MAYBE it’s no surprise that when classical violinist Nicola Benedetti was asked to help design a new watch for her tour sponsor Raymond Weil, her Stradivarious was the inspiration.
With a packed schedule of concerts and events, Nicola probably spends much of her time with her violin – practising and performing.
But alongside the hours of playing that go into perfecting the many pieces Nicola is performing this year alone – including Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at Eden Court on Friday – there’s a surprising revelation in her advice to young violinists.
Nicola is passionate about sharing her love of classical music with a new generation and supporting young players.
"Don’t be scared of silence, of moments of just standing with your instrument and thinking what is best to do next," she advises.
And perhaps pointing towards the qualities that have helped elevate her to one of the country’s top classical stars, Nicola says: "Try to get as close as possible to what you understand the feeling of the music to be.
"The deeper you connect to the feeling of any piece, the quicker you will work out how best to express it.
"And practise every day – consistency is almost more important than the number of hours."
On Friday, Nicola is in Inverness to perform a programme with an Italian theme inspired by her own Italian heritage – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence.
It was her Scottish heritage that inspired her last album Homecoming – out last July – which features melodies by Phil Cunningham, Robert Burns and James Scott Skinner and guest artists such as local stars Duncan Chisholm, Julie Fowlis and her husband Éamon Doorley, James MacIntosh and Runrig’s Rory Macdonald.
The album topped the classical charts, as well as being the first to break into the official UK Albums Chart Top 20 in almost 20 years – Nicola the first Scottish classical artist ever to do it.
It came out just 10 years after Nicola won BBC Young Musician of the Year at 16, while in 2013 she was honoured with an MBE for her educational and charity work.
But when asked whether those might be career highlights, Nicola said: "My highlights are personal, musical and often internal ones.
"If I play something better than I did before or than I thought I was capable, I am happy."
It’s been a busy summer including appearances at the BBC Proms.
Well-known for collaborating with major orchestras all over the world, Nicola has a five-date mini-tour next month to Israel, playing with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta.
Nicola’s schedule runs straight through into 2016 with dates for next year including the UK, Australia and New Zealand, Germany, Italy and Canada.
But first there’s the current tour where alongside Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky, English composer Mark Anthony Turnage has written five love duets in a piece for Nicola and her partner, cellist Leonard Elschenbroich – they met at music school.
The composr said: "I met Nicola and Leonard at a prom last summer. Although we didn’t discuss a new piece I knew straight away that I wanted to write a work just for them. So when a few months later they asked me for a short work for violin and cello I was delighted.
"Five love duets: fiery and passionate but most of them tender and lyrical.
"I had done my research and read about their relationship, a very touching account of their meeting at music school and later falling in love."
Nicola Benedetti plays Eden Court on Friday (September 18). The conert is now sold out.