Ravel and Enescu: the perfect pair

Violinist Leonidas Kavakos and pianist Péter Nagy explore the instrumental works of Ravel and Enescu

Composer:  Ravel; Enescu
Repertoire: Sonate posthume; Tzigane (Ravel) and Impressions d’enfance; Sonata No.3 (Enescu)
Artists: Leonidas Kavakos (violin), Péter Nagy (piano)
Rating: 5/5 
Genre: Instrumental
Label: ECM 1824

Every now and again, along comes a CD that has everything: fascinating repertoire, exceptional sound production and playing of genius. This is one of those – and it’s not the first marvel to emerge from ECM.

Ravel and Enescu were fellow students in Fauré’s composition class at the Paris Conservatoire in the mid-1890s, so pairing the two is an exciting idea that works. In their idiosyncratic, vibrant music, the Greek virtuoso Leonidas Kavakos transforms his instrument into more than just a violin. Together with Péter Nagy, he creates entire universes of atmosphere that most others don’t even imagine.

Enescu’s aural autobiography, Impressions d’enfance, draws together astonishing sound effects – twittering birds, whistling winds, a storm, a lullaby; but Kavakos and Nagy project the music’s emotional world as vividly as its overt aural pictures, so that it almost becomes poetic art film translated into sound. In the Ravel Sonate posthume – an early piece that could have been inspired by Enescu’s violin playing – and the earthy yet modernistic Enescu sonata, Kavakos and Nagy function as a unit, like a miniature orchestra, in performances of gravitas, intensity and exhilaration. As for Tzigane – well, just go and hear it.