Nicola Benedetti Plays Concertos for Christmas

Birmingham Town Hall

***

MAYBE I have unrealistic expectations but when a concert is billed as Nicola Benedetti Plays Concertos I would expect the soloist to be on stage for more than 50 minutes.

 As it is, this concert was a mix of Benedetti, cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and the European Union Chamber Orchestra.

 And while few soloists will hog the stage completely, it was rather frustrating to see so little of Benedetti – particularly when she is such a talented musician.

 Performing alongside the chamber orchestra, Benedetti began this afternoon concert with a lively rendition of Corelli's Concerto Grosso in G minor.

 She then gave the floor to Elschenbroich for an intensely fluid and lyrical performance of Vivaldi's Cello Concerto in G minor.

 Arguably lesser known is Manfredini's Concerto Grosso in C major which saw the chamber orchestra take centre stage before the two soloists returned for a majestic Vivaldi Concerto for violin and cello in F major.

 While the choice of programme was not solely festive, there was a heavy accent on Pastorales, placing the Bethlehem shepherds firmly into the classical oeuvre. And so the second part of the concert was begun by the chamber orchestra performing Handel's short but tightly packed Pastoral from Messiah and then Torelli's Concerto Grosso in G minor.

 Benedetti then returned to round off the afternoon with two of Vivaldi's Four Seasons – Autumn and Winter. Her understanding and production of the pieces was impressive – you couldn't help but wish she had time to add in Spring and Summer.

 She bowed to the audience's wishes for a short encore but returned to the Vivaldi, repeating an excerpt from Winter already played. Fair enough it was lovely but it was also a missed opportunity to dazzle the audience with a different piece of music.

 Benedetti, whose latest album The Silver Violin has been a chart topper, is without doubt a performer of great talent, style and flair – I would just have liked to see more of that talent.

Diane Parkes 

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