2017-06-10 13:44:34 UTC
TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto; STRAVINSKY: The Wedding Patricia Kopatchinskaja, v; Nadine Koutcher, s; Natalya Buklaga, mz; Stanislav Leontieff, t; Vasily Korostelev, b; MusicAeterna/ Teodor Currentzis
Sony 16512--57 minutes
I feel like I walked in on something in darkest hour of night that I wasn't meant to see. A violinist, most assuredly a woman, is mumbling something under her breath, raspy, on chewy gut strings, playing to herself. There is a hushed orchestra, doing its all so I may hear her speak, inviting me to lean in closer. In time she stops hiding, lifts her voice, grows more confident and extroverted, and in the end shreds her way through the finale, demonic and wild, intonation be damned. Her high notes are sometimes flat, intentionally--an affectation borrowed from pop-music vocal stylings--and her cadenza glissandos slide past the last written note sharp, a bit unhinged. Orchestra, also on gut strings, and conductor are unapologetic co-conspirators to this possible criminal trespass against Tchaikovsky's warhorse, their culpability mitigated by a confession of late-night sleep deprivation and its attendant manic-depressive mood swings, liquid flights of inspiration, and inevitable lapses of judgement. You, like me, may think they deserve clemency, or you might want them locked up for good. But one thing you won't do is stop the CD player--you'll either love it or love to hate it until the end. Ms Kopatchinskaja and Mr Currentzis have stamped an unforgettable and indelible mark on this work.
After the harrowing finale of the concerto, Stravinsky's Wedding sounds positively mellow--and how often can you say that about this nerve-jangling work? This recording quite blows away the only other one I've heard, Bernstein and the English Bach Festival Chorus and Percussion Ensemble from 1977 (DG 423 251). The English are too reserved for such earthy, elemental ritualism--oh what a difference a Russian makes! All the singers are Slavic--and Stravinsky said this work can only be understood by Russian speakers. I don't know if I understand it as Stravinsky understood it, but I've always been deeply moved by The Wedding. This performance is very soulful, fierce and colorful, the low bass percussion hitting with especially resounding and rotund force.
Sony made a crucial mistake, though, with their otherwise very useful and perceptive booklet: there's no libretto. It's nearly impossible to follow the rapid-fire vocals, but it's important to understand generally what everyone's singing about. Synopses can be found on the internet, but only the original text conveys its frenzied, rustic flavor.
This is an essential disc that demands a hearing by every music lover. Bravo!