To hear Leonidas Kavakos play the Brahms Violin Concerto is to be newly apprised of the work’s reputed difficulties. Not that Kavakos struggles with the solo part—far from it. But he presents the myriad double-stops, compound-chords, and wide leaps with such clarity and vividness that your ear is drawn to these effects more than usual. Yet for all this, Kavakos’ rendition is a thoroughly musical one, fully cognizant of Brahms’ structure and overall symphonic plan. Riccardo Chailly’s cleanly articulated, tersely-romantic accompaniment makes an apt foil for his soloist, as do the clear textures and lean string sound he evokes from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.
That Kavakos would choose the warhorse Joachim cadenza at firstRead more seems at odds with his interpretive stance, but his fresh approach proves otherwise. By sculpting each phrase so inventively, Kavakos rivets your attention and at times gives the impression that he’s improvising. In the songful slow movement (which showcases beautiful playing by the Leipzig winds) Kavakos soothes without sounding saccharine, while the finale crackles with life, thanks in part to the violinist inserting a bit of gypsy flair into the famous “Hungarian” tune.
This Hungarian flavor, albeit of a more rustic variety, carries over to Bartók’s Rhapsodies for violin and piano, which Kavakos and pianist Péter Nagy dispatch with jaunty bravura and folksy style. These same characteristics lend the more cosmopolitan Brahms Hungarian Dances a certain authenticity that the orchestral versions lack. The recording places the orchestra slightly to the rear in the acoustic, but produces a satisfying full sound in louder passages (although the violin is oddly more prominent when playing with the orchestra than with just the piano). This is a fine modern Brahms Violin Concerto that can hold its own in a crowded catalog.
A Brahms that even Brahms would love!June 26, 2014By Joseph Braun (Park Ridge, NJ)See All My Reviews"The Brahms Violin Concerto has been among my personal top-ten classical favorites since first hearing it over fifty years ago. So why purchase one more, when I have dozens? A dear friend who is a very senior violinist in a major symphony gave me complimentary tickets just so I could hear Kavakos play (the Berg concerto). I loved what he did with the violin! So I found his Brahms and ordered it. This is one beautifully done Brahms! My same friend once knew someone who had actually known Brahms and who relayed the memory that Brahms was complaining that orchestras were playing his music too fast. Well, this recording is a Brahms that Brahms would be ecstatic about. Chailly and Kavakos take a leisurely stroll through the melodies and harmonies that only a Brahms can offer and they do so with no trace of ostentation or unnecessary, pseudo-dramatic attack. Kavakos allows you to hear note progressions that many players speed through with the confidence that comes from a sense of having mastered the score. With Kavakos, there is only a beautiful, relaxed, transparent clarity that settles into your nervous system -- and you just absorb the beauty that was intended to be there. My previous gold standard for the Brahms in D was Nathan Milsteins vinyl with the Pittsburgh Symphony. This recording is my new gold standard. (And the Bartok and Brahms dance offerings are a real bonus.)"Report Abuse