Feelings run high about Nigel Kennedy, the bad boy of the violin (he's started using his first name again, if you hadn't heard). On the cover of this collection, he's pictured with red and blue paint on his unshaven face, biting the side of his violin for one reason or another. But Nigel Kennedy's Greatest Hits points to what has really always been the ironic thing about Kennedy -- when it comes to the music, he's quite un-outrageous. Kennedy's tone is attractive, but except for a few video-game-like pizzicatos on his version of Scarborough Fair and a little Vivaldi-related craziness, it's hard to find anything too unusual on this disc of excerpts from the violinist's quarter century of recordings. As a disc ready-made for commercial classical drive-time radio, it fills the bill quite well. Along with two movements of Kennedy's trademark Vivaldi Four Seasons at the disc's beginning and end, there is a not especially airworthy Lark Ascending and a movement of Bach's Sonata No. 3 for solo violin in C major that won't cause the heirs of Henryk Szeryng any worries. But several of the small encore-type pieces are delightful; whatever preconceptions exist about Kennedy, he deserves credit for reminding audiences that a violin concert ought to be fun. Fritz Kreisler's Praeludium and Allegro seem tailor-made for Kennedy, and to hear him play that thrilling piece is to briefly be transported back to the age of the traveling violinist-star. Kennedy's version of Danny Boy stops at exactly the right place -- just short of laying it on too thick. Satie's Gymnopédie No. 1 and Debussy's song La fille aux cheveux de lin work nicely in violin arrangements, and in general the disc presents Kennedy the way he is probably best enjoyed: in small bites.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sonata for solo violin No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005|
|O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, chorale setting for 4 voices, BWV 397 (BC F156)|
|Violin Concerto, for violin, strings & continuo in F major ("L'autunno," The Four Seasons; "Il cimento" No. 3), Op.8/3, RV 293|