Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Patricia Kopatchinskaja has to be one of the most exciting performers in the world right now. On Tuesday at Hahn Hall, the Moldovan violinist and her recital partner pianist Polina Leschenko delivered two hours of 20th-century chamber music of the utmost urgency. The program, which included compositions by Béla Bartók, Francis Poulenc, George Enescu, and Maurice Ravel, served as a reminder of the extreme velocity of change in the sonata form between the world wars. Kopatchinskaja now inhabits this realm of startling musical innovation with an absolute conviction that’s thrilling to behold. Bartók’s Sonata No. 2, Sz. 76 (1922), Poulenc’s Sonata FP 119 (1942), and Enescu’s Sonata No. 3 Op. 25 (1922) have much in common — a high degree of technical difficulty, the decentering of classical sonata form, and roots in both Eastern European folk traditions and the latest innovations of modernism. This volatile combination of factors is both what keeps these compositions so intensely alive, and what makes them a perfect fit for Kopatchinskaja and for Leschenko, who is as molten and powerful a pianist as her partner is a violin virtuoso.
Without ever stooping to what she has called a “cut-and-paste” approach, Kopatchinskaja adheres closely to the expressed intentions of the composers while consistently making fresh choices. The Poulenc and Enescu pieces in particular called for powerful contributions from Leschenko, while the Ravel, his well-known Tzigane, began with a breathtaking four minutes of solo violin. Kopatchinskaja concluded with two encores, including one by John Cage that looked forward to her appearance in April in a concert focused on works by members of Fluxus at the Getty Museum. It was a rare treat to experience this one-of-a-kind performer again so soon after her stint as artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival.