Vivaldi in Bulk
Nigel Kennedy brought his Polish chamber orchestra for a short tour in November. Reports from the concert in Birmingham spoke of gross unpunctuality, faulty intonation, low jinks, the audience complaining. However the act was throughly cleaned up by the time they reached the Royal Bertie Hall on November 3. There was no reason not to confirm that our Neidge is without doubt the finest violinist playing today, virtuosity, articulation, tone, musicality – he has it all.
But was it wise to play eight concertos by Vivaldi? Surely it is only the supergreats that can survive played in bulk? True, he interposed two of Bartok’s Forty-four Duets for two violins and a sultry moody song of Duke Ellington but even so .... We also had Kennedy the entertain with us. Neidge really can communicate with his off-and-on-the cuff sagacious cracks. Not sure about the shouting, stamping and incressant kissing – can we have too much of that?
His new outfit is called The Orchestra of Life, Brits at the top and bottom, leader Lizzie Hall, double-bass Kai West, and the rest Polish, a prepondererance of gorgeous gals handpicked for beauty and talent, plus plucked continuo. And the orchestra plays, and is directed by Neidge, as if its very life depended on it; this is how music-making ought to be all the time. Two other violin soloists played superbly and deserve to be mentioned: Sonja Schebek and Alicja Smietana, golden blondes, golden tones.
But the whole thing went on too long; three hours of Vivaldi, violinist perfection, spicy interludes and Kennedy the cheeky chappy, the ragamuffin, still punching the air touching fists and behaving like some Pinocchio of the sixties. When I left Neidge and the band were still knocking out encores. I suppose we were lucky he didn’t play the other 592 Concertos of Vivaldi.