In the moments before pressing play on any new recording from Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the only thing you can be absolutely certain of is that you’re about to hear something brimming with personality, individuality and panache; in fact sometimes so much personality that a quick glance at the score is in order, simply to establish exactly what the ratio of Kopatchinskaja versus composer-in-question actually is.
‘Deux’ is no exception to this rule, which I say with unreserved admiration, because every reading here works like a dream; no doubt in part because the three main works’ Hungarian folk roots are a perfect partner to her own Moldovan folk heritage. I’m also thrilled to see the notes highlight the two female violinists connected to these works: Jelly d’Arányi, dedicatee of both Ravel’s Tzigane and Bartok’s two violin sonatas, and the French prodigy-turned-adult-star Ginette Neveu, who premiered Poulenc’s Violin Sonata in 1943.
The Poulenc makes for an explosive disc opener too, its every mood realised to apotheosis-esque degree: nimbly manic and scratchy-textured when first it explodes into life, followed by the slinkiest and flirtiest I’ve ever heard from its second, lyrical section. More pleasures await in the exquisitely tender Intermezzo, and also in what is a rollicking, often runaway ride of a Tea-for-Two finale. The album isn’t called ‘Deux’ for naught, either, because Leschenko not only matches Kopatchinskaja in every mood and approach but is a thoroughly, deliciously equal partner in the overall balance.
Next up the Bartók, consisting of a quietly dangerous, don’t-turn-your-back-on-it Molto allegro, followed by an excitingly unpreditable, technically immaculate Allegretto. Then as for Tzigane, well, t’ain’t subtle, that’s for sure, but given that it’s hardly smoothly suave, indoors Ravel to start off with, why not untame things further? Particularly when you can do so with such glitteringly perfect technique, intonation and kaleidoscopic colours as Kopatchinskaja can, whether slowly and huskily snaking around her lower registers, dancing like a fleet-footed folk fairy up at the end of her fingerboard or firing off pizzicato clusters reminiscent of popping candy. Leschenko’s entry warrants special mention too, because it’s electric stuff: hypnotically rhythmic, and with a smartly ringing, luminous touch that brings the piano deliciously close to the cimbalom. Then from the pair of them a wild, thundering, fever-pitched hoedown of a climax.
Add Leschenko’s solo turn – a swirling, twinkle-toed reading of Dohnányi’s Coppélia Waltz arrangement – and this album is a properly exciting, life affirming box of delights.