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A plucky young star

One of Britain's most talented and exciting young musicians is to make her North East debut next month.

Nicola Benedetti

One of Britain's most talented and exciting young musicians is to make her North East debut next month.

Violinist Nicola Benedetti, who was named BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004, will be the star soloist with the Scottish Ensemble for the climax to Northumberland's Brinkburn Music Summer Festival, performing Mozart's Concerto in A, K219.

Nicola comes from West Kilbride, Ayrshire, and says she owes almost everything to her mother as far as her early musical development was concerned.

"She always encouraged my sister and I to practise," explained Nicola.

"But it was always a pleasure for me and, looking back now, I can appreciate it was a natural path, with natural decisions.

"My elder sister, Stephanie, had asked for a violin when she was four.

"When she was eight and I was four we began having lessons together at school, which used the Suzuki method.

"My mother just asked me if I'd like to play the violin too and I said yes, on the condition that if I didn't like playing I could give the violin back to the teacher!"

By the age of eight she was practising up to three hours a day, when possible.

It was at this time that Nicola took part in the Ayrshire Festival, where musicians from different age groups compete against each other. She was pitched in the Open Class playing against much older students, and her success there eventually earned her entry to the renowned Menuhin School, where she studied until she was 15.

After a performance with the Warsaw Sinfonia, conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier, concerts with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Scottish Opera followed.

Nicola had to engage a private tutor to see her through her GCSEs, balancing her education with various commissions to play in the United States and Russia.

Then in May last year she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition with a performance of the challenging and comparatively little-known concerto by the Polish composer Szymanowski.

A month later Nicola played in front of an audience of 10,000 at the Glastonbury Classical Festival and that October performed before the Queen at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

The annual Brinkburn Festival takes place in the idyllic setting of the 12th Century Brinkburn Priory, on the banks of the River Coquet. It is divided over two weekends, and Nicola's performance with the Scottish Ensemble is on Sunday, July 10, at 7.30pm.

Other works on the programme include Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K525, and Barshai's arrangement of Shostakovich's Tenth Quartet, the Chamber Symphony for Strings, Op.118a.

*For full details of the Brinkburn Festival concerts and to book tickets, call (01289) 330 999.

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