”… critics have always been extravagant in the language they use to describe the effect the playing of virtuoso violinist Nigel Kennedy has on audiences. In the classical field, he has produced best-selling versions of concertos by Elgar, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, and his 1989 recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons stimulated the entire British classical market by over 25%. His concerts throughout the world are always sell-outs, and his countless awards and gold discs confirm his status as one of the most important and influential musicians Britain has ever produced.

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There have always been two strands, however, to Nigel Kennedy’s playing, personified by his two most important mentors – Yehudi Menuhin (who personally paid the young violinist’s fees throughout his education at the Menuhin School); and Stéphane Grappelli, the legendary French jazz violinist who gifted him with a unique breadth of musical appreciation that he later matured in New York’s Jazz clubs while refining his classical skills at Juilliard under Dorothy DeLay.

Alongside his classical career, Nigel Kennedy has always maintained a keen interest in jazz and popular music, embarking on such ventures as arranging Duke Ellington's Black, Brown and Beige Suite, producing an album inspired by the music of Jimi Hendrix, and releasing a concert based on the work of The Doors. However, unlike other cross-over acts, all Nigel Kennedy’s record-breaking sales and concert achievements have been acquired while performing unabridged classical concertos.


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No one understands more than NIGEL KENNEDY the touch, power and impact of Vivaldi’s music – experience him performing it live in concert with members of the Auckland Philharmonia:

Monday 15 December – 7.30pm, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
Tuesday 16 December – 7.30pm, Aotea Centre, Auckland

Tickets $38-$125. Book at Ticketek, phone 307 5000.

To coincide with the New Zealand concerts, EMI has released a new Nigel Kennedy recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with members of the Berlin Philharmonic. It is a remarkable document, a more mature reading of this widely popular piece with crisp production and a harsher sound more akin to the original baroque setting of this repertoire. Those who have the original disc will be fascinated to hear his new approach; those new to Kennedy will appreciate its ever-present musicality, excitement and intensity.

Nigel Kennedy, in concert with members of the Auckland Philharmonia, is sponsored by Mazda in association with the Lion Foundation and EMI.
The Auckland Philharmonia receives major funding from Creative NZ and a major grant from Auckland City.



For the past 25 years, Nigel Kennedy has been acknowledged as one of the world’s leading violin virtuosos and is, without doubt, one of the most important violinists Britain has ever produced. His virtuosic technique, unique talent and popular appeal have brought fresh perspectives to both the classical and contemporary repertoire.

As a child, Kennedy was Yehudi Menuhin’s most famous protégé, studying first at the Menuhin School – following Lord Menuhin’s death, it emerged that the legendary violinist had personally paid the young Kennedy’s fees throughout his education at the school – before moving to The Juilliard School of Music in New York to study under the celebrated teacher, Dorothy DeLay.

During his career, Kennedy has undertaken major tours throughout Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States, performing with the world’s leading orchestras and conductors, and has made appearances at the most important festivals in Europe and the US. Major débuts have included his 1977 London Royal Festival Hall performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the Philharmonia under Riccardo Muti; his début with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1980; and his New York orchestral début in 1987.

Kennedy has attracted an enormous amount of UK and international media attention throughout his extraordinary career. His television appearances have been wide and varied; his interpretations of both Bruch’s Violin Concerto and the Vivaldi Four Seasons were the feature of television specials and he has been the subject of ITV’s This is your Life. He has given two Royal Command Performances in the UK – at Birmingham’s NEC for the Prince’s Trust, and at the London Palladium for the Royal Variety Performance before Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.

A major EMI artist since the start of his career, Kennedy’s multi award winning discography is extensive. He has made two highly acclaimed recordings of Elgar’s Violin Concerto; the first, with the London Philharmonic and Vernon Handley, achieved gold disc status, was voted 1985 Record of the Year by Gramophone magazine and was awarded Best Classical Album of the Year at the BPI Awards, selling in excess of 300,000 copies. His recordings of the Brahms and Beethoven Violin Concertos have each sold over 100,000 copies and Kennedy’s landmark recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the best selling classical work of all time. Over two million copies have been sold and the album remained top of the UK classical charts for an amazing six months.

