Edinburgh International Festival 2015 – Leonidas Kavakos & Yuja Wang play Brahms’s Three Sonatas for Violin and Piano

The Sonatas for Violin and Piano:
No.1 in G, Op.78
No.2 in A, Op.100
No.3 in D minor, Op.108

Leonidas Kavakos (violin) & Yuja Wang (piano)

Reviewed by: Gregor Tassie

Reviewed: 26 August, 2015
Venue: Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Leonidas KavakosPhotograph: Marco BorggreveThis Edinburgh Festival morning recital proved a marvellous exhibition of world-class music-making. Leonidas Kavakos was last here a year ago with a baton in his hand for a revelatory Beethoven ‘Eroica’ Symphony. Yuja Wang has courted attention not only for her play at the keyboard but for her fashion and here she turned up in an eye-catching all-black number, which she switched for a full-length red dress following the interval. The paradox is that Wang doesn’t need this for she is among the finest artists around.

In Brahms’s G-major Sonata, the violinist made a tentative opening and Kavakos was then almost too forceful in bringing out the Regenlied theme, though there was perfect coordination between the duo, and it empathised the energy and dynamism of the partnership, a collaboration of both minds and both hearts. In the slow movement there was eloquence and warmth from Wang, while Kavakos produced chillingly seductive expression, and they closed the movement beautifully. In the finale, Kavakos brought out joy aided by Wang’s felicitous contribution.

Yuja WangPhotograph: Fadil BerishaIn the Second Sonata, Wang delivered the chromaticism well, and there was great sensitivity in Kavakos’s playing. The declarative theme was hammered out and expressed fully. Both musicians matched each other in their almost comically inspired chase of harmonies.

In the D-minor Sonata, we heard an enchanting line from Kavakos, tenderly matched by Wang’s enhanced harmonies and affectionate nature. Kavakos is renowned for his technical virtuosity: here he revealed the highest degree of artistry: the Adagio had a grieving quality and the succeeding movement was dominated by glorious piano-playing. The finale’s first theme was asserted powerfully, and was also rapturous.

Kavakos and Wang have recorded this repertoire for Decca, impressively, and they rounded this recital with a fiery account of Brahms’s C-minor Scherzo, part of The FAE Sonata, written together with Albert Dietrich and Robert Schumann for the violinist Joseph Joachim.

  • Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
  • www.eif.co.uk

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