“I was lucky enough to have two great mentors in my life – Yehudi Menuhin and Stephane Grappelli.” Nigel Kennedy
Born 28 December, 1956 in East Essex, England, Nigel is about to turn 60 years of age. Known as the Peter Pan of the violin this astounding violinist and violist (and sometimes conductor), Nigel Kennedy comes from a musical lineage.
His grandfather was Laurie Kennedy, a British-born musician and principal cellist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, who played with Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz, Arthur Rubinstein and others. His grandmother was Dorothy Kennedy, a pianist, who accompanied John McCormack and taught Enrico Caruso’s children. Laurie and Dorothy settled in Australia where their son, the cellist John Kennedy was born, Nigel’s father.
For over twenty-five years, Nigel Kennedy has been acknowledged as one of the world’s leading violin virtuosos and is, without doubt, one of the most important violinists Britain has produced. His virtuoso technique, and openness for other musical genres have brought fresh perspectives to both the classical and contemporary repertoire.
A boy prodigy, as a 10-year-old Nigel Kennedy would pick out Fats Waller tunes on the piano after hearing his stepfather’s jazz records.
From young age, he was Yehudi Menuhin’s most famous protégé, studying first at the Menuhin School before moving to the Juilliard School of Music in New York to study under celebrated teacher, Dorothy LeLay.
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.
Nigel Kennedy has attracted an enormous number 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, amongst others, Outstanding Contribution to British Music and Male Artist of the Year at the UK Brit Awards; in France, a Virement Dimanche Gold Award, numerous Echo Awards and Switzerland’s Gold Rose of Montreux.
Nigel Kennedy’s multi-award-winning discography is extensive. His first highly-acclaimed recording was Elgar’s Violin Concerto which was voted 1985 Record of the Year by Gramophone magazine and was awarded Best Classical Album of the Year at the BPI Awards. His first landmark recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling classical album of all time. It sold more than 3 million copies plus and the album remained top of the UK classical charts for almost two years. His second Vivaldi volume with the Berliner Philharmoninker won the prestigious German Echo awards for the Best performance of the 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.
The violinist founded in 2010 a new orchestra, The Orchestra of Life, made up of vibrant young (mainly Polish) musicians.
In April 2010, The Orchestra of Life made its debut tour in Germany, presenting a unique programme of Duke Ellington (specially arranged by Nigel Kennedy for his band and the Orchestra of Life) and Bach, before going on to perform in major cities and festivals in Europe.
2010 saw Kennedy present a project inspired by the music of Jimi Hendrix; a performance at Ronnie Scotts (the last venue Hendrix performed at) on the 40th anniversary of the musician’s death was a triumph.
In 2010, Kennedy’s UK performances of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons were a staggering success, and included a stunning, sold out show at London’s Royal Albert hall. Nigel Kennedy undertook a major 2011 tour, performing his exhilarating and unique take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as well as his own brand new composition, The Four Elements.
February 2012, he presented his new program with J.S. Bach and Fats Waller across Asia. An entirely acoustic program developed for venues with natural acoustics. The first half consisted of solo Bach pieces and for the second party, Kennedy arranged the music of Fats Waller for violin, guitar, bass and percussion.
In March 2013 Sony, Classical released Nigel Kennedy’s new album Recital which was based on this performance repertoire with music by Bach, Fats Waller, Dave Brubeck and Nigel Kennedy himself. An extensive tour in Germany and UK followed in Spring that year.
2014 saw him complete a highly successful tour to Australia. He returns to Australia in January 2017 for an exclusive national tour with performances planned in Sydney, Melbourne & Brisbane.
The tour coincides with the launch in Australia of his latest album, My World on Edel Records which follows Nigel Kennedy: Vivaldi The Four Seasons. Sony Classics – Nigel will be playing music from both albums on this forthcoming Australian tour.
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.