Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020) conducting his oratorio "Seven Gates of Jerusalem" at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, in 2001. Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky

Monday, October 03, 2016

Johannes Brahms: The Violin Sonatas – Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang (Audio video)

What would it be like to meet someone brilliant and famous in their home, casually attired, cup of tea in hand? A new recording by Leonidas Kavakos and Yuja Wang offers up this sort of opportunity.

Kavakos is a major artist, in demand as a soloist with the great orchestras of the world and recognized as a musician of rare ability. Wang is a superstar pianist, so brilliant that not even her impossibly small performance dresses can distract from her musical abilities.

This new recording of the Brahms violin sonatas takes them away from the big stage spotlight to the world of chamber music. This is a quiet place, where deep thoughts can happen, where the musicians can reach out and touch you:

Chamber music is meant for the intimacy of smaller spaces and the music that Johannes Brahms wrote for this medium is especially powerful. In these violin sonatas, the conversations that unfold between Kavakos and Wang are intense and personal. There's a hush – you can feel the chemistry, the thinking and a whole new understanding of these artists and the music of Brahms comes forth.

Though this new recording of Brahms violin sonatas gets us up close and personal with two of the superstars of today's classical music world, it may be Johannes Brahms we really get to know best.

Source: Alison Howard (CBC Radio 2 / May 9, 2014)

Leonidas Kavakos, the "exceptional violinist" (Daily Mail) follows his spectacular Brahms Violin Concerto recording by teaming up with star pianist Yuja Wang – "a prodigious talent, with an astonishing technique" (The Guardian) for the great Brahms Violin Sonatas. Leonidas Kavakos's third release for Decca makes a perfect supplement to his acclaimed Brahms Violin Concerto disc with Riccardo Chailly For the three sonatas. Kavakos – an exclusive Decca artist – teams up with Yuja Wang, a former Gramophone Young Artist of the Year. Their partnership at the 2013 Verbier Festival was much talked about. The album is opened by the feisty Scherzo from the F-A-E Sonata, which Brahms contributed to a composite sonata (along with his friends Schumann and Dietrich). The three violin sonatas which follow were written for Brahms's muse in all matters violin, Joseph Joachim, who also gave the premiere of the Violin Concerto and contributed its cadenzas. The album closes with the instantly recognizable Wiegenlied or Lullaby.


Leonidas Kavakos and Yuja Wang show how to interpret Brahms's intentions, their expression precisely tailored to the expressive curves clearly shown in the score. Wang and Kavakos give consistently outstanding performances. Wang has a way of making even the most complex passages beautifully clear. Without over-emphasising turning points in the harmony, she's able to point the music's direction of travel, often simply by stressing a particular pitch in a chord. When she allows herself greater freedom, her rubato gives an air of improvisation. Kavakos similarly delights in finding an ideal expression for each phrase: of the violinists heard in other recent recordings – Jana Vonaskova-Novakova, Corey Cerovsek and Catherine Manoukian – he shows by far the widest range of tone colours. I'm impressed that he saves a more passionate tone for phrases marked espressivo (for example in the Andante sections of the middle movement of No.2 in A, Op.100), giving voice to the music's emotional character in a way that continuous intensity would destroy.

One aspect of Kavakos's playing I'd question is his habit of articulating notes within a single bow where Brahms has marked a legato slur. However, the duo are otherwise outstanding in almost every way.

Source: Duncan Druce (

This cycle of Brahms' violin sonatas presents two of the more charismatic artists on the current scene, neither of them particularly known for Brahms. It works quite a bit better than you might expect. In a way pianist Yuja Wang is the star of the show. The Brahms sonatas still carry a trace of the violin sonata's origins with a violin accompanying the keyboard, and it is often the pianist who leads and sets the tone; in many movements Wang establishes a warmth and depth that are a bit out of character with her usual flamboyant style. She then plays nicely off of Kavakos' lyrical lines with her own more urgent style. The deeper logic of these works might be better served by a more neutral approach, but the overall impression is of two distinct personalities in conversation about the music, and that's the chamber music ideal. An added attraction is the presence of the scherzo from the early F-A-E Sonata, a work collaboratively written by Brahms, Schumann, and Albert Dietrich; Brahms' scherzo is a sort of essay in the Beethoven short-short-short long motif, and it allows Wang to really take command. An enjoyable outing that shows Wang, especially, developing talents beyond her comfort zone. Overly closely miked sound detracts from the experience.

