BRAHMS Violin Concerto BARTÓK Rhapsodies
This is indeed a splendid recording of the Concerto. The Gewandhaus Orchestra sound bright and resplendent in the great D major tuttis of the outer movements and each melodic line is lovingly shaped to bring out its expressive potential, with Chailly ensuring perfect balance. Leonidas Kavakos, too, alongside his customary ringing tone and clear, polished delivery, gives evident care and thought to the shaping of each phrase. This is especially apparent in his account of the Joachim cadenza, finely paced (well-placed dramatic pauses giving an effect of improvisation) and precisely characterised. And from his first solo entry there’s evidence of abundant temperament and passion. Yet, asked to recommend a recent recording of the Brahms, I’d have to opt not for Kavakos but for Lisa Batiashvili, on account of the mellower sound of the Dresden Staatskapelle under Christian Thielemann, the more flowing tempo of the Adagio and, above all, for Batiashvili’s marvellous air of spontaneity, seeming to inhabit the music as she plays it.
However, if the Concerto prompts a few reservations, I’ve none about the rest of the programme. Kavakos and Nagy are magnificently idiomatic in the Bartók Rhapsodies: the little tempo changes and touches of rubato sound just right, while Kavakos produces an extraordinary range of tone colours – making one realise that while this may be ‘popular’ Bartók, it doesn’t imply that his imagination was working at less than full stretch. As for the Hungarian Dances, they give us a glimpse of Kavakos the showman, effortlessly alternating between effusive melancholy and scintillating virtuosity.