Always read the small print! I didn't read the liner notes, or a review for Nigel Kennedy's new album before playing it on Music in the Afternoon today. I had listened to a few minutes from each movement, but without listening to the whole piece, I missed quite a surprise at the end of each track!
The surprise came in the cadenzas, the free solo passages found at the end of concerto movements. Often, soloists play a cadenza written by the composer or a famous performer. Some performers write their own, often in the style of the composer.
Nigel Kennedy has written his own cadenzas, and they head far away from Mozart’s style.
Here's two short samples
I often like when performers try something new. I've been captivated by Gilles Apap's free, folksy improvisations in traditional classical pieces.
I could be more favorably inclined towards Apap because it’s interesting to watch him play. Or is it because it's more obviously a novelty and it's fun/funny? I'm not completely sure what bothers me about Kennedy's cadenzas. It could be that he tried to smoothly insert something that is a rather sharp shift (especially when you aren’t expecting it!), or the addition of jazz-styled double bass accompaniment that was also unsettling, or the excessive reverb.
Nigel Kennedy has recently returned to recording after a hiatus from the classical world, and I’m glad he’s back. This CD of Mozart and Beethoven concertos is not for me (apart from the cadenzas, the Beethoven is just too heavy feeling), but I really enjoy his performances and musical choices on his 2007 release "Polish Spirit," recordings lesser-known romantic violin concertos and two arrangements of Chopin piano pieces.
What do you think? Can Mozart and jazz work together? Is this their best meeting?
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