Source: James Manheim (

Μια έντονα προσωπική ερμηνεία από τον περιζήτητο βιρτουόζο του βιολιού Λεωνίδα Καβάκο και τη διάσημη Κινέζα πιανίστρια Γιούτζα Ουάνγκ. Οι δύο μουσικοί προσεγγίζουν τις Σονάτες του Μπραμς έχοντας προηγουμένως καταφέρει να δημιουργήσουν μεταξύ τους μια μοναδική χημεία που σπάνια πλέον συναντάται. Η εξαιρετική ηχογράφηση προσφέρει στον ακροατή την εντύπωση της φυσικής παρουσίας των δύο σπουδαίων μουσικών στο χώρο του. Ο δίσκος κυκλοφόρησε τον Μάρτιο του 2014 και απέσπασε διθυραμβικές κριτικές.

«Μια εντυπωσιακά ζωντανή και εκφραστική  ερμηνεία. Το πνεύμα συνεργασίας που έχουν ο Καβάκος με την Ουάνγκ θα το λατρέψετε από την πρώτη στιγμή.» — Gramophone Magazine, Ιούνιος 2014

«Ο ευαίσθητος ήχος του Λεωνίδα Καβάκου ταιριάζει απόλυτα με αυτόν της Γιούτζα Ουάνγκ, η οποία είναι αξιοθαύμαστα διακριτική σε μια τόσο πλούσια γραφή της παρτιτούρας.» — BBC Music Magazine, Ιούνιος 2014

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

1. Scherzo in C minor, WoO 2 (from F.A.E. Sonata) (1853)


2. Sonata for violin and piano No.1 in G major, Op.78 (1878-1879)

i. Vivace ma non troppo
ii. Adagio
iii. Allegro molto moderato

3. Sonata for piano and violin No.2 in A major, Op.100 (1886)

i. Allegro amabile
ii. Andante tranquillo – Vivace – Andante – Vivace di più – Andante – Vivace
iii. Allegretto grazioso (quasi Andante)

4. Violin Sonata No.3 in D minor, Op.108 (1886-1888)

i. Allegro
ii. Adagio
iii. Un poco presto e con sentimento
iv. Presto agitato

5. Wiegenlied, Op.49 No.4 (arr. John Lenehan) (1868)

Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Yuja Wang, piano

Recording: Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg/Harburg, 27-30 December 2013

Decca 2014

(HD 1080p – Audio video)

Leonidas Kavakos is recognised across the world as a violinist and artist of rare quality, known at the highest level for his virtuosity, superb musicianship and the integrity of his playing. He works with the world’s greatest orchestras and is an exclusive artist with Decca Classics.

The three important mentors in his life have been Stelios Kafantaris, Josef Gingold and Ferenc Rados. By the age of 21, Leonidas Kavakos had already won three major competitions, the Sibelius Competition in 1985, and the Paganini and Naumburg competitions in 1988. This success led to him recording the original Sibelius Violin Concerto (1903/1904), the first recording of this work in history, and which won Gramophone Concerto of the Year Award in 1991.

Leonidas Kavakos has been announced as the winner of the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2017. This prestigious prize is Denmark's highest musical honour and is awarded annually to an internationally recognised composer, instrumentalist, conductor or singer. Previous winners include Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Arthur Rubinstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Dmitri Shostakovich, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pierre Boulez, György Ligeti, Alfred Brendel, Daniel Barenboim and Simon Rattle.

Over the years Kavakos has developed close relationships with a number of orchestras and conductors, incuding the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Eschenbach/Chailly) Berliner Philharmoniker (Rattle), Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Jansons/Gatti), London Symphony Orchestra (Gergiev/Rattle/Harding), Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (Chailly), Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, and Orchestre de Paris. Kavakos also works closely with the Dresden Staatskapelle, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. Budapest Festival Orchestra, Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala and, in the USA, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras.

In the 2016/2017 season Leonidas Kavakos will be Artist in Residence with the New York Philharmonic. His his residency will feature his conducting debut with the orchestra, and three solo appearances including the world premiere of Lera Auerbach's Violin Concerto No.3 which will be conducted by Alan Gilbert.

