Playlist: Idiosyncratic violinists

James Jolly Sat 13th January 2018

James Jolly creates a musical journey with Patricia Kopatchinskaja as his inspiration

If you’ve ever seen Patricia Kopatchinskaja play, you’ll know that it’s a full-on experience, no compromise, no prisoners taken. She belongs to that small band of players who do more than play the notes; there’s a real sense that the music is somehow being played for the first time and, when it works, it’s an overwhelming experience. Her Gramophone Recording of the Year from 2013, concertos by Bartók, Ligeti and Eötvös, still mesmerises for its sheer force of personality combined with a genuinely warm embrace of the music. From a generation before her you’d have to go to the music-making of Nigel Kennedy for a similar approach: long before the persona began to dominate, there was a period when he tackled the core works of the violin repertoire and really made them his own – his recording of Brahms’s Violin Concerto impresses with its clarity of vision but also its still-fresh engagement with the music. For me, Gidon Kremer also fits into this ‘school’ of musicianship – he was never content to plough and re-plough familiar furrows. He did things his way and even in works as seemingly ‘pure’ as the Mozart violin concertos he would find something startling new to say, and when teamed up with a comparably inquisitive conductor like Nikolaus Harnoncourt, something extraordinary would happen. Another player whose way with core works, like the Beethoven concerto, makes one listen afresh is the violinist (and conductor) Thomas Zehetmair. Joining the Orchestra of the 18th Century and Frans Brüggen, he brings to the work an integrity and vision that really impresses. It’s a modern classic and if you don’t know it, do listen. A great player from the last century who also had the ability to make one listen as if for the first time is Isaac Stern. His career brought him into contact with some remarkable musicians and he left a huge and mightily impressive catalogue of recordings. His recording of the Wieniawski Second with Eugene Ormandy is magnificent. One of the true musical tragedies of the 20th century was the death at 30 of the French player Ginette Neveu who, few would disagree, was on course to become one of the greatest violinists of her time. She could create an intensity and power that was like a laser beam. To hear her play the Sibelius concerto with Walter Susskind and the Philharmonia is overwhelming.

Listen to the playlist on Qobuz

 

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