NEW YORK – The world-renowned artists Leonidas Kavakos on violin and Yuja Wang on piano dazzled the sold out crowd at Carnegie Hall with their wonderful performance on February 6. The two gifted musicians brought their tremendous individual talents and virtuosic skills together for a memorable concert that the lucky audience members will never forget.
The program began with Johannes Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100 followed by Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 80. After the intermission, Bela Bartók’s Rhapsody No. 1 for Violin and Piano and Richard Strauss’ Violin Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 18 enthralled the audience which gave a prolonged standing ovation and led to two incredible encores, Brahms’ Un poco presto e con sentimento from Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108 and Karol Szymanowski’s “La Fontaine d’Arethuse” from Mythes for Violin and Piano, Op. 30.
Members of the audience were visibly moved by the beauty of the performance which brought tears to the eyes of some. The general sentiment from all those present was that just when Kavakos and Wang seem to have reached the topmost peak of their artistry, they climb once again to even greater heights. They left the audience with such a powerful impression, some could not speak or even stand after the second encore.
Even those who are not very enthusiastic about Prokofiev’s work became fans after witnessing the dynamic performance and inspired interpretation by Kavakos and Wang.
From the subtlety and strength of the opening piece by Brahms through the moody, lyrical Prokofiev with its vibrant moments and delicate muted violin over prolonged piano chords, the memorable concert highlighted the impeccable technique of the artists with Kavakos playing his 1734 “Willemotte” Stradivarius and Wang the Steinway grand piano.
The influence of Hungarian folk music was clear in the Bartok piece which brought to mind, for those raised in the tradition and with an ear to hear it, a touch of Greek folk music at one moment through Kavakos’ deftly played violin. The romantic elements of the Strauss sonata with its lyrical and dramatic moments and rich, soaring notes again demonstrated the artistry of the musicians. The unforgettable concert concluded with the encores which were simply stunning in their perfection.
Kavakos will be returning to Carnegie Hall for an upcoming performance on March 3 with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, while Wang is performing on February 11, April 10, May 1, and May 2 at the venerable concert hall.
More information is available online: carnegiehall.org.
Born and raised in Athens, Kavakos received the 2017 Léonie Sonning Music Prize, Denmark’s highest musical honor given annually to an internationally-recognized composer, instrumentalist, conductor, or singer since 1959. Previous winners include Igor Stravinsky (1959), Leonard Bernstein (1965), Benjamin Britten (1968), and Anne-Sophie Mutter (2001).
By age 21, Kavakos had already won three major competitions: the Sibelius (1985), the Paganini (1988), and the Naumburg (1988). This success led to his making the first recording in history of the original Sibelius Violin Concerto (1903–04), which won the 1991 Gramophone Concerto of the Year Award.
He has since appeared regularly as a soloist with the Vienna, Berlin, New York, and Los Angeles philharmonic orchestras; London, Boston, and Chicago symphony orchestras; and the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Philadelphia Orchestras. As a conductor Kavakos has worked with the Atlanta, Boston, London, and Vienna symphony orchestras; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; Chamber Orchestra of Europe; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; and Budapest Festival Orchestra.
Wang was born into a musical family in Beijing, China. After childhood piano studies, she received advanced training in Canada and at the Curtis Institute of Music under Gary Graffman. Wang’s international breakthrough came in 2007 when she replaced Martha Argerich as soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon two years later, and has since established her place among the world’s leading artists with a succession of critically acclaimed performances and recordings. Wang was named Musical America’s 2017 Artist of the Year.
In addition to the concert with Kavakos, Wang’s Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall includes performances with Martin Grubinger, Gautier Capuçon, and the New World Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas. This season, Wang is also an artist in residence at Vienna’s Konzerthaus and Luxembourg’s Philharmonie.