For over twenty-five years, British violinist, Nigel Kennedy, has been acknowledged as one of the world's leading virtuosos. His unique talent and mass appeal have brought fresh perspectives to both the classical and contemporary repertoire and he is the best selling classical violinist of all time.
From a young age, as Yehudi Menuhin’s most famous protégé, he studied at the Menuhin School (where it emerged, following Menuhin's death, that the legendary violinist had personally financed the young Kennedy throughout his education at the school) before moving to the Juilliard School of Music in New York to study under celebrated teacher, Dorothy DeLay.
During his career, Nigel Kennedy has undertaken countless international tours, performing with the world's leading orchestras and conductors throughout Europe, North America, Central and South America, South East Asia and Australia. Major debuts have included London's Royal Festival Hall in 1977, the Berlin Philharmonic in 1980, his New York orchestral debut in 1987 and a 2004 French debut.
Nigel Kennedy has attracted an enormous amount of worldwide media attention throughout an extraordinary career and his international television appearances have been wide and varied. He has given public and private performances for members of the British royal family and has also been presented with many awards including Outstanding Contribution to British Music and Male Artist of the Year at the UK Brit Awards; in France a Vivement Dimanche Gold Award, numerous Echo Awards; in the USA Grammy Awards; Bambi in Germany and Switzerland’s Gold Rose of Montreux.
Kennedy's multi-award-winning discography is extensive. His first highly-acclaimed concerto recording was Elgar's Violin Concerto, voted 1985 Record of the Year by Gramophone magazine and awarded Best Classical Album of the Year at the BPI Awards, selling in excess of 300,000 copies. His first landmark recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling classical work of all time. It sold in excess of 2 million copies and the album remained top of the UK classical charts for almost two years. His second Vivaldi volume with the Berliner Philharmoniker won the prestigious German Echo Award for Best Performance of 18th Century music and the supreme Austrian Classical Award, The Amadeus Prize, for Best Instrumental Recording. He has also made best-selling concerto recordings of Bach, Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Bruch, Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Walton, alongside chamber music and recital discs.
His passion for jazz resulted in the album "Blue Note Sessions", made under the eye of Grammy award winning producer Jay Newland, featuring a band of jazz giants such as Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette, amongst others.
In September 2002, Kennedy was appointed Artistic Director of the Polish Chamber Orchestra, a role the late Lord Menuhin once held. With this orchestra, he rediscovered a stunning and forgotten late Romantic Polish concerto, Emil Mlynarski's Violin Concerto No 2 and combined it with Mieczyslaw Karlowicz's Violin Concerto in A major, which was released under the title 'Polish Spirit' in 2007. ‘Polish Spirit’ has won numerous awards the world over, including the prestigious Echo Klassik Award in Germany (Instrumentalist of the Year) and Poland's Fryderyki Album of the Year Award.
Kennedy’s 2009 release, named in typically idiosyncratic fashion, “A Very Nice Album”, marked a typically bold excursion into non-classical repertoire and was recorded with his group, 'The Nigel Kennedy Quintet', made up of the violinist and four of the most dynamic musicians on the Polish jazz scene. His earlier Bluenote album focussed on interpreting compositions from past masters of the jazz repertoire but, for A Very Nice Album, Kennedy stepped to the fore as composer as well as improviser. 2010 saw the release of the latest Nigel Kennedy Quintet release of mainly original Kennedy compositions, entitled SHHH! The album also features Kennedy’s arrangement of Nick Drake’s Riverman, sung by Boy George.
In May 2010, London’s South Bank Centre invited Nigel Kennedy to become Artistic Director of a major Polish weekend, a three day event celebrating Polish culture which brought together musicians and artists from a wide range of backgrounds and styles.
The violinist recently founded a new orchestra, made up of vibrant young (mainly Polish) musicians. The Orchestra of Life has a classical chamber group as its nucleus but is uniquely adaptable to perform the different styles of music Kennedy embraces. In April 2010, the Orchestra of Life made its debut tour in Germany, presenting a programme of Duke Ellington and Bach, before going on to perform in major cities and festivals in Europe.
Kennedy presented a programme inspired by the music of Jimi Hendrix at Ronnie Scotts (the last venue Hendrix performed at) on the 40th anniversary of the musician’s death.
Following the staggering success of his UK performances of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in 2010, including a stunning, sold out show at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Nigel Kennedy is currently undertaking a major 2011/12 tour, performing his exhilarating and unique new take (“re-write”) on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as well as the premiere of his own brand new composition, the Four Elements. Composed for members of the Orchestra of Life and voices, the Four Elements is a highly descriptive composition for acoustic and electric instruments, inspired by the elements of earth, water, air and fire.
Another series Kennedy is currently taking around the world is BACH PLUS, an entirely acoustic programme developed for the venues with natural acoustics. He will present BACH plus FATS WALLER throughout Asia in February. The first half of the programme consists of solo Bach and, for the second part, Kennedy has arranged the music of Fats Waller for violin, guitar, bass and percussion. This repertoire captivated a sold out late night Proms audience in 2011.
Nigel Kennedy records for Sony, which has recently released the Four Elements. Sony is recording Kennedy’s new Four Seasons for release later this year.
Nigel Kennedy is a passionate Aston Villa fan and attends as many games as his schedule allows. He has one son, is married to Polish lawyer, Agnieszka, and they divide their time between homes in the UK and Poland.
As well as several customised 5 string electric violins, Nigel Kennedy plays a 1732 instrument by the great violin maker, Carlo Bergonzi of Cremona.