Deux: Music for Violin & Piano by Bartok, Poulenc & Ravel
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Cat No: ALPHA387
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 16th February 2018
WorksViolin Sonata no.2, Sz76 BB85
ArtistsPatricia Kopatchinskaja (violin)
Polina Leschenko (piano)
The Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi, grandniece of Joseph Joachim, was a “muse” to both Bartók and Ravel. In 1922 and 1923, she premiered the two Bartók sonatas for violin and piano and Ravel dedicated Tzigane to her. He wrote to Bartók: “You have convinced me to compose for our friend, who plays so fluently, a little piece whose diabolical difficulty will bring to life the Hungary of my dreams; and since it will be for violin, why don’t we call it Tzigane?”
Of course, Tzigane by Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who has been playing and dancing this music since her childhood in Moldova, does not sound like salon music... After a much-fęted recital at Wigmore Hall in 2017, the Financial Times wrote: “In another life, Patricia Kopatchinskaja might have been a rock star. This is a violinist who loves taking risks ... But the final reward was worth waiting for: a denouement of astonishing force.”
1Poulenc: Violin Sonata, FP 119 - 1. Allegro Con Fuoco
2Poulenc: Violin Sonata, FP 119 - 2. Intermezzo
3Poulenc: Violin Sonata, FP 119 - 3. Presto Tragico
4Delibes/Dohnányi: Coppélia - Waltz
5Bartók: Violin Sonata #2, SZ 76 - 1. Molto Moderato
6Bartók: Violin Sonata #2, SZ 76 - 2. Allegretto
7Ravel: Tzigane, M 76
Few if any violinists have been as successful as this in catching the edginess and volatility of Poulenc’s Violin Sonata, composed in 1942-43 for the young French virtuoso Ginette Niveu and dedicated to the memory of Federico García Lorca. Kopatchinskaja and her partner on this album, the reclusive but phenomenally gifted pianist Polina Leschenko, play the work in its 1949 revision, where the work’s abrupt previously abrupt ending takes on a further twist (Niveu died in a plane crash that same year), and they give the music a translucent hue as well as a suppleness and expressive commitment that is hugely compelling. The only very minor niggle is that the piano is set back a shade, but the ear soon adjusts, and in every musical respect Leschenko’s superbly alert, responsive and suggestive playing constantly matches Kopatchinskaja’s, making the album’s title particularly apt. The crackling energy of the opening transfers itself to upbeats which unleash themselves like pouncing cats, but there are moments of scurrying humour too, as in the Tea-for-Two-infused finale. Every detail, down to the slightest bow stroke, the lightest pizzicato seems to have a purpose here.
The same is just as true of Bartók’s formidable Second Violin Sonata, composed (like his First) for Joseph Joachim’s great-niece, Jelly d’Arányi (1893-1966). Kopatchinskaja and Leschenko take the expressive toughness of this music head-on, and once again discover a myriad of nuances by going beyond the usual beefed-up violin virtuoso soundworld. Traditional recordings tend to sound like burnished bronze compared with this account, which flickers and glimmers like dancing flames, and the elemental quality is further enhanced by Kopatchinskaja’s natural feel for the folk idioms that underlie Bartók’s music. Even at its glassiest, there’s an organic feel to this violin sound, and that extends to the superbly judged pizzicato passage that gets the Allegretto second movement going.
Ravel’s celebrated Tzigane is another work composed for d’Arányi, and once again it grips the listener from the very outset. The ‘gypsy’-feel of this piece may be inauthentic (Bartók certainly seems to have thought so), but with Pat Kop on fizzing form it never feels contrived. This, like the other music here, was composed not in a vacuum but for performance in the fullest sense. By jettisoning spurious, ossified performance traditions, Kopatchinskaja and Leschenko reconnect not with the work in the abstract, but with the music itself: its moods, textures, outward gestures and internal narratives. Yet again, the music receives an exceptionally vivid, bold performance, one that reveals the enfant terrible lurking beneath Ravel’s usually urbane surface, and it brings the disc to a thrilling close.
Along the way, we also get a delightful solo turn for Polina Leschenko in Ernő Dohnányi’s 1925 arrangement of Delibes’ Coppélia Waltz, teasing both the music and the listener in delicious manner, and adding yet another Franco-Hungarian connection to the disc as a whole.
For utterly electrifying performances of jewels from the twentieth-century violin-and-piano repertoire, this disc is simply unbeatable, ranking with the very best from both musicians and making another outstanding addition to the Alpha catalogue.
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