Wednesday concert at Royal Albert Hall after a dispute over whether he could perform a Jimi Hendrix song on the program.Violinist Nigel Kennedy has pulled out of Classic FM Live's
The concert marks Classic FM's return to the Royal Albert Hall concert stage in London for the first time in two years.
While Kennedy was billed as one of the main stars in the performance, the show will go on without him, featuring pianist Khatia Buniatishvili performing Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and now featuring sisters Camille and Julie Berthollet playing their version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for cello and violin and making their Royal Albert Hall debut. The artists will play with Chineke! Orchestra, directed by Damon Gupton.
Descriptions of the program prior to Kennedy's departure said that he was to have played "a medley of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, as well as his own composition 'Melody in the Wind Star'" with Chineke! Orchestra.
According to The Guardian, Kennedy said that he had intended to play an arrangement of the Jimi Hendrix song, "Little Wing" but that Classic FM was "preventing him from performing a Jimi Hendrix tribute," which it had deemed "not suitable" for its audience. Kennedy called the decision "culturally prejudiced."
"This is musical segregation,” he told The Guardian. “If it was applied to people, it would be illegal. If that type of mentality is rampant in the arts, then we still haven’t fixed the problem of prejudice. This is much more serious than my feathers being a bit ruffled. Prejudice in music is completely dreadful. They’re effectively saying that Hendrix is all right in the Marquee Club, but not in the Albert Hall.”
Kennedy also cited inadequate rehearsal time, and he objected to the way Classic FM wanted him to perform the Four Seasons - "They were telling me that I had to do it with a conductor, which I’ve never done. The communication between myself and the orchestra is much better than having someone doing semaphore in between them and myself," Kennedy told The Guardian.
Of the Hendrix controversy, Kennedy told the Guardian that "(Chineke! Orchestra founder) Chi-Chi (Nwanoku) and Chineke! were saying we want to be seen as a classical orchestra and maybe the Hendrix repertoire’s not right. Classic FM were saying it’s not right for their audience.”
Nwanoku told The Guardian that "We had nothing to do with Nigel pulling out of this. It’s not up to us what we play in the Classic FM concert. It was decided by Classic FM, who rightly insist that repertoire played at their annual Royal Albert Hall concert is familiar to their loyal listeners. They did not want Jimi Hendrix on Classic FM. No blame should be laid at our feet. We were so keen to do the concert with Nigel and had agreed to his request not to have a conductor for The Four Seasons and an extra rehearsal. We’re proud of our collaborations with other genres, including Carl Craig and Stormzy.”
Kennedy's 1989 recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was one of the best-selling classical recordings of all time (and incidentally spawned a nice arrangement of several best-loved movements from that work that works for intermediate students). Ten years later Kennedy recorded his own take on the music of Jimi Hendrix in an album called The Kennedy Experience.
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