How Nigel Kennedy changed classical music forever

If it wasn't for a spiky-haired Nigel Kennedy’s 1989 recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, you and I might not be listening to Classic FM today. Here's why I think one album changed the classical world forever.

Nigel kennedy violinist four seasons

It's a bold statement, I know, but think about this: in 1989, the classical world was marking the end of an era with the death of Herbert von Karajan. Then Kennedy burst onto the scene and launched a new one. He was the polar opposite to every expectation we had of classical musicians: scruffy, cheeky, spiky-haired, foot-stamping, ‘Mockney’ speaking; he called us ‘cats’ and ‘monsters’!

Agreed, The Four Seasons  was the first time that a classical artist had been given the full pop marketing treatment. There was a promotional ‘single’, billboard posters, TV and radio commercials. But there was more to this phenomenon than marketing - Kennedy is a brilliant violinist and performer.

His full throttle version of Vivaldi sold more than three million copies worldwide, held onto the No.1 spot in the classical chart for more than a year, and entered the record books as the best-selling classical recording ever.

I'd spent my youth playing in bands and I vividly recall hearing Kennedy's album for the first time and thinking 'This guy knows how to let rip!' I'd never heard baroque that sounded like rock before - and Kennedy looked the part too. If you need a reminder, join me on Classic FM Drive  after 6pm to hear a track from the classic recording. 

And I'd say that Classic FM, launched three years later, probably would not have had such a phenomenal launch and success if it weren’t for Kennedy. He, along with the arrival of the Three Tenors the following year, demystified classical music, showing that it wasn’t just for a knowledgeable elite. He didn’t dumb it down and he didn’t ‘cross-over’, he just put it out there. And in doing so he laid the foundations for the next 25 years and a public who had been awakened to the joy of classical music.

What did Nigel Kennedy’s recording of The Four Seasons mean to you? Tell me what you think below.

Nigel Kennedy

Nigel Kennedy Violinist and Violist Nigel Kennedy

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