Home listening: Bach, Beethoven and two great violinists

Tremendous new releases from Kati Debretzeni and Leonidas Kavakos, plus 50 years of the Met on BBC Four

• Violinists who specialise in baroque music don’t tend to get the same limelight as those playing big romantic concertos, but their virtuosity deserves equal recognition. Kati Debretzeni, born in Transylvania, based in London, has led the English Baroque Soloists since 2000. She is also a leader of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and has directed numerous ensembles around the world. Debretzeni is soloist, scholar and inspiration in Bach Violin Concertos (SDG), with the English Baroque Soloists conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. In addition to the well-known concertos in A minor, BMV 1041, and E major, BWV 1042, she has explored two others, the disputed D minor, BMV 1052 and, in her own arrangement, the D major concerto, after BMV 1053 (a reworking of the second harpsichord concerto). Debretzeni’s joyful, spirited playing, precise but free, gives endless pleasure.

• The Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos, one of the most exciting soloists on the concert platform, conducts as well as plays Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (Sony, 2CDs) with the large forces of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra – no easy task for a work on this scale but the results are flexible and beautifully integrated. With his sweet, powerful tone and technical precision, Kavakos treats the performance as conversation rather than combat, decorating and accompanying as much as leading the musical argument: until, that is, you reach the huge, dazzling cadenza of the first movement, Kavakos’s own transcription of a piano cadenza left by Beethoven. It’s full of hair-raising technical wizardry and requires a bizarre, unearthly exchange with the timpani. He makes the slow movement one long, tender song, the rondo finale lithe and witty. It’s paired with Beethoven’s Septet, Op 20 and and, with Enrico Pace on piano, five Variations on Folk Songs.

Watch Leonidas Kavakos perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

• Catch on iPlayer: America’s Greatest Opera House: The Story of the Met (BBC Four) marks the 50th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera, New York – full of archive, interviews and performance. It also traces the razing of a slum neighbourhood in the early 1960s to make room for the Lincoln Center, home of the Met.

Contributor

Fiona Maddocks

The GuardianTramp

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