Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

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Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Jared » Mon Jul 13, 2009 12:57 pm

To cut a long story short, I found this CD in very good condition this afternoon, in a second hand book shop for a few quid. Only owning the Mutter/ Masur version at present, and wishing for a completely different rendition, I 'splashed out'.

Needless to say, for those of you in 'the know' (which of course, will be most of you on this forum.. 8) ) my 'oh boy' comment is not so much about the music, more about Kennedy's tirade against the classical musical establishment in the liner notes! I'm not sure that I'd be able to type out large chunks of its here, for copyright reasons, but if I did, I think the Admins would eject me..

Suffice it to say, he talks about the petty criticisms that the snobby elitist music press have with his playing and character, and castigates critics for making a living out of 'bullshitting about music' and desperate Radio 3 bosses calling attention to themselves.. and so on. His principle critism appears to have been (in 1992) that the musical establishment during his professional lifetime were attempting to reverse the trend of gradual democratisation of CM, by 'guiding control back to the privileged few again'. He also criticises many of his fellow performers for going into a recording studio and playing over parts of a so-called 'live' recording.

I guess my question is, did this poorly structured, foul-mouthed tirade against the establishment have any merit, 17 years ago, and if so, is it still the same today? I'd also be interested to know why you think EMI would be happy to print such a preface in one of their booklets, and why Klaus Tennstedt (allegedly 'the greatest conductor of our era, according to Nige) evidently chose to endorse it?

Your thoughts?

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:03 pm

I have great respect for Nigel Kennedy as a performer. His tirades interest me rather less ; )

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by ch1525 » Mon Jul 13, 2009 1:27 pm

Sounds like he and Krystian Zimerman would make quite a formidable duo!!!

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Chalkperson » Mon Jul 13, 2009 2:18 pm

What else did you expect, he's an Aston Villa Fanatic... :wink:
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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Jared » Mon Jul 13, 2009 3:09 pm

Chalkperson wrote:What else did you expect, he's an Aston Villa Fanatic... :wink:
yes, those Aston Villains do have an anti-establishment tendancy, don't they?.. :wink:

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Modernistfan » Mon Jul 13, 2009 3:29 pm

I heard that recording in the old Tower record store in Westwood (now long gone, unfortunately), when it first came out. That is the LAST recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto that I would ever buy; if someone dropped an H-bomb and somehow vaporized every other recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, I would rather go without a recording of that piece than listen to Kennedy's impossibly slow, turgid performance that sucks all the drive and life out of the work. (It's a good thing that the conductor was not Sergiu Celibidache, as that would have been the only Beethoven Violin Concerto recording to require 2CD's.)

As for his rants, they are a pose. No one has ever benefited more than Kennedy from the British critical establishment, who typically fall all over themselves to praise any performer seen as "British." (Of course, that does not really apply to performers such as Rebecca Hirsch or Elizabeth Wallfisch, who, because of their eastern European/Jewish origin, are not seen as "authentically British." Ms. Hirsch, for my money, can play rings around Kennedy. Imagine that poseur tackling the Norgård violin concerto, "Borderlines," a work recorded by Ms. Hirsch, or some of the Poul Ruders concertos that she has also recorded. I'll bet you can't.)
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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Jared » Mon Jul 13, 2009 3:46 pm

^^ thanks for your views Mf... I have to say, I can't agree with your scathing criticism of NK's recording; yes it is on the slow side (although the whole Concerto is only 60 secs behind ASM's) but I personally feel his wringing such emotion out of the piece tends to be a good thing (as with his marvellous Elgar VC with Handley), indeed I admit I was intrigued by his expression 'choosing to improvise my own material', which I can imagine to be the case..

notwithstanding, I tend to agree with you in that NK had probably benefitted far more from the CM establishment in terms of promotion and financial backing between 1984 and 1992, but he evidently still felt he was in an artistic strait-jacket... was this a case of having your cake and eating it?

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Chalkperson » Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:46 pm

In my never ending Ripping Project I just came across Nige's more recent Beethoven Concerto disc, i'll give it another spin tonight, but, I doubt it will displace my favourite reading which is Isobel Faust's recent disc on Harmonia Mundi...
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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by stenka razin » Mon Jul 13, 2009 5:19 pm

Modernistfan wrote:I heard that recording in the old Tower record store in Westwood (now long gone, unfortunately), when it first came out. That is the LAST recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto that I would ever buy; if someone dropped an H-bomb and somehow vaporized every other recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, I would rather go without a recording of that piece than listen to Kennedy's impossibly slow, turgid performance that sucks all the drive and life out of the work. (It's a good thing that the conductor was not Sergiu Celibidache, as that would have been the only Beethoven Violin Concerto recording to require 2CD's.)