Latterly, Leonidas Kavakos has built a strong profile as a conductor, and has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Wiener Symphoniker (VSO) and Budapest Festival orchestras. This season, he will conduct the Gürzenich Orchester, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Filarmonica Teatro La Fenice, and Houston Symphony.

As an exclusive recording artists with Decca Classics, his first release was Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Enrico Pace (January 2013), which was awarded the ECHO Klassik "Instrumentalist of the Year". This was followed by the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Riccardo Chailly (October 2013), and Brahms Violin Sonatas with Yuja Wang, (March 2014). He was awarded Gramophone Artist of the Year 2014.

Leonidas Kavakos' earlier discography encompases recordings for BIS, ECM, and subsequently, for Sony Classical, Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (ECHO Klassik "Best Concerto Recording") and Mozart's Violin Concertos, conducting and playing with Camerata Salzburg.

Born and brought up in a musical family in Athens and still resident there, Kavakos curates an annual violin and chamber-music masterclass in Athens, attracting violinists and ensembles from all over the world and reflecting his deep commitment to the handing on of musical knowledge and traditions. Part of this tradition is the art of violin- and bow-making, which Kavakos regards as a great mystery and, to this day, an undisclosed secret. He plays the "Abergavenny" Stradivarius violin of 1724 and owns modern violins made by F. Leonhard, S.P. Greiner, E. Haahti and D. Bagué.


Yuja Wang was born in Beijing on February 10, 1987, and encouraged at a young age to make music by her dancer mother and percussionist father, starting the never-ending thirst for knowledge that has sustained her musical development. Yuja began piano lessons at the age of six and her progress was accelerated by studies at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music. In 1999 she moved to Canada to participate in the Morningside Music summer programme at Calgary's Mount Royal College and thereafter enrolled as the youngest ever student at Mount Royal Conservatory. Wang's exceptional gifts were widely recognised in 2001 with her appointment as a Steinway Artist, and again the following year when she was offered a place at Philadelphia's prestigious Curtis Institute of Music where she studied with Gary Graffman.

By the time Yuja graduated from the Curtis Institute in May 2008, she had already gathered momentum following the spectacular success of her debut three years earlier with the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa. Wang attracted widespread international attention in March 2007 when she replaced Martha Argerich on short notice in performances of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and within the span of just a few seasons she was working with conductors of the highest calibre. Over the past ten years of her career, she has worked with such pre-eminent Maestros as Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Valery Gergiev, Michael Tilson Thomas, Antonio Pappano, Charles Dutoit, and Zubin Mehta.

In January 2009 Yuja Wang became an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon recording artist. Her debut album, Sonatas & Etudes, prompted Gramophone to name her as its 2009 Young Artist of the Year. Her 2011 release of Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Claudio Abbado was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category. Subsequent releases for the yellow label include Fantasia, an album of encore pieces by Albéniz, Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Saint-Saëns, Scriabin, and others; a live recording of Prokofiev's Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, and an acclaimed coupling of Ravel's two piano concertos with Fauré's Ballade, recorded with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich and Lionel Bringuier. Reviewers around the world have documented the full range of Wang's work, capturing the essence of her musicianship and observing the development of an artist blessed with consummate technical prowess, an inexhaustible creative imagination, and an unmatched stamina.

She was recently described by the New York Times as "one of the best young pianists around" and hailed by the Sydney Morning Herald for her "blistering technique". In July 2015 the Los Angeles Times declared: "Hers is a nonchalant, brilliant keyboard virtuosity that would have made both Prokofiev (who was a great pianist) and even the fabled Horowitz jealous". The combination of critical acclaim, audience ovations, return engagements at leading international venues, and an exclusive recording relationship with Deutsche Grammophon confirm the 29-year old pianist's status as one of this century's most compelling artists.

The international reach and artistic breadth of Yuja Wang's 2016-2017 schedule reflects the strong demand for her work. She unveils her new season in the summer of 2016 with a run of recitals, chamber concerts and concerto performances at the Salzburg, Wolftrap, Tanglewood, Verbier and Baltic Sea festivals including collaborations with Matthias Goerne, Leonidas Kavakos, Lionel Bringuier, Gustavo Gimeno and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Following her initial NCPA residency concerts, Wang embarks on an extensive recital tour of China and Japan in September before traveling to the United States to open the Philadelphia Orchestra's season with three performances of Chopin's Piano Concerto No.2 in partnership with Yannick-Nézet-Séguin.

