On stage “I’m desperately trying not to think,” violinist Nicola Benedetti told Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs in 2014. The 34-year-old, who will perform with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at the Proms tomorrow, says “the minute your thoughts start to formulate, they can distract you”. She first picked up a violin when she was four, and at 10 was studying at the elite Yehudi Menuhin School, where she was taught by the great man: “He had an aura as strong and as bright as the sun.”
Benedetti jokes: “When I teach seven-year-olds and they can play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, I say, ‘That’s amazing! Well done!’. And then occasionally Mum would remind me, ‘Do you remember what you were playing at that age?’.” It was a Mozart concerto. But she didn’t grown up in a classical-loving household – her Italian immigrant parents preferred Abba. At 16 she became the first Scot to win BBC Young Musician of the Year. She went on to play 110 concerts in a year, which was “far too much for that age”, but established her in a “cut-throat” industry.