Scotland's Music: Nicola Benedetti: Homecoming -- A Scottish Fantasy
Folk music and classical music: both traditions go back long into the work and life of Scotland, yet rarely are they heard together. That happened at the opening concert of the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow in 2014, when top classical violinist Nicola Benedetti and top folk musicians including Phil Cunningham, Julie Fowlis, Duncan Chisholm, Aly Bain, and Eamon Doorley shared parts of a project they ahd been working on, a project which has now become Benedetti’s recording Homecoming - A Scottish Fantasy. Homecoming: A Scottish Fantasy [US link]
Though she’s a native Scot, from West Kilbride in Ayrshire, Benedetti’s gift and passion for classical music took her away from the west of Scotland to study in London by the age of ten. Her music training took her in other directions than traditional jigs and reels, too, but Benedetti has always had Scotland in the back of her mind. She’s recorded top albums of classical music from Taverner to Tchaikovsky to Vivaldi as well as an album of film music which made pop as well as classical charts, and played her music with orchestras, in recitals, and in chamber music configurations from India to Hong Kong to South America -- and often back in her native Scotland.
Benedetti always receives a warm welcome when she plays in Scotland, whether she is appearing in concert or following another aspect of her musical passion, sharing her work with younger players as part of the program Sistema Scotland and in other educational settings, including her emerging program of master classes called the Benedetti Sessions
It was time to for her to bring classical and traditional music of her native land together. Drawing on emerging friendships in the traditional music scene in Scotland (“I think the sense of togetherness that traditional musicians have is one things I’ll take away from this, and hope to repeat,” she says) she came up with a program which deftly intertwines the classical (Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, part of which is based on four Scottish folk tunes), well known and loved traditional music of Scotland with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as backing band (the Robert Burns tune My Love is Like a Red Red Rose, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond), and traditional and contemporary folk music including tunes composed by Phil Cunningham (Aberlady, The Gentle Light that Wakes Me), a traditional hornpipe, a set of tunes from Scottish folk icon James Scott Skinner, variations on Auld Lang Syne, and a Gaelic song from the Hebrides with Julie Fowlis as vocalist.
Whatever your taste in music, it’s worth the cost of the disc just to hear these musicians, all at the very top of their game and from very differing points of the musical compass, collaborate on music they all hold as vibrant and important. They bring thoughtful, powerful, and fresh interpretations to the well known and often played pieces and weave them gracefully with the ideas and sounds of those less widely known.
You will feel the mist rising off the water at Loch Lomond in Benedetti’s interpretation, and hear the connections, as well, among the sounds of Gaelic as Julie Fowlis sings it, the classical forms of Bruch compositions, and the melody of another Burns song, Ae Fond Kiss. Homecoming - A Scottish Fantasy is a well done, beautifully thought out and brilliantly played collaboration. If you love Scotland you’ll certainly want it, and if you don’t, Homecoming might just inspire a visit.
“I have a constant yearning for Scotland,” Nicola Benedetti told an interviewer for the Telegraph newspaper. “The music on this album comes from a very deep, emotional place. Recording it was a very moving experience.”
Photograph of Nicola Benedetti at Celtic Connections is by Kerry Dexter, and was made with permission of the festival, the artist, and the venue.
Stay tuned here at Music Road for more on each of the musicians mentioned in this story
You may also wish to see
Julie Fowlis: Every Story
Celtic Connections 2014
Phil Cunningham and Scott-Land at Celtic Connections
Scotland's Highlands in music: Duncan Chisholm
Homecoming: A Scottish Fantasy [US link]