Decca 478 9377
By the time Leonidas Kavakos was twenty-one, he had won three prestigious international violin competitions: the Sibelius, Paganini and Naumberg. His latest release titled “Virtuoso” features an eclectic selection of encore pieces that present all the technical and expressive challenges of big-boned works, some of which are transcribed by violinists linked with the virtuoso tradition.
Kavakos’ playing is au courant but contains characteristics of a golden age where violinists personalized their interpretations with high-end qualities like effortless control, intellect, refined musicianship, crystal clear intonation and bow strokes that move with the speed and pressure of an ideally balanced equilibrium. He also uses a 1724 ex-Abergavenny Stradivarius, which magically projects the striking tremolo effects in Tarrega’s guitar inspired Recuerdos de la Alhambra, arranged by Ruggiero Ricci and the exotic rhythmic interplay of Falla’s Danza del molinero, transcribed by Joseph Szigeti.
Two of Paganini’s works are included and Kavakos’ account of Introduction and Variations on “Nel cor piu non mi sento” will knock your socks off, or anything else you might be wearing. The work is filled with many intricate left-hand tricks such as flying pizzicato passagework written for players endowed with almost super human ability, of which Kavakos is among the few.
Other highlights offer Stravinsky’s Danse russe from Petrouchka, arranged by Samuel Dushkin, in a performance that equals the piano version’s high-octane velocity; the staccato rapidity given Elgar’s buoyant La Capricieuse, Op. 17; and atmospheric presence brought to Britten’s abstractly embellished Reveille. There is plenty of opportunity for Kavakos to display his honey-toned sound and wispy rubato, particularly in Tchaikovsky’s Valse sentimentale, Op. 51 No. 6, transcribed by David. J. Grunes and Kreisler’s arrangement of Dvorak’s Humoresque, Op. 101 No. 7 – a piece with proven staying power.
Kavakos’s piquant reading of Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier of Strauss, transcribed by renowned Czech violinist Vasa Prihoda, is matched by Enrico Pace’s stylish accompaniment throughout. A breathtaking release.