Mahler, Symphony No. 1, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, M. Jansons (2007)
Bartók, Violin Concertos, J. Ehnes, BBC Philharmonc, G. Noseda (2011)
We last heard this Bartók concerto from the National Symphony Orchestra and Midori in 2007, but in the hands of Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos and conductor Mariss Jansons it seemed like a different piece. (Bartók's dedicatee, Zoltán Székely, premiered the concerto with the Royal Concertgebouw in 1939, under the baton of Willem Mengelberg.) We last heard Kavakos in 2009, having missed his 2011 appearance with the NSO. Since then he has resigned as artistic director of Camerata Salzburg, perhaps putting his conducting career (happily) on the back burner, and he acquired the "Abergavenny" Stradivarius of 1724 (in 2010). Both the instrument and the player -- Kavakos had an abscess removed from his back in 2009, a situation that required him to drop out of the National Symphony Orchestra's tour of Asia -- sounded in top form, with a rich, biting tone right from the opening solo bars of this alternately modern-vicious, folk-innocent, and curiously Hollywood-sugar concerto. Jansons kept an elegantly flexible rubato free and yet clearly aligned between soloist and orchestra, and Kavakos added that mercurial element of the best soloists. Bartók exceeded himself in the endless variation of orchestration: insect-buzzing night music, braying glissandi, low brass and percussion rumbles, evanescent strings.
Anne Midgette, An orchestra’s practiced perfection (Washington Post, February 14)
The next concert in the WPAS series will feature violinist Hilary Hahn (February 16, 8 pm), a program in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall that includes pieces from her encores project.