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Laurie Niles

Violinist.com interview with Nicola Benedetti: The Silver Violin

February 18, 2013 at 7:42 AM

Sometimes music from a film is what makes a person fall in love with violin music -- and Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti is all about making people fall in love with violin music.

Her newest recording, released this week in the United States, is called The Silver Violin, and it features "music that was either written for, or used in, film, and everything had to be originally featuring the violin," she said. It also includes the sunny and appealing Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35, by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who was primarily a composer of film music in the early 20th century.

Nicola Benedetti
© Decca/ Simon Fowler

"Film is often people's only exposure to purely instrumental music; almost all forms of popular music today involve voice and words," Nicola says in "The Silver Violin" liner notes. "As a 21st-century classical musician, I am trying to discover where classical music fits into people's lives and how best to expose them to it. Making the connection through film seemed an obvious and effective link, and when I began researching, I soon found it musically fascinating."

In fact, she's turned up some gems by composers who are well-respected in the classical world, such as Shostakovich and Mahler, and mixed them with works by some of the most-respected film composers who are working today, including Academy Award winners John Williams and Dario Marianelli.

I spoke with Nicola over the phone several weeks ago about her film music concept, which comes after recent albums Italia (2012), which featured Baroque music, and a recording of the Bruch and Tchaikovsky (2011). She is 25 now, and still playing the 1717 Gariel Stradivarius, on loan from Jonathan Moulds.

The movie idea "all originated from the idea to record the Korngold concerto," Nicola said. "I wanted to record that for a long time. There's a physicality about it that I enjoy so much, and I think it's a great piece, an unusual piece, and a piece that can have the potential for a certain level of relevance to people who are not seasoned classical music listeners."

"I just thought this was an opportunity to really go to town with a concept," Nicola said, "and it's a concept that focuses on the medium of film. I set about trying to come up with a sound world, with a criteria that was specific enough to give a true connection to all the pieces we would choose."

So far, her idea of reaching out to a wider audience seems to have worked: Though it is just being released this week in the United States, "The Silver Violin" was the United Kingdom's best-selling classical album of 2012 and was named iTunes Best Classical Album of the Year for 2012.

"For an album that has probably 15 minutes of Shostakovich, 12 minutes of Mahler, 40 minutes of Korngold -- your average person would not know of those names, or of those composers," Nicola said. "For that much substantial music to be bought into by such a wide crowd in the UK is definitely a big success, in my book!"

One of the more modern pieces on the album is the "Concertino" by Howard Shore, from the movie "Eastern Promises."

"That one was very easy to choose, because I was actually asked to do the soundtrack for this film!" Nicola said. "Many people have commented on that particular score -- from the most high-brow classical music buffs to just my friends and cousins. It just has such an identity to it. It really evokes something that sticks with people, that grows on people."

In March, Nicola will start her Silver Violin tour, which will take her to nine cities across her native Scotland, and to Indianapolis, Montreal and London.

While she hopes that film music will attract new listeners to the genre, film music also has the potential to appeal to the violinist as well. Well-made film music can round out a recital, and it can also serve as a motivational piece for a student. As Nicola said, when it comes to inspiring a student, sometimes having an interesting piece with modern relevance "can make all the difference in the world -- it can literally be the difference between someone continuing or stopping."

With this in mind, I imagined a book of sheet music, with Nicola's black-and-white, movie-starlet style picture on the front, and with the violin film music from her "Silver Violin" album inside. Alas, this does not yet exist! So I've created a kind of online version for you: a list of the works Nicola recorded, and where you can buy and/or download them on the Internet. Here you go, and have fun!

