Benedetti to direct EIF
Scots violinist Nicola Benedetti is to be the 11th director of the Edinburgh International Festival, succeeding Fergus Linehan, who steps down after this year’s 75th anniversary programme.
In a surprise announcement, less than 24 hours after the EIF had buried the controversy around its Russian Honorary President Valery Gergiev by accepting his resignation, the Festival’s appointment breaks new ground in a remarkable list of ways.
When she takes up the post of October 1 this year, Benedetti will be the first woman in the role and the first Scot to lead the Festival. Turning 35 in July, she will also be the youngest holder of the position since Robert Ponsonby in the 1950s.
In the public eye since she won the BBC Young Musician competition in May 2004 at the age of 16, playing Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto with the BBC SSO in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, Benedetti has carved a hugely successful international career as an orchestral soloist and chamber musician, with a succession of chart-topping recordings. Most recently she has been celebrated for her championing of music education, notably through the establishment of her own Benedetti Foundation. The youngest recipient of the Queen’s Medal for Music in 2017, she was made a CBE in the 2019 New Year Honours.
Currently on a tour of Europe which opened at London’s Wigmore Hall, playing Schumann and Brahms with her regular trio of cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk, the violinist was unavailable for interviews. The statement from the Festival said that “alongside her role as Festival Director, Nicola will continue to perform internationally and to lead the Benedetti Foundation. She will naturally be more selective with her engagements in order to ensure she fulfils each of her commitments.”
The Director Designate herself was quoted: “I am deeply honoured to contribute to the long and rich history of the Edinburgh International Festival and the cultural landscape of Scotland. This festival was founded on principles of reconciliation and the ideals of art transcending political and cultural fracture. Following in the footsteps of the wonderful achievements of Fergus Linehan and his predecessors, I will uphold these values and greatly look forward to serving this festival, its mission of cultural exchanges, and the people of Scotland.”
Scotland’s First Minister, Rt Hon. Nicola Sturgeon MSP, said: “I’m sure that people across the country are looking forward to supporting the Festival’s full in-person return after two years, and welcoming visitors and artists from around the world to Scotland.
“I welcome Nicola Benedetti’s appointment as Director – especially as she becomes the first woman to ever hold the role. Her experience in promoting Scotland’s cultural scene to audiences around the world will be invaluable and I wish her every success.”
Keith Skeoch, who chairs the EIF Board of Trustees, added: “It is such a pleasure to welcome Nicola Benedetti as both the first woman and the first Scottish director of the Edinburgh International Festival. In many ways she reflects the spirit of this festival; internationally recognised and respected but Scottish to her core, she’s dedicated to advocating world-class music making and innovating new ways to bring it to audiences.
“As an artist, her string of collaborators reads like a who’s who of the world of classical music and as an educator she has reached tens of thousands worldwide. I have no doubt that she will bring a wealth of new ideas to the organisation and build on Fergus’ exceptional work from the last eight years.”
Benedetti’s predecessor will unveil his final programme at the end of March. The 75th Festival follows two years when the presentation of events was impacted by the global pandemic, becoming mostly filmed and online in 2020 and with the construction of three tented pavilions to house the 2021 music programme.
During the same period, Benedetti moved much of her education work online but has also performed acclaimed new orchestral works written for her by Wynton Marsalis and Mark Simpson, and formed her own early music ensemble, Benedetti Baroque, which appeared at last year’s Festival.
The Festival’s Board yesterday announced that it had asked for and accepted the resignation of Valery Gergiev as its Honorary President. Arts organisations across the world have distanced themselves from the Russian conductor since the invasion of Ukraine because of his friendship with President Putin
This year’s Edinburgh Festival runs from August 5-28, and more information is available at eif.co.uk.