Polish Spirit – Nigel Kennedy in Two Violin Concertos (2007)

by | Jan 5, 2008 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Polish Spirit – Nigel Kennedy in Two Violin Concertos (2007)

Program: KARLOWICZ: Violin Concerto in A; MLYNARSKI: Violin Concerto No. 2 in D; BACH: Prelude from Partita for Solo Violin in E; MONTI: Czardas; TRAD.: Danny Boy
Performers: Nigel Kennedy, violin/Polish Chamber Orchestra/Jacek Kaspszyk
Studio: Ha Ha Films/EMI 3 79934 9 1
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen color
Audio: DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, PCM Stereo
Subtitles: French, German
Extras: “The Adventure” documentary on the concerts by John Stanley
Length: 110 minutes
Rating: ****

Filmed last year in Poland, this concert and documentary honors the close connections with Poland and its music held by iconoclastic British violinist Kennedy.  His wife is also Polish and I believe he has a home there. He has felt for years that the violin concertos of these two forgotten composers should be better known and appreciated. As a sort of rock star classical musician he was in a position to do something about it, and this DVD, along with a companion CD, is the excellent result.

Both composers are of the Late Romantic Period and write in that style. Neither one will probably replace any of the standard repertory violin concertos, but they are a pleasure to hear – especially in the enthusiastic, deeply committed performances of both Kennedy and his Polish musician friends.  If you lean toward the new breed of violinists who play with great passion, you can’t go wrong with Kennedy.  His playing is sensitive and beautifully-wrought though occasionally a bit over the top in showiness.

If you have not seen him in performance before you may be taken aback by some of the Kennedyisms, as mentioned in our review of his Vivaldi DVD.  First, there is his appearance – rather like an eccentric homeless person somehow wandered onto the stage – unshaven, wild mohawk-like hairstyle, strange tunic with a long scraggly scarf hanging, and heavy climbing boots. Kennedy (for awhile he used just his last name but recently has given that up) has created a whole new choreography of before and after-concert interactions with the other musicians. He is very partial to the banging-fists greeting with fellow musicians and conductor, as well as the hand-on-heart gesture – but still including the usual handshaking.  When it comes to the kissing on both cheeks at the concert’s end, Kennedy goes all out with the flower girl – five kisses in toto – the conductor only rates two.  Purists might be even more amazed at his actual encouragement of the Polish audience to applaud loudly between each and every movement of the concertos.  During the Monti encore he walks between the rows of symphony musicians and plays to the more attractive ones like a gypsy violinist in a Hungarian restaurant. This certainly is a different view of a classical concert, and should appeal more strongly to younger generations. Not that I’m tch-tching it one bit – more power to the Nigel, say I.  You won’t drowse during this concert, that’s for certain. Perhaps join the good spirits and even imbibe a bit of those spirits during your viewing?

Very hi-res video coverage and first rate DTS surround make viewing the concert a complete pleasure.  The documentary brings the viewer a bit closer to the music and the blatantly nontraditional violinist behind this project.

 – John Sunier

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