Monday, May 29, 2017

Maurice Ravel; George Enescu - Works for Violin & Piano (Leonidas Kavakos; Peter Nagy)


Composer: Maurice Ravel; George Enescu
  1. Ravel - Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor "Sonate posthume"
  2. Enescu - Impressions d'Enfance in D major, Op. 28
  3. Enescu - Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor "dans le caractère populaire roumain", Op. 25: I. Moderato malinconico
  4. Enescu - Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor "dans le caractère populaire roumain", Op. 25: II. Andante sostenuto e misterioso
  5. Enescu - Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor "dans le caractère populaire roumain", Op. 25: II. Allegro con brio, ma non troppo mosso
  6. Ravel - Tzigane

Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Peter Nagy, piano
Date: 2003
Label: ECM



Performances which sing and swing according to the folk elements within

A compelling programme based principally around the figure of Georges Enescu, both as composer and as a performing phenomenon, the latter probably inspiring Ravel’s Violin Sonata of 1897, a lavish essay redolent of romantic early Debussy. Both Ravel pieces respond handsomely to Leonidas Kavakos’s agile and refined approach, Tzigane in particular being meticulously prepared, the partnership with Péter Nagy ensuring clarity in matters of articulation and the ‘pick-up’ of motives between violin and piano. Indeed I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more supportive or more sensitively gauged account of the piano part. 

These are not ‘showy’ performances. For although Kavakos is audibly appreciative of the folk flavouring in Enescu’s Third Sonata, he treats the abstract element as paramount, suggesting keen parallels with the violin sonatas of Bartók. Again Nagy takes the greatest care over such issues as rhythm, texture and the shape of individual phrases: his precise musical thinking could serve as an object lesson in such matters. For me the high spot of the performance is the cantorial closing section of the Andante second movement, so exquisitely turned and sustained. The graphic Impressions d’enfance, with its lullaby, caged bird and cuckoo-clock, chirping cricket and ecstatic dawn, is endlessly fascinating, again rich in folk references, the sort that Enescu worked in to his Romanian Rhapsodies. 

Kavakos’s principal modern rival in the Enescu works is Sherban Lupu on Electrecord, less pristine but with a willingness to dance, a dashing, husky character that I find irresistible. Lupu curls and buoys the music in a way that’s reminiscent both of Enescu himself and of the young Yehudi Menuhin. While Kavakos demonstrates the folk element, Lupu, Enescu and Menuhin live it: they have the idiom on tap. But local accents and flavours aside, these new performances justify consideration for their warmth, intelligence and superb sound, not to mention ECM’s (or maybe Kavakos’s) imaginative programming.

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone

More reviews:


Maurice Ravel (7 March 1875 – 28 December 1937) was a French composer, pianist and conductor. He is often associated with impressionism along with Claude Debussy, although both composers rejected the term. In the 1920s and 1930s Ravel was internationally regarded as France's greatest living composer. Ravel was an exceptionally skilled orchestrator, as in his well known 1922 version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. His best known works include Boléro (1928), Gaspard de la nuit (1908), Daphnis et Chloé (1912).


George Enescu (19 August 1881 – 4 May 1955) was a Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor, and teacher, regarded as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century and Romania's most important musician. He was the youngest student ever admitted to the Vienna Conservatory at the age of seven. Many of Enescu's works were influenced by Romanian folk music, his most popular compositions being the two Romanian Rhapsodies. He was also a noted violin teacher. Yehudi Menuhin, Christian Ferras, Ivry Gitlis, Arthur Grumiaux, Serge Blanc, Ida Haendel and Joan Field were among his pupils.


Leonidas Kavakos (born 30 October 1967 in Athens) is a Greek violinist and conductor. Kavakos studied with Stelios Kafantaris at the Hellenic Conservatory and attended master classes with Josef Gingold at Indiana University. As a violinist, he has won prizes at several international violin competitions, including the Sibelius, Paganini, and Indianapolis competitions. He has also recorded for record labels such as Sony/BMG and BIS. As a conductor, he was an artistic director of the Camerata Salzburg and has been a guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra. Kavakos has been playing the "Abergavenny" Stradivarius of 1724 since 2010.


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