Italian-Scots violinist Nicola Benedetti followed in a long line of British Isles teenagers hailed as revitalizers of classical music. In advance of making any recordings whatsoever, she was signed to a six-album contract by the Universal label in January 2005 and assigned to its prestigious Deutsche Grammophon imprint, with a paycheck reportedly in excess of one million pounds (over $1,880,000). Benedetti diverged from predecessors like Vanessa-Mae and singer Charlotte Church, however, in that she stuck to traditional classical repertory and did not try to cross over into the pop world.
Born in 1987 in West Kilbride, Ayrshire, Scotland, Benedetti was the daughter of a prosperous Italian-born manufacturer of plastic cases for first-aid kits. When she was four, she tagged along with her eight-year-old sister Stephanie to a violin lesson and then took up the instrument herself; the two sisters remained close confidantes, and Stephanie has been active as an orchestral musician. Nicola attended the Yehudi Menuhin School in England's Surrey region, an institution whose music programs have recently produced Nigel Kennedy and other top-flight players. She gave performances at several top British concert halls, later moving to London to study with violinist Maciej Rakowski. When Benedetti was 14, she won a Prodigy of the Year contest on England's Carlton Television network. A hint of her potential crossover appeal came when she drew a crowd of 10,000 at the rock-oriented Glastonbury Festival's "classical extravaganza" in the summer of 2003. She told London's Independent newspaper, however, that "I have not ruled out different types of music but I was trained as a classical musician. I don't want to compromise what I do and what I love." At another stratum of British journalism, she told the Mirror that "I'm not really into clubbing and I've never smoked or drunk much -- and I won't wear anything tarty."
Benedetti took a big step toward mainstream classical stardom when she won the BBC's Young Musician of the Year award in May 2004, performing Szymanowski's virtuoso concerto and becoming the first Scot to take home the BBC prize. Over that summer she was featured on the cover of BBC Music, and she appeared with the Scottish Symphony and other top groups. With money and publicity coming her way, she was in a position to make the most of her talents. The Times of London forecast a promising future for the youngster, noting that "her poised handling of the whirlwind of fame and honeyed blandishments that came her way last year suggests that her youthful passion in performance is balanced offstage by a healthy streak of that quintessential Scottish trait -- prudence." This led her to eventually slow down her performance schedule so that she could further her musical studies and her technique, confident that she would be a better overall musician for it, and determined to play what she loves. By the following decade, Benedetti’s schedule was as full as ever, taking in a 2010 debut at the BBC Proms; chamber music recitals with her trio (Leonard Elschenbroich, cello; Alexei Grynyuk, piano) at European festivals; chamber and concerto performances in North America and Europe in 2011; a 2011 release on Decca (Italia); and visits to schools in the United Kingdom to encourage new talent.
Released to coincide with a trio of performances at the 2012 BBC Proms, The Silver Violin -- a collection of music made famous by the world of cinema -- consolidated Benedetti’s position as one of the most popular British violinists of her generation. ~ James Manheim