Patricia Kopatchinskaja is the latest phenomenon in the galaxy of young violinists who seem to excel at everything they undertake. Following up her Gramophone Bartók/Ligeti/Eötvös Recording of the Year, here come the Stravinsky and Prokofiev Second Concertos. Both were composed within five years of each other but could hardly be more different. Indeed, the Prokofiev inhabits a different universe from its playful neo-classical precursor.
Kopatchinskaja states that the work indicates an exquisitely creative “re-ajustment” to Prokofiev’s return to the Soviet Union, an acceptance that “this is the sort of music you have to compose.” She captures the emotional ambiguity of the work perfectly: the uneasy stirring of the G minor opening and the subsequent lyricism tinged with bleakness, her tone impressively kaleidoscopic, alert to every emotional nuance (as are Jurowski and the LPO). The spiritual core is the central movement with its ‘raindrop’ accompaniment – a radiant, rhapsodic oasis, shot through with shards of intensity. The finale seems to tap into Kopatchinskaja’s Moldovan roots: earthy and uncomplicated on one level yet maintaining headlong relentlessness to the last.
The Stravinsky is, by contrast, a hard nut to crack, stylistically and psychologically. It took the composer down a path alien to the Russia he’d abandoned, with its banal socialist realism, but it’s never entered the sacred canon of violin concertos. It’s a strange amalgam of brittleness, sophistication, acerbity and, yes, even lyricism, but it represents Stravinsky’s neo-classical idiom in its most distilled form. The soloist plays almost continuously throughout and Kopatchinskaja’s energy is astounding. She’s up against it, though: James Ehnes has just recorded the Prokofiev to great acclaim (including from this reviewer). Nonetheless, this CD is excellent in every respect including sonics. My only quibble is the playing time is rather niggardly, at barely 47 minutes.