Record­ing of the Month

This daz­zling record­ing of 20th-cen­tury mas­ter­pieces show­cases duo play­ing at its ab­so­lute best, says Martin Cot­ton

BBC Music Magazine - - Contents -

Deux Pa­tri­cia Kopatchin­skaja and Polina Leschenko ‘Tech­ni­cally both play­ers are a marvel’


Poulenc: Vi­o­lin Sonata; De­libes arr. Dohnányi: Waltz from Cop­pélia; Bartók: Vi­o­lin Sonata No. 2; Ravel: Tzi­gane Pa­tri­cia Kopatchin­skaja (vi­o­lin), Polina Leschenko (pi­ano)

Al­pha Clas­sics Al­pha 387

52:57 mins

The temp­ta­tion for the re­viewer, when faced with play­ing of such con­sum­mate ease com­bined with in­volve­ment and at­ten­tion to de­tail, is to go off the deep end into a sea of pur­ple prose. Sim­ply, this is one of the finest, most mu­si­cally sen­si­tive record­ings to have come my way for some time, and the neat ti­tle ‘Deux’ ex­actly en­cap­su­lates the part­ner­ship on dis­play.

The way that both vi­o­lin­ist Pa­tri­cia Kopatchin­skaja and pi­anist Polina Leschenko at­tack the Poulenc Vi­o­lin Sonata (1943), ex­pos­ing its vi­o­lently tragic char­ac­ter from the out­set, draws you in im­me­di­ately.

The play­ers spin on a dime in the sud­den changes of mood, en­com­pass­ing a bit­ter sense of hu­mour – with the open­ing phrase of Tea for Two used in ways that its com­poser could never have dreamed of – and lyri­cism coloured with de­spair.

Poulenc him­self didn’t think much of the Vi­o­lin Sonata (his sym­pa­thies never re­ally lay with solo string in­stru­ments) and he had to have his arm twisted by the French vi­o­lin­ist Ginette Neveu to write it at all, but even he might have been con­vinced by this spe­cial per­for­mance.

Tech­ni­cally, both play­ers are a marvel: Leschenko has her own teas­ingly vir­tu­osic solo mo­ment in the ar­range­ment by Dohnányi of the Waltz from De­libes’s Cop­pélia , ri­valling Dohnányi’s own 1929 recorded ver­sion, and with a range of touch and weight su­perla­tively caught by the record­ing.

Al­pha Clas­sics’s sound is equally good at cap­tur­ing both Kopatchin­skaja’s range and depth, and the bal­ance achieved by the per­form­ers, not only in en­sem­ble, dy­nam­ics and tone, but in the way they re­spond to the mu­sic with unity of pur­pose in ru­bato. Even at speed, each note in streams of semi­qua­vers man­ages to have an in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter and mean­ing.

Beauty of play­ing doesn’t pre­clude harsh­ness of sound where it’s needed: the tough­ness – and some­times rough­ness

– of the Bartók Sec­ond Vi­o­lin Sonata comes across with as much con­vic­tion as del­i­cate pas­sages of har­mon­ics, or places where Kopatchin­skaja’s bow barely seems to touch the string. Strain­ing to hear brings its own sense of ex­hil­a­ra­tion.

The trans­mo­gri­fied Hun­gar­ian folk mu­sic which lies be­hind Bartók’s mu­sic, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond move­ment Al­le­gretto, is never over-em­pha­sised, but still has a strong pres­ence, es­pe­cially when it comes to the pro­jec­tion of the rhyth­mic pro­file.

Like the Bartók, Ravel’s Tzi­gane (1924) was writ­ten for the Hun­gar­ian vi­o­lin­ist

Jelly d’aranyi, in­ci­den­tally great-niece of the vi­o­lin­ist, Joseph Joachim, who ad­vised Brahms on his Vi­o­lin Con­certo. D’aranyi had also tried to get a sonata out of Poulenc, but had failed. Tzi­gane used to be dis­missed as a mere dis­play piece, but I defy any­one not to be bowled over by the sheer va­ri­ety and depth of play­ing, es­pe­cially in the long open­ing ca­denza, where the change of tone and colour in the first note alone is enough to open up worlds, and por­ta­mento and vi­brato are dar­ing and pas­sion­ate through­out the per­for­mance.

When the record­ing fin­ished I lis­tened to it all over again – it re­ally is that good. PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★★

Poulenc him­self might have been con­vinced by this per­for­mance of his Vi­o­lin Sonata

New fron­tiers:

‘We were ex­plor­ing our world to­gether’

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