This latest from Nigel Kennedy, as he turned 60 this month, could have been a contender for my top ten of the year had I heard it earlier – because it is such a delightful musical offering. Two symphonic pieces – Dedications and Three Sisters – are in many ways coffee table music. I do not mean this disparagingly or to belittle at all: whilst complete entities, when taken in their separate movements they are beautiful classical pop pieces, accessible and immediately, melodically pleasing/emotive.
Take the opening two dedications: Dla Jarka (for Jarek Smietana) and Fallen Forest (for Isaac Stern). The first is a conventional piece for the Polish jazz guitarist, ‘conventional’ in its simple repeated melodic line, raga-ish, but it then breaks into a fuzzed ending as more direct reference and also reflection of Kennedy’s wide musical tastes; the second for the great violinist Stern is gorgeous, and immediate in the way a beautiful film score can be, if that doesn’t seem to diminish [and prompts my ‘coffee table’ idea].
The fourth dedication is Solitude (for Yehudi Menuhin), a tribute to his teacher and mentor and it is not surprisingly another sweet, affectionate piece.
The Three Sisters, based on Chekov’s play and in eight movements, is similarly engaging, emotively and in its direct musical appeal: playful at times; those film-score orchestral sweeps, and immediate melodic finesses. Always Kennedy’s sublime playing, including occasional effects, like the echoplex [or similar] on the lovely Rode's Pictures - Andrei's Love - Vershinin's View of Destiny - Solyony; and then there is the raging psychedelia of Link Acts 2-3 (Fire)-Chebutykin's Despair-The Sisters' Fate, a fuzzed freak-out which blows the mind!