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This review is from: Stravinsky, Prokofiev: Violin Concertos (Patricia Kopatchinskaja) (Audio CD)
Patricia Kopatchinskaja's star is currently very much in the ascendant, this recording coming off the back of the Gramophone Record of the Year in Bartok: Concerto No. 2 / Eotvos: Seven / Ligeti: Violin Concerto and, before that, the critically acclaimed Beethoven: Violin Concerto, Romances, Fragment Concerto. Kopatchinskaja's difference seems to be in being able to effortlessly re-assess a work, discarding previous performance directives and letting spontaneous inspiration win out over any learning by rote. It also might have something to do with a background steeped in the folk traditions of her Moldovan homeland, the sounds of nature resounding more strongly than those of any pedagogical tradition. Whatever, her readings of these two 20c warhorses are - again - unpredictable but ultimately overwhelmingly persuasive.
The Stravinsky concerto was constructed with the violinistic help of the young Pole Samuel Dushkin, who also gave the first performance. Dushkin was taken aback by the extremely widely spaced chord with which the composer insisted on beginning each of the four movements: Stravinsky sketched it on a napkin over a lunch in Paris and Dushkin immediately pronounced it unplayable. Having tried it out however, Dushkin discovered that it was possible after all, and that was the catalyst for the creation of the piece. Kopatchinskaja finds a percussiveness but also a wistfulness, the contrasts becoming kaleidoscopic as the Russian spirit collides and splinters against the neo-classical form.
The Prokofiev concerto is a near contemporary, a gap of less than five years separating it from the Stravinsky. And, as in the Stravinsky, the form is traditional, but here - as the soloist has observed - it's almost as though Prokofiev is saying farewell to one period in his creative life and returning, bracing himself for 'what it is necessary to do' back in Soviet Russia. The feeling of melancholy is palpable, reaching an almost unbearable pitch in the slow movement, where Kopatchinskaja offers something quite unexpected; a disarmingly innocent and childlike statement, appearing to draw ancient echoes from a Slavic homeland free of contemporary political angst.
Jurowski and the London Phil are the most sympathetic of partners (and virtuosic too, particularly in leader Pieter Schoeman's role in the Stravinsky cadenza), in performances which strip away any previous glosses to reveal a coarse and at times raw Russian vitality.