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For her third album on Alpha, Patricia Kopatchinskaja is joined by a highly talented pianist whose approach to music is as extremist as hers, Polina Leschenko. Together they explore pieces that have many points in common. 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-fêted 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." Debussy’s Sonata, with its Arab and Javanese influences, completes this voyage, along with a piece for piano solo by Dohnányi, the Valse Coppélia after Léo Delibes, another symbol of the relations between France and Hungary.
CD review – Their Playing Bristles with Energy
Patricia Kopatchinskaja is a violinist whose performances celebrate the act of living in the moment – something hard to capture on disc, but not impossible. Her recent recordings have seen her shaking up Schubert’s Death and the Maiden with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and taking a crowbar to accepted notions of good taste on Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. Nor is there anything ordinary about this latest CD, a recital with the pianist Polina Leschenko that is a feast of edgy, risk-filled music-making.
Leschenko, a protege of Martha Argerich, is Kopatchinskaja’s equal in energy and purpose throughout. They set about Poulenc’s 1943 Sonata with playing that is fierce and furious, but tempering its anger with wit. It’s not always pretty, but it’s always alive – and it’s always going somewhere; this is playing that looks around the corners of the music and is open to what’s coming next. Similarly, Bartók’s 1922 Sonata No 2 bristles with energy but also glows with mercurially changing colour; they never settle for expressing mere harshness or aggression.
In between the sonatas, Leschenko leavens the mood delightfully with Ernst von Dohnányi’s fleet-footed arrangement of the Waltz from Délibes’s ballet Coppélia.
The grand finale is Ravel’s Tzigane: 10 minutes of slow-burn momentum in which the first four are for violin alone. It features some phenomenal, multi-timbred playing by Kopatchinskaja in particular, and is an irresistible sign-off from this free-spirited pair.