Despite her Italian background, Nicola Benedetti, we’re told, “never expected to feel quite so at home” in the Italian Baroque repertory. But perhaps the truth is that any violinist would find the writing of Vivaldi, Veracini and Tartini wonderfully idiomatic and rewarding. With a Baroque-type bow, using very little vibrato (but with modern strings), she produces a sound that, for the most part, is cool and clear but by no means inexpressive. The SCO match her elegant phrasing and provide an accompaniment that’s alert, spirited and sensitive. It conveys a brightly polished image of the music, most enjoyable, and bringing a virtuoso aspect to the fore (for instance, in the Grosso Mogul Concerto).
It’s possible, however, especially with period instruments, to achieve a wider expressive range, thus doing fuller justice to such daring music. In the finale of Summer, Benedetti, with the SCO, demonstrates brilliant string-playing in a stormy style, but Gottfried von der Goltz and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (DHM) sound far more like a real storm, with lashing wind and rushing water.
It’s good to hear the Devil’s Trill Sonata shorn of its ponderous clichés. Benedetti is particularly persuasive in the slower sections, her playing touching and intimate. In the two Vivaldi arias, she’s fluid and elegantly expressive (the Veracini movement is, in effect, a third aria). These pieces, interspersed between the concertos, make for an attractively varied programme, with rarities, such as the beautiful Tartini Concerto, set alongside the well-known items.