As for his rants, they are a pose. No one has ever benefited more than Kennedy from the British critical establishment, who typically fall all over themselves to praise any performer seen as "British." (Of course, that does not really apply to performers such as Rebecca Hirsch or Elizabeth Wallfisch, who, because of their eastern European/Jewish origin, are not seen as "authentically British." Ms. Hirsch, for my money, can play rings around Kennedy. Imagine that poseur tackling the Norgård violin concerto, "Borderlands," a work recorded by Ms. Hirsch, or some of the Poul Ruders concertos that she has also recorded. I'll bet you can't.)

P.S. Don't forget Gidon Kremer's infamous Schnittke cadenza recording. Now that is a Beethoven V. C. recording, I would happily never listen too ever again, mate. :idea:
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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by GK » Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:56 pm

Kennedy/Tennstedt produced the worst recording ever of the Brahms violin concerto. Kennedy did much better in the Mendelssohn and Bruch concertos with Jeffrey Tate.

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by DavidRoss » Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:55 am

GK wrote:Kennedy/Tennstedt produced the worst recording ever of the Brahms violin concerto. Kennedy did much better in the Mendelssohn and Bruch concertos with Jeffrey Tate.
Which Brahms VC recordings do you think are the best?
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:16 pm

DavidRoss wrote:Which Brahms VC recordings do you think are the best?
David Oistrakh on Profil and Melodiya
Rachel Barton Pine on Cedille
Nikolaj Znaider on RCA
Vadim Repin on DG
Ginette Neveu on Various Labels
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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Jared » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:44 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:Which Brahms VC recordings do you think are the best?
David Oistrakh on Profil and Melodiya
Rachel Barton Pine on Cedille
Nikolaj Znaider on RCA
Vadim Repin on DG
Ginette Neveu on Various Labels
thanks for endorsing my sig, Chalkie.. :D

as an aside, what do you think of his earlier recording of the Tchaikovsky/ Miaskovsky set, under Gergiev?

and back on topic, anyone got anything to say concerning Nige's outbursts against the establishment... ?

...besides of course, the fact that he supports Aston Villa.. :wink:

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by DavidRoss » Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:10 pm

Jared wrote:...anyone got anything to say concerning Nige's outbursts against the establishment... ?
I don't have that CD and could not google up the liner notes, which makes meaningful comment difficult. I do recall him being attacked for not conforming to the role established for classical recording artists--unfairly, I thought, and reflecting the snobbery against which he railed. I also recall absolutely loving his Vivaldi Seasons with the ECO, which breathed new life into an ancient warhorse that usually seemed more like a plowhorse that should have been put out to pasture.

I heard the Mutter/Masur Beethoven VC only once, and agree with the general assessment that it is very Romantically overdone--it was not my cuppa. My own preferences are for leaner, meaner performances and remain Heifetz's classic with Munch/BSO and more recent outings by Mullova/Gardiner, Zehetmair/Brüggen, and Hahn/Zinman.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Guitarist » Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:25 pm

stenka razin wrote:P.S. Don't forget Gidon Kremer's infamous Schnittke cadenza recording. Now that is a Beethoven V. C. recording, I would happily never listen too ever again, mate. :idea:
I bought that CD simply for the cadenza!

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:31 pm

Jared wrote:as an aside, what do you think of his earlier recording of the Tchaikovsky/ Miaskovsky set, under Gergiev?
That disc by Repin and Geergiev is one of the finest Violin Recordings ever made, it was before Gergiev went off the boil because of his JetSet mentality... :D
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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Lance » Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:36 pm

Jared: I don't have the Kennedy/Tennstedt recording. Guess I'm not missing much. HOWEVER, I am interested in what he says. Fear not: you shall not be evicted! Go ahead and post the info!
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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jul 14, 2009 10:01 pm

Jared wrote:I'm not sure that I'd be able to type out large chunks of its here, for copyright reasons, but if I did, I think the Admins would eject me..
Nah, we wouldn't. We aren't the copyright police, nor have we ever been contacted by them. Information wants to be free.
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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Ken » Wed Jul 15, 2009 4:37 am