John Williams: Main Theme (From: Schindler’s List, 1993)
SheetMusicPlus: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Schindler-s-List/5211822
Amy Barlowe arranged a violin duet + piano version:

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Tanzlied Des Pierrots (From: Die tote Stadt, 1920 opera; first filmed in 1983)
Sheet Music Plus: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Tanzlied-des-Pierrot-from-Die-tote-Stadt-Op-12/5962832

Carlos Gardel (arr. John Lenehan): Tango, Por Una Cabeza (From Scent of a Woman, 1992)
From Sheet Music Plus (not the same arrangement): http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Tango-Por-Una-Cabeza/19002437

Dmitri Shostakovich: "Romance" (From: The Gadfly, 1956)
Sheet Music Plus: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Romance-Op-97a-No-8/5862892
Shar Music: http://www.sharmusic.com/Shop-Shar/Sheet-Music/Cello/Cello-Piano/Shostakovich-Dmitri---Romance-from-the-Suite-The-Gadfly---Cello-and-Piano---arranged-by-Sue-Otty---SJ-Music-Edition.axd

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Violin Concerto, 1945
Shar Music: http://www.sharmusic.com/Shop-Shar/Sheet-Music/Chamber-More/Chamber-Music/Korngold-Erich-Wolfgang---Concerto-in-D-Major-Op-35---Violin-and-Piano---Schott-Edition.axd

Nigel Hess: Theme (From: Ladies In Lavender, 2004)
Shar Music: http://www.sharmusic.com/Shop-Shar/Sheet-Music/Violin/Violin-Piano/Hess-Nigel---Theme-from-Ladies-in-Lavender---Violin-and-Piano---Faber-Music.axd

Dmitri Shostakovich: Andante (From: The Counterplan, 1932)
I looked and looked! Anyone?

Dario Marianelli: My Edward & I (From: Jane Eyre, 2011
This is from the same composer who won an Oscar for the music in the movie "Atonement" and also scored "Pride and Prejudice," "Anna Karenina" and more. Unfortunately, I could not find a place to buy sheet music from "Jane Eyre"!

Howard Shore: Concertino (From: Eastern Promises, 2007)
Piano Version: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Theme-from-Eastern-Promises/19562413#
As a PianoFiles trade: http://www.pianofiles.com/search/music/sheets/eastern+promises+concertino
Rent it from Schott: http://www.schott-music.com/shop/hire_material/1000336/show,235162.html?showOldPerformances=true

Gustav Mahler: Piano Quartet in A minor (From: Stutter Island, 2010)
From Shar Music: http://www.sharmusic.com/Shop-Shar/Sheet-Music/Chamber-More/Chamber-Music/Mahler-Gustav---Piano-Quartet-1876---Violin-Viola-Cello-and-Piano---Edition-Sikorski.axd
From Sheet Music Plus:http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Piano-Quartet/5525139
The IMSLP states this music is not public domain in the U.S.

Dmitri Shostakovich: Five Pieces for Two Violins– I. Prelude (From: The Gadfly, 1956)
From Sheet Music Plus: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Five-Pieces-For-2-Violins-And-Piano/5862880

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Marietta’s Lied (From: Die tote Stadt, 1920 opera; first filmed in 1983)
From Sheet Music Plus: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Marietta-s-Lied-from-Die-Tote-Stadt-Op-12/5867803

Nicola Benedetti speaks about film music, and plays:

From Paul Deck
Posted on February 18, 2013 at 4:54 PM
Will this just be a CD or will there be a DVD? All those close-ups would be valuable examples of hand position, vibrato, etc.
From Rocky Milankov
Posted on February 19, 2013 at 12:46 AM
Nicola is one of the best and most promising young violinists.
If you have not had a chance to listen to her CD "Italia", please do so. Especially if you are interested in HIP. She is a natural singer, her violin speaks and sings as human voice. I had to check twice to make sure she did not use pure gut strings, only a baroque bow borrowed from Rachel Podger. Her interpretation of Baroque masters is a huge surprise, because she apparently had never studied the era before.
Her CD Silver violin is also great. One of the rare young artists that is not afraid to show her personality and unique interpretative skills.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on February 19, 2013 at 6:18 PM
Ooh, loved hearing about this CD! I've always been drawn to quality movie soundtrack music, particularly violin and/or lush orchestral. (One of the reasons I was so drawn to Korngold.)

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