Other major recordings include the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the London Philharmonic; the Bartók Solo Sonata together with Mainly Black, Kennedy’s own arrangement of Ellington’s Black Brown and Beige Suite; the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle; Walton’s Violin Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and André Previn; and the Bruch and Mendelssohn Concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jeffrey Tate. EMI has also released an acclaimed disc of Kennedy’s own compositions, Kafka. Kennedy’s recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto with the London Philharmonic, under the direction of Klaus Tennstedt, was released in March 1991, and in June 1992 Kennedy joined forces with the NDR-Sinfonieorchester and Klaus Tennstedt to record the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Also in Kennedy’s catalogue are chamber works by Debussy and Ravel, and Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Kennedy launched Always Playing, a popular book about part of his life – the violinist is loathe to call it a biography – at the Edinburgh Book Fair in August 1991. It was published in paperback the following year.

In 1992, Kennedy took the controversial and highly publicised decision to withdraw completely from public performance. During this period EMI issued A Portrait of Nigel Kennedy.

Following a five year sabbatical, in April 1997 Kennedy made a triumphant return to the international concert platform. Even though the performance took place during the run-up to the British general election, news of Kennedy’s reappearance occupied the front pages of national newspapers. The Times critic declared, "Only one British violinist in my lifetime has produced anything as bold and exhilarating as that. It is his playing, though, that most reveals Kennedy’s new maturity. No other violinist on earth could manage the astonishing stylistic transition presented." The Daily Telegraph stated, "Here was a reminder that Kennedy is a violinist in a million."

Since then, Kennedy has been in constant demand on the international circuit, touring major venues in countries throughout the world, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. In 1998 he made a highly acclaimed North American tour, his first for over five years and, since then, he has returned to the US many times.

On his return to the studio, Kennedy re-recorded the Elgar Violin Concerto, alongside Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, with Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The Daily Telegraph reviewer commented, "The unaccompanied cadenza in the finale has a greater spine-tingling eeriness than I have ever experienced before and the closing bars unleash a quite shattering intensity." In 1998 Kennedy devoted a recital disc to the works of the great violinist and composer, Fritz Kreisler. He has also produced and released The Kennedy Experience, works based on and inspired by the music of the legendary Jimi Hendrix. In 1999 Kennedy joined forces with one of the world’s leading cellists, Lynn Harrell, to produce a critically acclaimed disc of chamber works by Bach, Ravel and Kodaly; later that year EMI released Classic Kennedy, a collection of short pieces with the English Chamber Orchestra, which shot straight to No.1 in the UK classical charts. The following year Kennedy released a concerto based on the work of rock band, The Doors.

2000 saw the release of Kennedy’s first recording of works by Bach, a programme featuring four of the composer’s best known works: the Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, the Concerto for Oboe and Violin in D Minor and the A Minor and E Major Violin Concertos. Directed by the violinist himself, it also represents the first recording collaboration between Kennedy and one of the world’s oldest and most revered orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic. During the 2000/2001 season, Kennedy gave major international concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic.

In 2000 Kennedy was presented with an award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music at the UK Brit Awards, which took place at London’s Royal Albert Hall; the following year the same body awarded Kennedy the coveted Male Artist of the Year – the violinist headlined the televised awards ceremony with a performance of Bach with the Berlin Philharmonic and stunned the audience with an exhilarating interpretation of the Monte Czardas with Kroke, a trio of Polish musicians based in Krakow.

2002 engagements included further concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic performing Vivaldi Concertos, and concerts with Kroke. 2002 also marked the 25th anniversary of Kennedy’s London début – a number of celebratory performances marked the occasion including a Greatest Hits tour with the Polish Chamber Orchestra in the autumn; also to celebrate his 25th anniversary EMI released Kennedy’s Greatest Hits. In September 2002 Kennedy was appointed Artist Director of the Polish Chamber Orchestra, a role Kennedy’s teacher and mentor, the late Lord Menuhin, once held.

