My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A profound example, in my mind, of honest performing

Over Thanksgiving break, my husband and I found ourselves with about 15 minutes to ourselves thanks to Tadd's parents, who were busy entertaining our four-year old.   Not knowing quite what to do with the time, we ended up watching music videos on youtube and in that time came across this clip of Nigel Kennedy, a British violinist who is quite well known for some of the more controversial aspects of his career.  (That's a topic for another post.)  I was moved by many aspects of this performance.  First of all, I find it interesting that Kennedy chose to perform from a keyboard work, Bach's Inventions.  And add to that, they were really intended as studies for keyboard students.  Of course Bach is Bach and we all love Bach, or most of us do, as Kennedy says in his introduction to the audience.  And this leads me to a second observation...

Nigel Kennedy speaks to the audience as if he is right in your living room and as if he is your neighbor.  He doesn't give some diatribe on the history of the Bach Inventions, he doesn't give a theoretical analysis...he simply talks.  And that is so refreshing and at times, quite funny because he happens to have a pretty good sense of humor.  He also doesn't find it necessary to talk about his selections all at once before performing them in order to avoid dreaded applause in between each movement.  Instead he seems to plan on introducing each gem indivually.  There is no disdain when the audience claps at the end of each short invention; Kennedy and Welchman smile, acknowledge one another and the audience, and they, dare I say it, look like they are truly enjoying the moment.

A third point...the third invention they perform, the Invention #10, I believe, they take at a very fast, impressive clip which of course causes quite a reaction from the audience, as well it should!  Many musicians, I think, might choose to end this part of the program right here, when they've got the audience clearly impressed and stirred up.  But what I love, really love, is that they don't end with fireworks, they end with a much more elusive, but in my mind sensual, intimate one that ends this portion of the concert with the audience literally in the palm of their hand.

Which leads me to my last point...

I think it is important to note here that they are making beautiful, exquisite music out of notes that some musicians might deem as too simple, as too academic.  Just about any decent piece of music has the power to elicit an emotional reaction from an audience when offered in an honest, enthusiastic way.  And watching Kennedy's interaction with the audience and with Juliet Welchman, the cellist, proved to me yet again that body language and words can do wonders for breaking down the walls between the audience and the performer. 

Anyone want a sledgehammer and some Bach Inventions?

1 comment:

  1. Erica, honey, would you give me permission to reprint this wonderful piece on my Nigel Kennedy site at ? The fans would love it ! I'll acknowledge you fully and put a link to your blog and publish your picture if you'll let me.
    Please email me at with your answer.

    Many thanks !