Nicola Benedetti Gives an Oscar Worthy Performance in Santa Ana

Nicola's passionate performance of Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 was dramatic and powerful

Too often we associate "Oscar" performances outside the film industry as overwrought, melodramatic or just plain cheesy. There was none of that with Nicola Benedetti's performance of Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Pacific Symphony last night. From the opening low G spoken with an intense focus, it was obvious Nicola has something to say, and does so eloquently with the violin.

During the first big orchestral interlude, Nicola immersed herself in the music. She physically responded to the jibes and exclamations of the orchestra. This was not a performance about turning on the talent when it's her time to play; this was all about expressing herself through the music. When she takes up the violin, it is with complete commitment, playing her part as an extension of the orchestral cast. Every part of her is involved in the performance. As the phrases rise, it's as if she's trying to get the music to physically climb out of the violin, as if some how she could will it to take flight - and it does! Her long hair occasionally whips about driving the music on. Even her violin seems to just an extension of self, not a separate instrument at all. Regardless of the impending threats of the orchestra, Nicola is determined to overcome them. She is the heroine after all.

However, she isn't overly dramatic. There were no overt gestures to accentuate the music, just expression borne out of the music. Nicola gave a nuanced performance. During the Adagio I felt as if we were in a close up scene, where the camera zooms in to capture just the face. This is the important part of the story where we learn about her dreams, her ambitions and we wonder if she'll make it in the end. There isn't room to be overly expressive, or the story become trite. To capture the emotion of the scene, it's all in the subtle inflections of the voice, the tiny shifts in eyes or the smile. We believe what she's telling us; we're on her side! Nicola captured the emotion of the beautiful 2nd movement with her violin, expressing her zeal for the music and proving herself worthy as the heroine.

Come the third movement, Nicola is having such a good time every face in the house was smiling with her. It's as if she'd had the best day and was telling us all the details. Maybe this is a romantic comedy and she'd just met the man of her dreams, or a rags to riches story where she's just landed her dream job. Regardless of the narrative, we've reach the point where our heroine is finally getting her due. The more Nicola "spoke" the better her day seemed to get. This was a film with a happy ending!

Nicola has commented how important it is for each musician to find their own voice. Nicola has found her voice through the violin. We get to experience a wealth of amazing stories because of it. Thank you, Nicola, for a wonderful, passionate performance.

- There are 2 more performances at the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Santa Ana, CA this week.

Friday February 3
Saturday February 4



DEBUSSY: Petite Suite
BRUCH: Violin Concerto No. 1
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4

Tickets available online or through the box office. There is also a live broadcast of Saturday's performance on Classical KUSC.


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