Leonidas Kavakos

Beethoven: Violin Concerto

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Versatile as a concert soloist, conductor, and chamber musician, violinist Leonidas Kavakos has drawn on his varied and abundant talents for this all-Beethoven double-disc from Sony Classical. It's quite common for concerto recordings to include several short pieces at the end of a program to take up the remaining running time, but because the Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 occupies the entire first CD, Kavakos devotes the second disc to pieces that can hardly be called filler, the Septet in E flat major, Op. 20, and two works for violin and piano. This balances the program nicely and gives added value to the listener, but also provides insights to Kavakos' approaches to different genres and his changing roles: as a virtuoso who confidently plays his own variants of Beethoven's cadenzas; a conductor who leads the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with control and deep expressivity; a colleague among similarly gifted chamber musicians; and a fully engaged collaborator with pianist Enrico Pace. One might be tempted to view this package as a portrait of the artist, yet in spite of Kavakos' presence throughout, the subject is still Beethoven, and Kavakos subsumes his formidable personality into compelling and satisfying performances. The new cadenzas are somewhat unexpected in their fireworks and freewheeling treatment of Beethoven's themes, -- especially the rustic fiddling energetically supported by the timpani in the first movement -- and Kavakos' flamboyance will likely put off purists who can only accept Beethoven's written cadenzas. However, for anyone willing to try them, the cadenzas are great fun and a healthy reminder that the Violin Concerto shouldn't be treated as a museum piece, but as living music.

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