The artist formerly known as Nigel ...

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The Independent Online
After five years in exile, Britain's best known violinist has relaunched, nay reinvented, himself.

Nigel Kennedy, still widely described as a "punk musician" at the age of 40, has let it be known that henceforth he wishes to be known as "Kennedy".

The artist formerly known as "Nige" or even "NK", has vowed to ditch his first name from all future recordings, concerts and public appearances.

Happily this coincides with the launch of his new re-recording of Elgar's Violin Concerto released this week. "I have never liked the name Nigel," he explains. "But what people want to address me as in conversation is up to them."

His publicist elaborated: "He has hated being called Nigel for as long as I have known him and a month ago he rang me to say he would prefer to be called Kennedy from now on.

"Naturally it is his decision, after all it is his name, though he's a bit baffled by the interest."

Others believe the name-change has more to do with a conscious mid-life decision to shake off his old scruffy, new-age soccer-mad punky image.

He had made it plain he would now prefer people to concentrate on his musical talent rather than his former barrow boy incarnation, typified by estuary English and extravagant gestures like spraying his Jaguar car claret and blue in tribute to his sporting heroes, Aston Villa.

Last month, Kennedy gave his first live performance since his "retirement" in 1992.

The critics largely agreed that he remains an outstanding violinist, technically brilliant and with a gift for making audiences listen hard.

He has not yet fully eschewed the "Nige" persona, however. He performed at the Royal Festival Hall sporting a new age haircut and a spotty waistcoat. It is partly through this "alternative" approach that Kennedy has been credited by many critics as the performer who introduced a new generation of young people to classical music. His recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons has sold over 2 million copies.

His next live performance of Elgar's Violin Concerto, accompanied by the Oxford University Chamber Orchestra, will take place at the Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street, central London, on 17 November.

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