If the notion persists that Nigel Kennedy is the enfant terrible of classical music – too rebellious or facile to be taken seriously – then perhaps it is time to reconsider his categorization. Kennedy's varied interests certainly take him beyond the boundaries of the typical classical performer, and his performance style may be too flamboyant to suit some listeners' tastes. But East Meets East is far from shocking, if understood as an exploration of Eastern European music, presented in a fusion of popular styles without pandering to the classical audience with crossover concessions. Fans of world music and open-minded listeners of any stripe may find something to appreciate here. Appearing with the Polish folk band Kroke and surrounded by several guest artists of international reputation, Kennedy shows that his involvement with this ethnic music is honest, if not always inspired.
This DVD contains pieces of two polish romantic composers, Mieczyslaw Karlowicz and Emil Mlynarski, performed by Nigel Kennedy accompanied by the Polish Chamber Orchestra, recorded live during various concerts in Poland.
While Nigel Kennedy is one of the leading violinists of his generation, he is also among the most controversial of musicians before the public, owing to his flashy persona, unconventional interpretations, and his seemingly innate sense to capture attention. Kennedy's rock-star-like appearance in concert (glittering jewelry, spiky hair, etc.) and his controversial politics (he has boycotted Israel, comparing that nation with South Africa) have often drawn sharp criticism.
Classics is proud to announce the release The Very Best of Nigel Kennedy. This 2-CD set celebrates the multiple facets of the award-winning, multi-million record selling violinist, featuring works from his twin passions, classical and jazz.
Nigel Kennedy might be known for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons but the violinist has his rock side and is no stranger to either Jimi Hendrix or The Doors. Earlier in the evening, Kennedy had performed Elgar’s Violin Concerto but for the later part of the show, for a moment there, one would have thought it was Pat Metheny and his Synclavier, for that was how Kennedy came across. Unlike the earlier classical portion, here Kennedy weaved between jazz, folk and rock. The highlight and surprise for the audience was when Kennedy brought Jeff Beck on stage. Allaboutjazz.com reported: “Nigel was particularly keen for me to do the Hills of Saturn solo,” said Beck, who played the track on his Fender Stratocaster electric guitar. John Fordham wrote in The Guardian: “As an improviser, Kennedy has an originality of spontaneous line and rhythmic attack that most classical players lack in this context, and several of the pieces worked up a fierce, guitar-mimicking, Hendrix-like momentum… A romantic ballad dedicated to 1960s folkie Donovan was sublime, and so was the darkly elegiac Hills of Saturn - the latter richly harmonised with Tomasz Grzegorski’s tenor sax and Adam Kowalewski’s bass. Surprise guest Jeff Beck conjured an astonishing panpipe-like sound from his guitar.”
Review by James Leonard After restoring his first name, Nigel Kennedy (aka, the artist formerly known as Kennedy), released a series of recordings on EMI as virtuosic and eccentric as himself: East Meets East, Inner Thoughts, The Vivaldi Album, and the Blue Note Sessions. But despite the enormous musical diversity of those records, little could have prepared one for the album that followed: Polish Spirit, featuring violin concertos by Emil Mlynarski and Mieczyslaw Karlowicz and arrangements of Chopin's 2 Nocturnes, Op. 9. This music is virtually unknown outside of Poland: Karlowicz's Violin Concerto had been recorded only three times in the digital era, nothing by Mlynarski was in print at the time of this release, and none of Kresimir Debski's Chopin transcriptions had heretofore been recorded. But as Kennedy so abundantly demonstrates, each work here deserves to be better known. Both Mlynarski and Karlowicz's concertos are big, late Romantic works with song-like openings, penetrating central Andantes, and spirited closing Vivaces, and Kennedy plays them with his characteristic blend of panache and intensity. With the plush-toned Polish Chamber Orchestra and the strong-willed Kaspszyk, Kennedy turns in performances that make the best possible case for the music. What more could anyone reasonably ask for? Recorded in the Filharmonia Pomorska in Bydgoszcz, Poland, EMI's digital sound is colorful and full.
…Technically Kennedy's playing as represented on this disc is beyond reproach—anyone who can play the finales flying thirds and sixths with such dash and precision plainly knows how to get what he wants out of the instrument. The performance is, as you would expect, highly idiosyncratic, though fortunately there's nothing to match the controversial stylistic excursions of his Four Seasons… Kennedy seems inclined to treat the [first] movement as a kind of colossal accompanied cadenza…