Violin's "bad boy" brings Poland to London

Wed May 12, 2010 10:00am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Nigel Kennedy can't be classical music's bad boy anymore at age 53 even if he does still sport a mohawk, kick soccer balls into the audience and sprinkle the "f" word into every other sentence.

So how about naming the British violinist, who in his early 30s recorded a version of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" that remains one of the best-selling classical recordings of all times, musical ambassador for Poland?

It's a role he's going to play anyway at the end of May in London, where Kennedy -- who has a somewhat studied tough-talking Englishmen's image -- will host a musical weekend for his adopted (by marriage) country.

The native of Brighton on the south coast of England, who became a violin superstar only to veer off into the jazz and rock world, told Reuters that his upcoming Polish Weekend at the Southbank Center will celebrate a broad range of culture.

"I've just enjoyed so many personal and cultural things in Poland," Kennedy, who with his Polish second wife Agnieszka, has lived most of the past nine years in Krakow, told Reuters at his other home, in north London.

"So hearing the great Polish musicians and drinking the great beer and vodka and eating the food, that's all going to be part of this festival at the end of this month. That should be reason enough to go, without even going to a gig."

But music there will be, and plenty of it, for what is being billed as "Nigel Kennedy's Polish Weekend" at the Southbank Center, May 29-31, with everything from jazz to Polish breakdancing to the inevitable Chopin -- whose birth in Poland 200 years ago has triggered that standby of classical music, an anniversary.

Kennedy, who once tried to create a persona for himself using only his last name, but concedes now it was a "terrible fiasco," does not put much store by anniversaries:   Continued...

<p>Nigel Kennedy Quintet performs with his Jazz band during a concert in Beirut July 19, 2007. REUTERS/Wadih Shlink</p>