EMI releases for 2003 include an album of works influenced by Klezmer, Arabic and Gypsy music, with the trio, Kroke, and Kennedy’s eagerly anticipated re-recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Kennedy is passionate about football and has long been a devotee of Aston Villa, attending as many matches as his schedule allows. He recently married his long-time partner, Agnieska; he has one son, Sark, and divides his time between homes in Krakow, London and Malvern.

Nigel Kennedy’s Violins

"The Cathedrale", the Stradivarius Nigel used to play, was not his, but fortunately, by the time he really wanted a violin of his own, somewhere in the States another violin popped up…

"The American fiddle proved to be a Guarneri. These violins are not as much publicised, but even more exciting. Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu was a contemporary of Stradivari and created his beautiful pieces in Cremona, Italy. The choice between these two distinguished maker is a matter of personal taste but most of the players I admire have found it necessary to move on to a Guarneri: Heifetz, Stern, Kreisler and Zukermann all belong to the Guarneri club. This particular example, the Lafont, was called after its first owner in 1736 and was considered good enough to take on Paganini in a playing contest, which Lafont lost but which caused Paganini to claim that the Lafont’s sound quality was superior to his own. In 1880 it came into the hands of Adolf Brodsky, and has the distinction of being used by Brodsky on 4 December 1881 to premiere Tchaikovsky’s great violin concerto. This particular violin was apparantly fabulous and, somehow, pressure was brought to bear and it was flown to my Oslo concert in 1990. It was everything they had said and more - the tone qualities were astonishing and it sounded far more sophisticated. It was even a slimmer instrument than the Strad, and felt more comfortable. The trouble was that it was even more than the Strad! Grief on grief: having heard just how much better the Guarneri sounded, the Cathedrale was never going to feel more than second best.

In a fast-moving chain of events literally unimaginable a year before, I bought the Strad and immediately traded it towards the Guarneri. It was a supreme moment for me: since I was five years old I had been playing violin, I had struggled and achieved most of the conventional highpoints, and yet it took until that moment to be able to curl my fingers around the neck of a top-quality fiddle and call it mine."

(From Always Playing, a book about part of Nigel Kennedy’s life)

The story of the Lafont Guarneri “del Gesu”
Joseph Guarneri, known as “del Gesu” to distinguish him from his father, also called Joseph, made the violin in 1736. The early history of the instrument is unknown, but it came into the possession of the great French violinist Charles Philippe Lafont, whose name it carries, some time during the early 19th century. Lafont died in 1830, so he would have owned it when both Beethoven and Schubert were alive.

It subsequently passed to a Paris violin repairer and maker called Thibout and was sold to a London-based dealer called Davis. He sold it to a well-known collector called James Goding, a brewer by trade, who died in 1857 and whose collection was auctioned by Christie’s.

The violin returned to France as it was acquired by the most famous French violin restorer-maker of the 19th century, namely J.B. Vuillaume. The original certificate, dated 29 November 1857, still exists. In it he states that he has sold the violin to Jean de Kousminski, a Russian amateur violinist from Kiev. The Vuillaume certificate is interesting because it refers back to Lafont, saying that this violin was his favourite and the one that he habitually used for public performances.

Kousminski kept the violin for many years and eventually sold it to Adolf Brodsky in 1880-81. This great Russian violinist gave the first performance of the Tchaikovsky Concerto, almost certainly on the Lafont Guarneri, on 4 December 1881 in Vienna under the baton of Hans Richter.

Brodsky subsequently settled in England and was doubly famous as the founder of the Brodsky Quartet and as the leader and occasional conductor of the Hallé Orchestra.

After Brodsky’s death, the violin passed out of sight until 1991 when, in the quest for a suitable replacement for Nigel’s “Cathedrale Strad”, it was discovered for sale with the Chicago firm of Bein and Fushi. The rest is history, as they say. Nigel played the violin for the first time in Oslo, and it was love at first sight.

