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Nigel Kennedy shares "trust" with DSO, Slatkin

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2016

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Nigel Kennedy has never been a typical classical violinist.

The British virtuoso is as likely to play Radiohead as Rachmaninoff, the Doors as Debussy, Jimi Hendrix as Haydn -- or some cutting-edge work of his own creation. He's well-versed in the classics of course, and starts each day listening to Bach, but he prefers not to ride pieces and styles he considers "warhorses."

"I just love it when people take the music into different realms -- that's when it really breathes and lives and stays interesting for me," Kennedy, 59, explains before rehearsing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for his shows this weekend. "The good music survives like that. I can go back and listen to Fats Waller or (Louis Armstrong), even (Charles) Mingus or Miles (Davis)_ and it sounds like you're in the same room. There's an immediacy and energy which is coming from the music in the first place.

"My music is quite melodic, and I hope it's got a generous spirit. I just think it's such a gift to be involved in music. There are no limitations to where music can go."

Kennedy's free spirit has sometimes run afoul of critics and even some orchestra conductors. But he says that in the DSO's Leonard Slatkin he's found a kindred spirit, with mutual respect that makes their collaborations rewarding.

"Somehow it's just clicked," Kennedy says. "Leonard is broader musician; He can play great piano, he's a conductor, a composer. So we've got a certain amount in common...just in terms of a broad understanding, not just a narrow conductor's explaining of music. I've got complete trust in him, and we read each other well. I know I don't have to play everything the exact same way as I did it yesterday, and he's very perceptive. He'll be on the case."

This weekend Kennedy will be performing some of his own compositions, including a new four-movement work called "Dedications" that pays tribute to the influence on his playing from Isaac Stern, Stephane Grappelli, Mark O'Connor and Jarek Smietana. Kennedy has already recorded the piece and hopes to release it later this year along with music he composed for Anton Chekov's "Three Sisters."

"I've reached a certain age where there's people who have opened doors of perception for me in music," explains Kennedy, who's also working on an orchestral adaptation of Hendrix's music. "This is a group of let's say songs, for lack of a better word, that encapsulate the inspiration these people gave to me. It's good to assimilate and evaluate the past sometimes, and what people have given you. So this is really dedicated to the people who have really opened something up for me in music."

Nigel Kennedy with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 6-7.

Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit.

Tickets are $15-$100.

Call 313-576-5111 or visit dso.org.

Note: Saturday's show will be webcast at dso.or/live.

Web Site: www.dso.org

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