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Nicola Benedetti speaks with 'The National' ahead of Abu Dhabi Festival

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When Nicola Benedetti burst on to the classical music scene as a teenager, the industry thought it had finally cracked the elusive code to commercial success. The hardworking Scottish violinist established herself as a young and popular virtuoso with a string of high-profile performances: these included her debut appearance with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as a 13-year-old, performing in front of UK royalty in 1999, as well as the fact that in 2002, as a 15-year-old, she won the British television talent quest Brilliant Prodigy. 

Reflecting on the fame and accolades, the now 30-year-old Benedetti explains that her success came at a cost. When she looks back at her coverage in mainstream media, and the reactions from the public, she realises that the focus was ultimately more on her personality than her music.

Benedetti is reframing her idea of success, giving her a steely focus on the music itself, rather than how it will be received. Her Abu Dhabi Festival show tonight is a case in point. Teaming up with the experimental Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – an ensemble of masters performing on period instruments from the 18th and 19th century – Benedetti aims to explore new facets of well-known pieces, such as Beethoven's ­Symphony No 4. "These performances are being done without conductors," she says. "So there's a level of autonomy for the musicians themselves and a level of participation that has to come from every single musician in the orchestra."