The violin is in excellent condition with glorious golden yellow varnish. The pine of the upper table (top) has two very distinctive parallel sap marks running the full length of the instrument. There are several other great Guarneris that were made of the same tree. The back is a two-piece one of maple with a broad strong grain. Altogether it is a great looking and sounding instrument.


Vivaldi – Nigel Kennedy and members of the Berliner Philharmoniker
Released: October 2003
EMI 5576472 Compact Disc

East Meets East – Nigel Kennedy and the Kroke Band
Released: June 10th 2003
EMI 5575112 Compact Disc

Greatest Hits
Released: 2002
2 Compact Disc – EMI – 5573992
1 Compact Disc – EMI – 5573302

Nigel Kennedy
Johann Sebastian Bach
Released: 2000
EMI 5570162
Nigel Kennedy, Violin
Daniel Strabrawa, Violin
Albrecht Mayer, Oboe
Berliner Philharmoniker

Greatest Hits
Released: 2000
Composer: The Doors
Arrangement : Jaz Coleman
Conductor: Peter Scholes
Orchestra: Prague Symphony Orchestra
Label: Decca 4673502

Duos For Violin & Cello
Released: 2000
Ravel / Handel / Bach / Kodály
Nigel Kennedy ,Violin
Lynn Harrell, Cello

Classic Kennedy
Released: 1999
English Chamber Orchestra
EMI CDC5568902

The Kennedy Experience
Inspired by the music of Jimi Hendrix
Released: 1999
Kennedy – Violin
Emma Black – Cello
Doug Boyle - Guitar and Dobro
John Etheridge – Guitar
Dave Heath – Flute
Rory McFarloane – Bass
Kate St. John – Oboe
Gerri Sutyak – Cello
Produced by Nigel Kennedy 1999

Released: 1998

Edward Elgar – Violin Concerto in B minor Op. 61
Ralph Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending
Released: 1997
Sir Simon Rattle – City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Released: 1996
Produced by Nigel Kennedy & David Bottrill

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Tchaikovsky – Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op.33
Released: 1993
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Okko Kamu
Northern Symphony Orchestra – Yan Pascal Tortelier

Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto
J.S. Bach: Preludio from Partita No. 3
J.S. Bach: Allegro Assai from Sonata No. 3
Released: 1992
Klaus Tennstedt - Sinfonie-Orchester des NDR

Sibelius: Violinkonzert
Tchaikovsky: Violinkonzert
Released: 1992
(Sibelius) City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle
(Tchaikovsky) London Philharmonic Orchestra, Okko Kamu

Johannes Brahms – Violin Concerto in D Op. 77
Released: 1991
Klaus Tennstedt – The London Philharmonic

Antonio Vivaldi – The Four Seasons
Released: 1989
Nigel Kennedy – English Chamber Orchestra

Sibelius Violin Concerto / Symphony No. 5
Released: 1988
Simon Rattle – City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Bruch: Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor. Op. 26
Schubert: Rondo in A for violin and strings
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64
Released: 1988
English Chamber Orchestra
Conducted by Jeffrey Tate

Let Loose
Released: 1987
Co-produced by Nigel Kennedy and Nick Robbins; Engineered by Nick Robbins
Drum programmes by Dave Heath
All arrangements by Nigel Kennedy and Dave Heath except “Drive” arranged by Dominic Miller and Nigel Kennedy

William Walton Viola Concerto / Violin Concerto
Released: 1987
André Previn – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Bartók: Sonata for Solo Violin
Duke Ellington: Mainly Black
Released: 1986
Alec Dankworth, double bass

Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Chausson – Poème for Violin and Orchestra
Released: 1986
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by Okko Kamu

Elgar Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61
Released: 1984
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by Vernon Handley

Salut d’Amour and other Elgar Favourites
Released: 1984
Peter Pettinger, Piano
Steven Isserlis, Cello

Nigel Kennedy Plays Jazz
Released: 1984
Peter Pettinger, Piano

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