★★★★★ (out of five)
I can’t remember when I last heard a violin-piano recital that was as ingenious and exhilarating as this. On the sleeve, the Franco-Hungarian programme looks a bit odd — the Poulenc sonata written for Ginette Neveu in 1943, a Dohnanyi setting of a waltz from Delibes’ Coppélia, the full-on Bartok sonata of 1922 and Ravel’s Tzigane to close.
What do these pieces have in common?
Check this: On April 8, 1922, Bela Bartok gave a recital in Paris with his compatriot Jelly d’Aranyi. Ravel was the page turner for Bartok and Poulenc for d’Aranyi. In the audience were Stravinsky, Szymanowski, Milhaud, Honegger and Roussel. The violinist said it was the most thrilling concert of her life. She had already sat through a long night with Ravel playing him gypsy tunes, which he turned into Tzigane. This single concert fused three distinct cultures.
Only Patricia Kopatchinskaya would have made these connections, and no other violinist could bring them to life with such wildfire exuberance, verging on madcap abandon. The Russian pianist Polina Leschenko, rather than offering a steadying hand with big, bold chords, is a subtle provocateur, forever daring barefoot Pat Kop to do something really wicked.
The Poulenc sonata delivers winsome blues, a mild dig at the Nazi occupation. The Coppélia waltz is undanceable at this speed. The Bartok sonata aches with homesickness for Balkan steppes and Tzigane is absolutely electrifying. There is more voltage on this record than a nuclear power plant on the Seine.