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Nigel Kennedy Cancels Classic FM Concert After Hendrix Tribute Row

Violinist Nigel Kennedy has cancelled a Classic FM concert after claiming the radio station asked him not to perform his Jimi Hendrix tribute.

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Nigel Kennedy photo
Violinist Nigel Kennedy. Photo: Getty Images/David M. Benett

Violinist Nigel Kennedy has cancelled a Classic FM Live concert, with only a few days’ notice, after claiming the radio station asked him not to perform his Jimi Hendrix tribute.

Nigel Kennedy told The Guardian that he was planning to perform his arrangement of Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’, which has a “Celtic-sounding melody”, with the Chineke! orchestra at Classic FM’s concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 22 September. However, the radio station allegedly told him that his tribute to the legendary rock star was unsuitable for their audience and asked him to perform Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons instead.

“Musical segregation”

Nigel Kennedy, who has been breaking down musical barriers throughout his career, regards Jimi Hendrix as one of the foremost composers of the 20th century. In 1999 he released The Kennedy Experience inspired by the guitarist’s recordings. He said the decision amounted to “musical segregation” and felt he had no choice but to withdraw from the concert.

“If it was applied to people, it would be illegal,” he explained. “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.”

Nigel Kennedy was asked to perform The Four Seasons instead

The violinist was asked to perform The Four Seasons by the station he now calls “Jurassic FM”, because of its programming decisions, with inadequate rehearsal time and with a conductor which he did not want to do. Kennedy said, “The Berliner Philharmoniker, the best orchestra in the world, never asked me to have a conductor and they never asked me not to rehearse. They take a joy in rehearsing in order to get deeper into the music …”

The Four Seasons will now be performed by sisters Camille and Julie Berthollet at Classic FM’s Live concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 22 September.

Nigel Kennedy is the best-selling classical violinist of all time. His virtuoso technique, unique talent and mass appeal have brought fresh perspectives to both the classical and contemporary repertoire. He attended the Yehudi Menuhin School in England and later moved to New York to study at the Juilliard School with Dorothy DeLay. His groundbreaking 1989 recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons is one of the best-selling classical albums of all time.

Nigel Kennedy will publish his autobiography Uncensored, accompanied by a 3CD set, on 4 November 2021.

Listen to This Is Nigel Kennedy on Spotify.

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