By Jeremy Miles
Bournemouth Pavilion - Wednesday 1st May 2013
That one-time enfant terrible of the classical world, violin star Nigel Kennedy, swept into Bournemouth last night (Wednesday May 1) and won hearts and musical minds with a recital that mixed baroque and jazz.
A joyous combination of Johan Sebastian Bach and Fats Waller saw his eccentricities - condemned by the classical elite 20 years ago - pale into insignificance.
At 56 Kennedy may still sport spiky hair and pantomime vagabond clothes but as one audience member so rightly observed: “When you can play like that who cares what you look like.”
So it was that the flamboyant fiddler with the golden touch delivered a sublime programme of music that started with Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E major and the fugue, andante and allegro from the Sonata No 3 in E minor before exploring the good-time jazz of Fats Waller.
On the face of it these are two startlingly different composers. Bach moved in highly respectable circles while Fats had the dubious distinction of once being kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to play at Al Capone’s birthday party… for three solid days.
They had one thing in common though. They were both, as Kennedy points out, masters of harmony and melody. They were also both keyboard players. Holding his violin aloft the maestro joked that the lack of piano in this recital was down to the disastrous state of the British economy.
No matter! Working alongside longtime musical cohorts - the double bass player Yaron Stavi, acoustic guitarist Rolf Bussalb and drummer Krzysztof Dziedzic - the music was mesmerising with superbly subtle links and improvisations that took in everything from Celtic and Hungarian folk to the theme from sixties TV western Bonanza and a brilliant reading of Paul Desmond’s Take Five.
The stage was bathed in claret and blue lights - a nod to Kennedy’s beloved Aston Villa. By the second half he was wearing a Villa shirt and a beaming smile that probably hadn’t left his face since Monday night when his team trounced Sunderland 6-1 and pushed themselves five points clear of the relegation zone.
The concert - which combined extraordinarily accomplished playing with wit and repartee - found swift favour with an audience that ranged from young children to pensioners.
Among those present were 20 young violinists from Bournemouth’s Coda Fiddle Orchestra. Run by an old friend of Kennedy’s, former Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra co-leader Jack Maguire, the Fiddle Orchestra meets weekly at St Clements Church in Boscombe.
Nigel Kennedy is their patron and issued a personal invitation to the young players to attend the concert. He later met the youngsters, aged seven to 17, backstage after the show where he chatted, signed autographs and posed for photos.