Chalkperson wrote:In my never ending Ripping Project I just came across Nige's more recent Beethoven Concerto disc, i'll give it another spin tonight, but, I doubt it will displace my favourite reading which is Isobel Faust's recent disc on Harmonia Mundi...
And this is a performance that, with each listen, has continually impress me; thanks for recommending it to me a while back!
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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Jared » Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:01 am

Lance wrote:Jared: I don't have the Kennedy/Tennstedt recording. Guess I'm not missing much. HOWEVER, I am interested in what he says. Fear not: you shall not be evicted! Go ahead and post the info!
thanks Lance & Corlyss... I'm just about to go into a business meeting, but later on, I'll type it out for all to see.. :wink:

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Jared » Thu Jul 16, 2009 10:14 am

Ok here goes the first part of Kennedy's rant, which I alluded to above:

One of the proudest achievements of my career will always be the fact that the greatest conductor of our era, Klaus Tennstedt, chose to record the two most important violin concertos (those by Brahms & Beethoven) with me and totally endorsed the artistic content afterwards.

The endorsement of Klaus Tennstedt and all the other great artists I've been lucky enough to work with has certainly made it easy for me to win any arguments (without even having to try) that the more snobby members of the classical press might have tried to pick with me. Every time I put my fiddle under my chin the reaction of my colleagues and audience more than blows away any petty criticisms that a few members of the more elitist press in Britain might bring up against the quality of my playing or character, at the same time as re-establishing that fantastic feeling of being in contact with the music that I've always had since being a brat.

The fact that I can play music at a high level without any bull crap of course undermines these types of people's raison d'etre, making a living as they do out of bullshitting about music, and that is why they feel they have to attack me.

In Beethoven's time, things were even more impossible, with the attitude that these petty writers represent today being totally rampant. Unfortunately for Beethoven, though, this attitude wasn't just coming from people whose strongest action was to push a pencil, or from desperate bosses of Radio 3 trying to call attention to themselves, it was coming from his direct employers, members of the aristocracy who were almost solely responsible for composers' livelihoods by commissioning works from them, Beethoven's action in ignoring the values of these types of people in favour of true musical ideals came at a great cost to himself personally for every new musical direction to this very day. His was one of the first artistic attempts to take control away from the privileged few in order to follow moral reality. Beethoven was a visionary and his achievements are very comforting at the time of writing, when we have had to witness the governments of America and Great Britain guiding control back to the privileged again for the last 12 years.

The violin concerto offers us some of Beethoven's more optimistic, idealistic writing. I'm not going to write more about Beethoven the composer, for fear of adding to the mountain of intellectually self-satisfied crap already written about all kinds of music, particularly the music of dead composers (or alive brain-dead ones elected worthy of consideration by the critics circus!)

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by maestrob » Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:35 am

Good grief!

It's still a bad recording.

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Ken » Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:42 am

Ah, I love reading rebellious stuff like what Kennedy's written... Now that's entertainment!
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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by DavidRoss » Thu Jul 16, 2009 1:57 pm

Jared wrote:Ok here goes the first part of Kennedy's rant, which I alluded to above:

One of the proudest achievements of my career will always be the fact that the greatest conductor of our era, Klaus Tennstedt, chose to record the two most important violin concertos (those by Brahms & Beethoven) with me and totally endorsed the artistic content afterwards.

The endorsement of Klaus Tennstedt and all the other great artists I've been lucky enough to work with has certainly made it easy for me to win any arguments (without even having to try) that the more snobby members of the classical press might have tried to pick with me. Every time I put my fiddle under my chin the reaction of my colleagues and audience more than blows away any petty criticisms that a few members of the more elitist press in Britain might bring up against the quality of my playing or character, at the same time as re-establishing that fantastic feeling of being in contact with the music that I've always had since being a brat.

The fact that I can play music at a high level without any scatological stuff of course undermines these types of people's raison d'etre, making a living as they do out of bullshitting about music, and that is why they feel they have to attack me.

