I can’t remember when I enjoyed a CD more than this. Patricia Kopatchinskaja - I’ll refer to her as KP from here on if you don’t mind - is a young Moldovan-born violinist, who is really a stupendous talent. The programme on this disc gives her ample opportunity to display that. From the start, it is clear that there is a lot more to her than glittering technical accomplishment. That quality is present in spadefuls, but is simply used to back up a truly outstanding imagination. She projects the character of these two works exceptionally vividly. The key to this may be suggested by her witty little vignette in the note booklet, where she imagines herself at a masked ball. There she meets two intriguing characters who turn out to be the ‘souls’ of the two concertos on this disc.
As the first ‘soul’ says, the Stravinsky begins with a slap. It is, I suppose, a ‘neo-classical’ work, but one dominated by the composer’s glorious sense of humour and fun. KP enters into it with joyous abandon, so that the whole thing does indeed become a huge musical party. It’s hard to imagine a better performance than this, and it’s followed up by a cadenza on track 5 which has, in point of fact, quite little to do with the Stravinsky, yet continues the general high spirits. In this concoction of her own, KP is joined by the leader of the LPO, Pieter Shoeman; the pair of them are clearly having a wonderful time, and the enjoyment is infectious. The concerto does have its more serious moments, and these she delivers with beauty and sensitivity, providing the necessary depth of characterisation.
The Prokofiev is a somewhat darker work - or certainly one with more shadows. Here, I was impressed with the concentration shown by the young soloist. The first movement can seem somewhat episodic, but that is not a problem here, and the thoughtfulness of the main theme and the glorious lyricism of the second are bound together into a convincing whole. The slow movement is now - justifiably - famous, even reaching the status of becoming one of the small number of ‘modern’ works heard on Classic fm. KP approaches it in an entirely fresh way. Listen to the daring pianissimo of the opening, almost entirely without vibrato, making the whispered entry of the orchestra with the same music all the more magical. The excellence of the playing here is a good point to emphasise that the orchestra’s contribution to the disc is of the very highest order, as is the accompanying by the conductor Vladimir Jurowski.
The twitchy finale is also given tremendous colour and vitality. The castanets - which I suppose may have been a polite nod to the Spanish audience of the Madrid première - sound not so much like reminders of Spanish folk music as of dancing skeletons, an idea once again suggested in KP’s little story.
There is a sense of discovery, of spontaneous re-creation of these two masterpieces. Totally stylish yet wholly new; great playing and a truly outstanding issue.
Masterwork Index: Prokofiev violin concertos