While Nigel Kennedy is one of the leading violinists of his generation, he is also among the most controversial of musicians before the public, owing to his flashy persona, unconventional interpretations, and his seemingly innate sense to capture attention. Kennedy's rock-star-like appearance in concert (glittering jewelry, spiky hair, etc.) and his controversial politics (he has boycotted Israel, comparing that nation with South Africa) haveRead more often drawn sharp criticism. He has nevertheless become one of the most popular musicians of his time, not least because of his multiple talents in the crossover realm: he divides his performances evenly between classical and jazz and has even played with rock artists. With best-selling recordings and highly publicized concerts, he has arguably been a powerful force in attracting new listeners to classical music. Thus, despite his eccentricities (since 1998 he has preferred to be known simply as Kennedy), he is among the most influential and popular musicians in any genre of his time. Kennedy has performed a broad range of repertory and has made numerous recordings spread over several labels, including EMI, Decca, Sony, Chandos, and Blue Note Records.
Kennedy was born in Brighton, England, on December 28, 1956. He studied piano in his early childhood with his cellist mother. Later on, as a student at the Yehudi Menuhin Music School, he turned to the violin. In his teens he enrolled at Juilliard where he studied under Dorothy DeLay.
At 16 he debuted at Carnegie Hall with jazz violinist Stephane Grapelli. Around this time Kennedy began delving heavily into jazz, regularly performing with jazz musicians in New York.
By the early '80s Kennedy had garnered international recognition, and in 1984 made his recording debut with a critically acclaimed performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto on EMI. But he withdrew from public performance from 1992-1997.
Kennedy was honored at the 1997 BRIT awards with an Outstanding Contribution to British Music award. In 1999 Sony issued a recording entitled The Kennedy Experience, which contained improvisations based on music of rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
Kennedy's first bona fide jazz recording, The Blue Note Sessions, was issued with great success in 2006 on Blue Note Records. Two years later Kennedy made his first appearance at the Proms in 21 years, with a performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto. Among Kennedy's recordings is the 2008 CD pairing the Beethoven and Mozart fourth violin concertos on EMI. Read less