BRAHMS Violin Concerto / Kavakos, Chailly 4785342

How is it that Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos has such impeccable sound, articulation and musicality, and can still keep a kind of raw human quality in his playing? His musical phrases have the motion of an arrow soaring on its own momentum. No technical feat, however difficult, seems to keep it from hitting its mark every time . . . a breathtaking performance of the Brahms Concerto, clear and streamlined, with no murkiness in the Romantic texture.

. . . [the] superb recording . . . demonstrates not only the wonderful poise and instinctive elegance of Kavakos's playing -- there's not a note out of place, while his pianissimo sound, in the closing moments of the first movement especially, is a marvel -- but also the transparency that is such a characteristic of Chailly's Brahms with this orchestra. It allows him to make every detail register without ever disrupting the sense of the musical whole. It's a long time since there was a new version of this concerto as good as this . . .

. . . this superb account of the Violin Concerto is an essential pendant to their recent Decca set of the four symphonies . . . [it is] transparency of texture that marks this account of the concerto as special . . . Chailly encourages an almost limpid, chamber-music-like approach from his outstanding players, so the intimate passages accompanied by solo woodwinds . . . seem more conversational than usual. Kavakos lets his hair down . . .

. . . [an] exceptional performance . . . Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus are a glory, rich-toned but translucent and supporting violinist Leonidas Kavakos's purity of tone and inspired phrasing at every step. Tempos are spacious, with plenty of room for the music to breathe, but momentum is never lost and Chailly calibrates and ideal balance. Kavakos's violin tone is super-refined and elegant.

. . . Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus are a glory, rich-toned but translucent and supporting violinist Leonidas Kavakos's purity of tone and inspired phrasing at every step. Tempos are spacious, with plenty of room for the music to breathe, but momentum is never lost and Chailly calibrates an ideal balance. Kavakos's violin tone is super-refined and elegant. And though devoid of sentimentality it is certainly not so of feeling; one astonishing nuance in the central slow movement, just before the main theme returns, almost stops the heart . . .

. . . Leonidas Kavakos's account of the violin concerto is the finest to appear on disc in years. Fabulously poised with an exceptional dynamic range, Kavakos's playing misses nothing, yet never draws attention to itself unnecessarily.

Utterly magical. A real artist of distinction. You can't get better than this.

Kavakos enters with a bold flourish. His sensitivity to moments of sensitive expressivity among craggy passages for both soloist and orchestra imparts a warm glow to his performance. That's not to say that he doesn't snap détaché bowings smartly, imparting to them the verve they require. And even while playing the movement's largest, most disjointed leaps, he maintains a beauty of tone that must have required many hours in the burnishing. Kavakos's personal way of finding subjects for meditation among the rocks extends into the cadenza and injects a heartfelt lyricism into the slow movement, which, perhaps as a result, sounds suggestive rather than static . . . it should seem clear to most listeners that Kavakos and Chailly . . . exhibit breathless (and breathtaking) virtuosity throughout. On the whole, the engineers have balanced the violin and the orchestra, providing clarity to the orchestral part and warmth to the violin's . . . Recommended with special urgency for the Concerto, but no less so for the entire program.

[Brahms / Violin Concerto]: A fresh take on a much-recorded masterpiece . . . Leonidas Kavakos's athletic opening flourish sets the scene for an urgent account of the Brahms Concerto where his immaculate technique is placed entirely at the disposal of the composer. Keenly observing dynamic markings, he avoids the autumnal mood that mars so many recordings, and when he is tempted to meditate in Joachim's first-movement cadenza he creates a sense of spontaneous improvisation. A lovingly shaped slow movement leads to a fast finale . . . Riccardo Chailly's robust backdrop from the Gewandhaus Orchestra points to many inner details that are often overlooked . . . Kavakos sounds even more at home when he joins the highly reliable Péter Nagy in an unusual coupling of the two Bartók rhapsodies. His little inflections of rhythm and multitude of tonal colours perfectly capture the music's folk origins. He is equally attuned to the freedom of a gypsy violinist in four of the best-known Brahms Hungarian Dances. The sound quality throughout is superb.

Leonidas Kavakos shines in Brahms' Violin Concerto . . . he presents the myriad double-stops, compound-chords, and wide leaps with such clarity and vividness that your ear is drawn to these effects more than usual. Yet for all this, Kavakos' rendition is a thoroughly musical one, fully cognizant of Brahms' structure and overall symphonic plan. Riccardo Chailly's cleanly articulated, tersely-romantic accompaniment makes an apt foil for his soloist, as do the clear textures and lean string sound he evokes from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. That Kavakos would choose the warhorse Joachim cadenza at first seems at odds with his interpretive stance, but his fresh approach proves otherwise. By sculpting each phrase so inventively, Kavakos rivets your attention and at times gives the impression that he's improvising. In the songful slow movement (which showcases beautiful playing by the Leipzig winds) Kavakos soothes without sounding saccharine, while the finale crackles with life, thanks in part to the violinist inserting a bit of gypsy flair into the famous "Hungarian" tune. This Hungarian flavor, albeit of a more rustic variety, carries over to Bartók's "Rhapsodies for violin and piano", which Kavakos and pianist Péter Nagy dispatch with jaunty bravura and folksy style. These same characteristics lend the more cosmopolitan Brahms "Hungarian Dances" a certain authenticity . . . [the recording] produces a satisfying full sound in louder passages . . . This is a fine modern Brahms Violin Concerto . . .

