CBSO/MIRGA/Kopatchinskaya review

Symphony Hall ****

She takes the stage barefoot, holding her violin aloft like a trophy already won. Her performance bustles with choreography synchronised with the music. At times she pounces almost threateningly into the face of her orchestral colleagues, and they love it. Someone described her, totally accurately, as Nigella Kennedy.
This is Patricia Kopatchinskaya, playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (surprisingly from the score) as though it were a first-time discovery for her, bringing a refreshing take to a work so often sawn-through, and making this the most eccentric and most enjoyable performance of a piece through which I've too often gritted my teeth.
Her use of gut strings on her instrument made this an inward account, sometimes over-balanced by the modern-stringed forces of the CBSO, but the ear adjusted to appreciate all the delicacy of phrasing, the spirited bowing, and the moments of humour -- yes, humour -- she found in the work.
Such an approach demanded and received empathetic listening from Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla and the CBSO, and at the end there was a well-deserved standing ovation from many in the packed audience.
I feared an encore, and indeed there was one (no violin involved) -- Kopatchinskaya directing an amazing vocal quartet (herself, Mirga, principal second violinist Kate Suthers and principal cellist Eduardo Vassallo -- what a vocal find he is!) in John Cage's Once Upon a Time, to a Gertude Stein text. This was brilliant.
We began with the attractive Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes by Kopatchinskaya's Moldovan-born compatriot Miecyslaw Weinberg (Mirga and the CBSO have made this neglected composer their hot property) and concluded with Stravinsky's Firebird.
This was the first work heard by the general public in Symphony Hall on that heady opening night 28 years ago, Simon Rattle's CBSO novices in this amazing acoustic. Tonight's account was both relaxed and confident: wonderful wind solos (flute and horn led), biting brass, skeletal percussion, and consolatory strings.
But this complete score is a tedious affair, as is that of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, which shared that opening night in 1991. The suites from both ballets bring us all the goods without any of the cotton-wool.
Christopher Morley

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