When a slender, dark-eyed, 16-year-old girl lifted her bow and began to play the exotic music of Karol Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No 1, the audience at the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2004 final realised they were hearing something out of the ordinary. There had been much excitement over Benjamin Grosvenor, an 11-year-old piano prodigy; some expected him to walk away with the prize. But it was clear to me, for one, that Nicola Benedetti was exceptional. Her rich, expressive tone, her assured and controlled technique and her intuitive grasp of this complex concerto and its subtle colours marked her as a musician far ahead of her years: a fully fledged artist, ready to begin her career there and then.Read the whole thing here. Jessica's blog has been sadly silent for over a week, an absence she has just explained: she was on vacation in Madeira. Now I'm really jealous.
In fact, Benedetti had already begun her career. She trained at the Yehudi Menuhin School, home to the cream of young musical talent in the UK, and left at 15 to concentrate on the violin alone. Before the BBC competition, she had already been snapped up by the powerful agency IMG, and several record companies had expressed interest. But the prize accelerated matters; last week it was announced that Benedetti has signed for Deutsche Grammophon in a six-album, £1m deal that sets her up as one of the biggest stars of her generation.