National Symphony Orchestra, 'Mahler Explored' with Christopher Eschenbach, Conductor and Leonidas Kavakos, violin

Leonidas Kavakos
DC Metro Theater Arts

Last night at The Kennedy Center Concert Hall marked a special evening for all – conductor, players, and audience alike.

The audience, foremost, was treated to the special talents of violin virtuoso Leonidas Kavakos performing in the first half of the concert, Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47. Kavakos, last a soloist with the NSO in 2011, returns to the splendid venue with immediate prowess, displaying the highest quality of musicianship.

Deeply Romantic in nature influenced by the times and conventional in its three-movement fast-slow-fast form, the concerto is perfection for an appreciator of solo concertos. It opens brilliant and grand, Kavako’s bright tones and impressive, nearly impossible, scaling of the fingerboard in an early cadenza introducing the immediately recognizable melody. He turns inwards to become a little more thoughtful in his ruminations in the slow second movement Adagio di molto¸ before transforming, almost alarmingly, into the aggressive rhythm of the finale, which Sibelius wrote truly demanding the technical prowess and virtuosity of the artist.

It is appropriate that Kavakos first gained international fame as a young winner of the Sibelius Competition in 1985, for the Sibelius – with all the nuance of melodious compatibility, not a jarring note in score – truly sings from Kavakos and his instrument. Kavakos is not an overtly flashy soloist – in fact, it can be said that he is acutely subdued in his body movements, which is in line with what many have called and lauded as the “integrity” of his playing. He is a stolid solitary figure in all essence, juxtaposing the whirlwind of people, movement, and music around him, but remains, by all means, the beacon to which all attention is drawn and all eyes and ears are riveted. 

Read the rest of the review here