. . . a rich and powerful account of Brahms' concerto. Kavakos has the technical and musical grasp of this great work and Chailly unearths effective detail . . . A top recommendation, with splendid Decca sound.

Ein dunkler, satter Streichersound, gemischt mit warmen Bläserfarben. Dieser Klang -- oft als typisch deutsch bezeichnet -- ist das Markenzeichen des Gewandhausorchesters. Er grundiert auch die neue Brahms-Aufnahme unter Leitung von Chailly . . . Kavakos füllt den anspruchsvollen Solopart -- den früher viele Virtuosen als unspielbar ablehnten -- mit funkelnder Energie. Der griechische Geiger vereint genau die Eigenschaften, die das Konzert von seinen Solisten fordert. Er verfügt einerseits über die richtige Mischung aus Kraft, Kondition und Konzentration, um das Monstrum überhaupt zu bewältigen und sich gegen das Orchester zu behaupten. Andererseits findet er mühelos den Zugang zum weichen Kern der Musik. Denn hinter der schroffen Fassade verbergen sich intime Botschaften und Momente von romantischer Poesie. Kavakos lässt seine Stradivari singen und formt einen Zauberklang, den nur echte Welktklassegeiger hinkriegen. Sein Ton ist sinnlich und rund, er behält auch in ganz leisen Passagen und höchsten Höhen seine betörende Süße. Traumwandlerisch sicher meistert Kavakos die vielen Drahtseilakte des Konzerts. Seine technische Perfektion wirkt aber niemals unterkühlt. Er streicht immer mit Herz und Temperament, wie im feurigen Finale.

Der entschlossene, kantige Ton vom intellektuellen Kavakos passt blendend zum flott rauschenden Chailly-Brahms.

[Brahms / Violin Concerto]: Wenn die Geige nach ihrem ersten Einsatz in Verzierungen überzugehen scheint, wechselt Kavakos nicht gleich die Farbe, sondern lässt sich Zeit, bis zum fast erlösenden Triller: Brahms komponiert eben nicht in Blöcken, sondern schafft meist fließende Übergänge. Das beherrscht Kavakos mit großer Empfindsamkeit. Die forschen Sprünge in der Durchführung des monumentalen ersten Satzes gelingen ihm dramatisch, aber zugleich auch leicht. Das wiederum passt zu Chaillys Brahms-Verständnis: keine opernhaften Effekte, keine Übertreibungen, keine falschen Zutaten. Brahms, der exzellente Kammermusiker, kommt beim Gewandhausorchester nicht schmetternd-kontrastierend daher, sondern mit verdeckter Glut und mit sicherem Gespür dafür, dass das Klassische nicht als pathetische Weltanschauung herhalten muss, um weiterentwickelt zu werden.

Wenn die Geige nach ihrem ersten Einsatz in Verzierungen überzugehen scheint, wechselt Kavakos nicht gleich die Farbe, sondern lässt sich Zeit, bis zum fast erlösenden Triller: Brahms komponiert eben nicht in Blöcken, sondern schafft meist fließende Übergänge. Das beherrscht Kavakos mit großer Empfindsamkeit. Die forschen Sprünge in der Durchführung des monumentalen ersten Satzes gelingen ihm dramatisch, aber zugleich auch leicht. Das wiederum passt zu Chaillys Brahms-Verständnis: keine opernhaften Effekte, keine Übertreibungen, keine falschen Zutaten. Brahms, der exzellente Kammermusiker, kommt beim Gewandhausorchester nicht schmetternd-kontrastierend daher, sondern mit verdeckter Glut und mit sicherem Gespür dafür, dass das Klassische nicht als pathetische Weltanschauung herhalten muss, um weiterentwickelt zu werden.

This music is perfect for the mercurial Leonidas Kavakos . . . [Brahms / Violin Concerto]: [the Gewandhaus are] going from a barely audible rustle to a cascade of sound. Kavakos takes more liberties than we are used to with the tempo, doing things his own way. He doesn't overdo it, though. His extemporaneous feel shines also in the Bartok Rhapsodies and Brahms Hungarian Dances . . . [Brahms / "Hungarian Dances"]: it seems he gets them right, with a brooding, romantic tone and gritty virtuosity. His Greek background might help him here because you get that sense of the music picking up speed the way the Greek dances do. He also has an unusual thin, almost whistling sound that sets him apart. In any case, I love these pieces, and these are some of the best performances of them I have ever heard.

. . . une prestation magistrale de l'Orchestre du Gewandhaus, dont les sonorités à la fois claires et denses sont impeccablement dosées par la baguette de Chailly. On suit chaque ligne de pupitre, y compris les basses, alors que la masse orchestrale demeure d'une parfaite cohérence -- un équilibre idéal . . . le violon naturellement sonore et tranquillement assuré de Kavakos se déploie sans efforts apparents.

[Brahms The Symphonies CD]: En parfait équilibre entre rigueur et liberté, dans une optique presque opératique nourrie du désir de raconter une histoire à travers chacune des ces partitions phénoménales, le chef italien s'entend à merveille pour en faire briller les accents festifs et solaries . . . le parti pris de Riccardo Chailly est affirmé avec conviction et panache. Et quel art de faire "monter" les crescendo, comme on lance un attelage dans la joie de la griserie maîtrisée . . . [Brahms & Bartók CD]: le chef italien offre aussi une belle et lumineuse lecture du Concerto pour violon . . .