Vivaldi, Jimi Hendrix, Traditional

COMPOSERS: Jimi Hendrix,Traditional,Vivaldi
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Kennedy Live
WORKS: Vivaldi: Concerto for two violins in C, RV 507; The Four Seasons; Tribute to Jimi Hendrix; Traditional Celtic Gig
PERFORMER: Nigel Kennedy (violin); Polish Chamber Orch; Monika Raczynska (harpsichord), Taro Takeuchi (lute, guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: 365 9089 (NTSC system; Dolby 5.0;)
Age catches up with even the most fleet-footed of subversive Peter Pans, so it’s kind of reassuring to see Kennedy mellowing a little. The trademark wallowing gait and intense shyness over-compensated for by an at times shambolic stage persona are still there for all to see. Yet the iconoclastic take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons that launched him to superstardom in the late 1980s (with the ECO dressed like the Mafiosi in dark glasses) has transmuted into something altogether more considered and generally less prone to outbursts of string-grating, lacerating bow pressure.

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Whereas before Kennedy appeared hell-bent on rewriting the rule-book regarding tone production, he is now willing once more to indulge a honeyed cantabile, as in the dreamy slow movement of ‘Spring’.

The floated opening section of ‘Summer’ momentarily sounds like a throwback to the luxurious sophistication of mid-1960s I Musici, and throughout all four concertos one is held mesmerised by Kennedy’s ability to reveal the music’s inner soul. Gone is the pretension of ‘never playing dead geezers’ music’ and Kennedy’s former brutish railing against tradition – he says as much in an introductory chat.

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There is a brief reminder of the bad old days in the opening movement of ‘Winter’, in which the desire to produce an ultrapercussive staccato becomes almost caricature. Some listeners may also feel more comfortable than I do with Kennedy’s ‘hang loose’ encore excursion into Jimi Hendrix territory (the audience lap it up, it has to be said). But there’s no denying the man’s charismatic stage presence nor his fantastic ability – when he chooses to indulge it to the full. Exemplary picture quality and sound. Julian Haylock