Yuja's way of making music connects with a strikingly broad audience. It appeals to everyone, from newcomers to the concert hall to devoted pianophiles, and has attracted an exceptionally youthful following. Her love for fashion, recently recognised by her induction into Giorgio Armani's Sì Women's Circle, has also contributed to the popular appeal of an artist who is armed with the ability to challenge convention and win fresh converts to classical music. She is set to broaden her audience throughout the 2016-2017 season, not least through her term as Artist-in-Residence at China's National Centre for the Performing Arts as well as the Konserthuset in Stockholm. The Beijing-born pianist returns to her home city in August for the first of six specially curated concerts at the NCPA, where she will explore programmes of Romantic and 20th-century repertoire in solo, chamber, and orchestral concerts. Her time in Stockholm will be filled by chamber music with Leonidas Kavakos, Bartok with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Maestro Sakari Oramo as well as a recital programme.

Other bold highlights of Yuja Wang's 2016-2017 season include a nine-concert Asian tour with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas; performances of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G with the London Symphony Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda at New York's Lincoln Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and an extensive spring tour of Europe with the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Antonio Pappano. In December she joins forces with percussionist Martin Grubinger for concerts in Vienna, Munich, Zurich, and Tel Aviv, and marks the new year with extensive recital tours of Europe and the United States with violinist Leonidas Kavakos. Wang will also undertake a major solo European recital tour in March and April, complete with concerts in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Vienna and London, and many other cities.

Over the next season's course, Yuja will explore everything from chamber works by Beethoven and Brahms to concertos by Chopin and Shostakovich. Her profound affinity for Bartók falls under the spotlight when she explores each of the composer's three piano concertos, with performances of individual works in Beijing, Cleveland, Dallas, Guangzhou, Stockholm, Taiwan and Toronto, and of the complete set with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel over two consecutive weeks in May and June.


Photos by Ben Ealovega

See also

Johannes Brahms: Sonata for piano and violin No.2 in A major – Yuja Wang, Leonidas Kavakos

Maurice Ravel: Sonata for violin and piano No.1 in A minor – Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang

Ottorino Respighi: Violin Sonata in B minor – Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang

Leonidas Kavakos, violin

Dmitri Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor – Leonidas Kavakos, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Jakub Hrůša

Λεωνίδας Καβάκος: Το κράτος επιβραβεύει και επιχορηγεί όσους υπηρετούν τα συμφέροντά του

Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No.2 in G minor – Leonidas Kavakos, Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Valery Gergiev (HD 1080p)

Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No.1 in D major – Leonidas Kavakos, Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Valery Gergiev (HD 1080p)

Yuja Wang, piano

Gautier Capuçon and Yuja Wang play Ludwig van Beethoven: Seven variations for Cello and Piano in E flat major on Mozart's "Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen" – Verbier Festival 2013

Gautier Capuçon and Yuja Wang play Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Rachmaninov and Astor Piazzolla – Verbier Festival 2013 (HD 1080p)

Frédéric Chopin: 24 Préludes, Op.28 – Yuja Wang (HD 1080p)

Béla Bartók: Piano Concerto No.1 in A major – Yuja Wang, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor | Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor – Yuja Wang, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Gustavo Dudamel (Audio video & Download 96kHz/24bit)

George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue – Yuja Wang, Camerata Salzburg, Lionel Bringuier

George Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F major | Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No.5 in D minor – Yuja Wang, London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor – Yuja Wang, Verbier Festival Orchestra, Yuri Termikanov (HD 1080p)

Yuja Wang and the Art of Performance

Maurice Ravel: Piano Concertos – Yuja Wang, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Lionel Bringuier (Audio video)

Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor – Yuja Wang, Berliner Philharmoniker, Paavo Järvi

Yuja Wang plays Robert Schumann, Maurice Ravel and Ludwig van Beethoven at Verbier Festival 2016

Yuja Wang, the pianist who will not go quietly

Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3 in C major – Yuja Wang, Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

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