In Beethoven's time, things were even more impossible, with the attitude that these petty writers represent today being totally rampant. Unfortunately for Beethoven, though, this attitude wasn't just coming from people whose strongest action was to push a pencil, or from desperate bosses of Radio 3 trying to call attention to themselves, it was coming from his direct employers, members of the aristocracy who were almost solely responsible for composers' livelihoods by commissioning works from them, Beethoven's action in ignoring the values of these types of people in favour of true musical ideals came at a great cost to himself personally for every new musical direction to this very day. His was one of the first artistic attempts to take control away from the privileged few in order to follow moral reality. Beethoven was a visionary and his achievements are very comforting at the time of writing, when we have had to witness the governments of America and Great Britain guiding control back to the privileged again for the last 12 years.

The violin concerto offers us some of Beethoven's more optimistic, idealistic writing. I'm not going to write more about Beethoven the composer, for fear of adding to the mountain of intellectually self-satisfied crap already written about all kinds of music, particularly the music of dead composers (or alive brain-dead ones elected worthy of consideration by the critics circus!)
So far, so good--I see nothing yet to take exception with. Still haven't heard his LvB performance, but his Brahms with Tennstedt continues to be one of my faves, despite strong competition and the sneering disapproval of self-styled elitists whom I suspect judge it based on their prejudices about Nigel Kennedy rather than on familiarity with the recording itself.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Jared » Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:27 pm

^^ I've not heard the Brahms, David, but I have to say I'm not sure where the hate for NK's Beethoven comes from.. sure, its emotionally laden to the point of appearing ponderous at times (and to the point of sounding Elgaresque on occasions), but I certainly think its a worthy addition to the collection of VC's..

... so what if his playing doesn't sound as masculine as ASM?.... :lol:

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by DavidRoss » Thu Jul 16, 2009 3:02 pm

Jared wrote:^^ I've not heard the Brahms, David, but I have to say I'm not sure where the hate for NK's Beethoven comes from.. sure, its emotionally laden to the point of appearing ponderous at times (and to the point of sounding Elgaresque on occasions), but I certainly think its a worthy addition to the collection of VC's..

... so what if his playing doesn't sound as masculine as ASM?.... :lol:
One of the qualities I might use to describe his Brahms is that it is masculine--certainly in comparison with, say, the Mutter and Hahn recordings I have, if not so with Mullova :wink: -- and yet it is broadly emotive and not restricted to the tough, hard, stereotypical masculinity of someone like Vengerov.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Auntie Lynn » Thu Jul 16, 2009 6:12 pm

Mr. Kennedy played this with SFS a while back. He showed up in one pink sock and one blue sock, magenta hair, a t-shirt and a tie. He was fab. He broke a string, handed the Strad to Mark Volkert, who fixed it (they never missed a beat, BTW), a lot of passing of violin parts back and forth from the wings. Then he did a lengthy jazz riff with the principal bassist, which was unforgettable. This guy may be a little outre, but you sure get your money's worth. He's a "happening..."

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by nut-job » Tue Jul 21, 2009 2:09 pm

I was watching an EMI dvd which had a set of promos for other EMI releases. One was of Kennedy in concert. It was just bizarre. The hair, the odd clothes, the deranged look in the eye. He looked like he had escaped from an asylum.

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Jared » Tue Jul 21, 2009 2:17 pm

nut-job wrote: The hair, the odd clothes, the deranged look in the eye. He looked like he had escaped from an asylum.
well as Chalkie pointed out... he's an Aston Villa fan.. :wink:

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Re: Beethoven Violin Concerto: Kennedy/ Tennstedt.. oh boy!

Post by Ken » Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:39 pm

I think the real issue with our discussion about Kennedy is that some people see an individual who doesn't quite fit with the stylistic and personal standards that many people in classical music expect of artists, people in the industry, or others interested in the music. We can't deny that there is an ingrained (though often not admitted to) expectation amongst those involved in the industry about the kinds of people that performing artists should be, and the kinds of attitudes they should have. That Kennedy is an artist who defies these preconceptions but still plays at a world-class level obviously irks some people in the biz.

In my view, if we're going to open up classical music to new audiences in order to keep it relevant and to perpetuate its history, we need to accept rebellious but energetic individuals like Kennedy, who cross genre boundaries and aren't afraid to stimulate debate about the mores of the genre and of its followers. Musical history is replete such people. Agree or disagree with his opinion about the music and recording industry, or about his attitude towards performance and repertory, Kennedy is the type of figure who, by prodding stodgy conservatives in the ribs, helps keep the biz' on its toes.

...And his recording of the Walton Violin and Viola Concertos is top-notch! ;)
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