I originally wrote this review of Nigel Kennedy shortly after attending his concert in September 2012. It had been intended to be published on an art blog that I contribute too, but after a year of waiting, I’ve decided to publish it here on my blog instead.
On the very back row, of the very highest tier at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, I watched as, without fuss or brashness, fou men walk on to the stage to rapturous applause. The applause was not entirely for the three men in black suits, but mostly for the one that led them on stage, clad in the shirt of his beloved Aston Villa football club; one Mr Nigel Kennedy.
Introducing the black-suited men, a trio of Polish musicians, Kennedy promptly led them in the night’s performance. The first half was dedicated to the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, the German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist of the Baroque Period. Kennedy was obviously fond of the music he has probably played hundreds of times; visibly moved by each note, as if he were hearing it anew, letting the music wash over him as he stood still, center stage.
Following the interval, however, Kennedy switched gears, from classical to jazz, playing his own arrangements of Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller pieces, an American jazz pianist of the 1920s and 30s. Contradictory musical genres maybe, but it had Nigel Kennedy written all over it; combining his passions for both of these two genres with his enormous energy and captivating performance skills. This part of the show seemed more relaxed and easy-going than the first half did with Kennedy and his Polish trio stamping their feet and occasionally cheering with joy.
Kennedy also played a few of his own original pieces in this section of the performance, naming one composition, “Aston Villa Rule Forever”, obviously very excited to be in Birmingham the home of his favourite football club, even though he is actually Brighton born.
From our seats we could make out Kennedy’s hands moving quickly and tentatively on his violin, but unfortunately could not make out the exaggerated facial expressions, a characteristic that most violinists seem to have. It didn’t matter though; we were after all, there for the music.
These musical pieces were littered with anecdotes and jokes shared with the audience – a not quite sold-out crowd consisting of the young and the old, showing that Kennedy transcends the ages, and appeals to a wide audience. He shuns that kind of stuffy image that some classical musicians can have, bringing legends like Bach to a wider audience with his laid back demeanour and style.
I should apologise for not going into much detail about the pieces that Kennedy played, but I am one of those younger audience members who doesn’t know too much about crescendos and movements and the like. I couldn’t even spot the unusual change of notes that apparently make listening to Bach a bit of a challenge. But even with my lack of musical knowledge, seeing Nigel Kennedy perform live was very enjoyable and definitely recommended.