For over twenty-five years, Nigel Kennedy has been acknowledged as one of the world's leading violin virtuosos and is, without doubt, the most important violinist Britain has ever seen. His virtuoso technique, unique talent and mass appeal have brought fresh perspectives to both the classical and contemporary repertoire. He is the best selling classical violinist of all time.
From a young age, he was Yehudi Menuhin’s most famous protégé, studying first at the Menuhin School (where it emerged, following Menuhin's death, that the legendary violinist had personally financed the young Kennedy throughout his education at the school) before moving to the Juilliard School of Music in New York to study under celebrated teacher, Dorothy DeLay.
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. Major debuts have included London's Royal Festival Hall in 1977, the Berlin Philharmonic in 1980, his New York orchestral debut in 1987 and a 2004 French debut.
Nigel Kennedy has attracted an enormous amount 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 Vivement Dimanche Gold Award, numerous Echo Awards; in the USA Grammy Awards; Bambi in Germany and Switzerland’s Gold Rose of Montreux.
Nigel Kennedy's multi-award-winning discography is extensive. His first highly-acclaimed concerto recording was Elgar's Violin Concerto, voted 1985 Record of the Year by Gramophone magazine and awarded Best Classical Album of the Year at the BPI Awards, selling in excess of 300,000 copies. His first landmark recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling classical work of all time. It sold in excess of 2 million copies and the album remained top of the UK classical charts for almost two years. His second Vivaldi volume with the Berliner Philharmoniker won the prestigious German Echo Award for Best Performance of 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.
His passion for jazz resulted in the album "Blue Note Sessions", made under the eye of Grammy award winning producer Jay Newland, featuring a band of jazz giants such as Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette, amongst others.
In September 2002, Kennedy was appointed Artistic Director of the Polish Chamber Orchestra, a role the late Lord Menuhin once held. With this orchestra, he rediscovered a stunning and forgotten late Romantic Polish concerto, Emil Mlynarski's Violin Concerto No 2 and combined it with Mieczyslaw Karlowicz's Violin Concerto in A major, which was released under the title 'Polish Spirit' in 2007. ‘Polish Spirit’ has won numerous awards the world over, including the prestigious Echo Klassik Award in Germany (Instrumentalist of the Year) and Poland's Fryderyki Album of the Year Award.
Kennedy’s 2009 release, named in typically idiosyncratic fashion, “A Very Nice Album”, marked a typically bold excursion into non-classical repertoire and was recorded with his group, 'The Nigel Kennedy Quintet', made up of the violinist and four of the most dynamic musicians on the Polish jazz scene. His earlier Bluenote album focussed on interpreting compositions from past masters of the jazz repertoire but, for A Very Nice Album, Kennedy stepped to the fore as composer as well as improviser. 2010 saw the release of the latest Nigel Kennedy Quintet release of mainly original Kennedy compositions, entitled SHHH! The album also features Kennedy’s arrangement of Nick Drake’s Riverman, sung by Boy George.
In May 2010, London’s South Bank Centre invited Nigel Kennedy to become Artistic Director of a major Polish weekend, a three day event celebrating Polish culture which brought together musicians and artists from a wide range of backgrounds and styles.
The violinist recently founded a new orchestra, made up of vibrant young (mainly Polish ) musicians, handpicked by Kennedy. 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.
Following the staggering success of his UK performances of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in 2010, including a stunning, sold out show at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Nigel Kennedy will undertake a major 2011 tour, performing his exhilarating and unique new take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as well as his own brand new composition, the Four Elements. This marks the world premiere of the Four Elements. Composed for members of the Orchestra of Life and voices, the Four Elements is a highly descriptive composition for acoustic and electric instruments, inspired by the elements of earth, water, air and fire.
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.
As well as several customised 5 string electric violins, Nigel Kennedy plays a 1732 instrument by the great violin maker, Carlo Bergonzi of Cremona.