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. Born in Athens into a musical family, Kavakos's first steps as a violinist were guided by his parents. He studied at the Hellenic Conservatory with Stelios Kafantaris, one of the three important mentors in his life, together with Josef Gingold and Ferenc Rados.
With three competitions to his name before the age of 21, he won the Sibelius Competition in 1985, and the Paganini and Naumburg competitions in 1988. These successes led to his recording the original Sibelius Violin Concerto (1903/4) for the first time in history, recognised with a Gramophone Award; and to the honour of performing on the famous ‘Il Cannone' Guarneri del Gesù, which belonged to Paganini.
Kavakos's international career has allowed him to develop close relationships with the world's major orchestras and conductors, such as the Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle, Royal Concertgebouw/Jansons, London Symphony Orchestra/Gergiev and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Chailly. In the 2012/13 season he had residencies with the London Symphony Orchestra and Berliner Philharmoniker, and he performed with the Concertgebouw and Mariss Jansons on its Jubilee tour, with a piece originally premiered by the orchestra, Bartók's Violin Concerto No.2. In the 2013/14 season, Kavakos makes his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic/Chailly. In the USA, he performs regularly with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras.
Kavakos has always retained strong links with his native Greece. For 15 years he curated a chamber music cycle at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) which featured his musical friends, including Mstislav Rostropovich, Heinrich Schiff, Emanuel Ax, Nikolai Lugansky, Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuçon.
In his burgeoning career as a conductor he has worked with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and the Vienna Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Finnish Radio Symphony and Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestras. In the USA, he has conducted the Boston, Atlanta and Saint Louis symphony orchestras. This season conducting highlights include return engagements with the Boston Symphony, Budapest Festival, Gothenburg Symphony and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino orchestras, as well as important conducting debuts with the LSO and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
Since 2012, Leonidas Kavakos has been an exclusive Decca Classics recording artist. His first release on the label, the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Enrico Pace, resulted in the award of ‘Instrumentalist of the Year' at the 2013 ECHO Klassik Awards. The whole Beethoven cycle with Pace is presented in the 2013/14 season at New York's Carnegie Hall, as well as in the Far East.
Kavakos's second disc with Decca Classics, released in October 2013, is of the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Riccardo Chailly and a third disc, of Brahms Violin Sonatas with pianist Yuja Wang, will be released in spring 2014. During this season and next, Kavakos and Wang will give a series of Brahms recitals in major European cities.
Following the Sibelius and other early recordings for Dynamic, BIS and ECM, Kavakos recorded for Sony Classical, including live recordings of Mozart's five Violin Concertos and Symphony No.39 with Camerata Salzburg and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, for which, in 2009, he received an ECHO Klassik ‘Best Concerto Recording' award.
For the past two years Kavakos has curated 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.
Leonidas Kavakos is passionate about the art of violin and bow making, both in the past and now, in the present. Kavakos considers instrument making to be a great mystery and, to our 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. Bague. Bows by F.X. Tourte, D. Peccatte, J.P.M. Persois and J. Henry are his most precious companions.
Twenty-seven year old pianist Yuja Wang is widely recognized as one of the most important artists of her generation. Regularly lauded for her controlled, prodigious technique, Yuja has been praised for her authority over the most complex technical demands of the repertoire, the depth of her musical insight, as well as her fresh interpretations and charismatic stage presence.
Yuja is an exclusive recording artist for Deutsche Grammophon. Following her debut recording, Sonatas & Etudes, Gramophone magazine named Yuja the Classic FM 2009 Young Artist of the Year. For her second recording, Transformation, Yuja received an Echo Klassik award as "Young Artist of the Year". Yuja next collaborated with Maestro Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra to record her first concerto album featuring Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and his Concerto No. 2 in C minor which was nominated for a Grammy as "Best Classical Instrumental Solo." This was followed by, Fantasia, a collection of encore pieces by Albéniz, Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Saint-Saëns, Scriabin and others.
In the years since her 2005 debut with the National Arts Center Orchestra led by Pinchas Zukerman, Yuja has already performed with many of the world's most prestigious orchestras including those of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, in the U.S., and abroad with the Berlin Staatskapelle, China Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, Israel Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Orquesta Nacional España, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra Mozart and Santa Cecilia, among others.
In 2006 Yuja made her New York Philharmonic debut at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival and performed with the orchestra the following season under Lorin Maazel during the Philharmonic's Japan/Korea visit. In 2008 she toured the United States with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields led by Sir Neville Marriner, and in 2009 Yuja performed as soloist with the You Tube Symphony Orchestra led by Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall. That summer Yuja joined Abbado at the Lucerne Music Festival performing and recording Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, and went on to perform with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and Abbado on tour in China.
Yuja regularly gives recitals in major cities throughout Asia, Europe and North America. She is a dedicated performer of chamber music appearing at summer festivals throughout the world including annual appearances at Switzerland's Verbier Festival. In March 2011 Yuja performed in a three-concert chamber series at the Salle Pleyel in Paris with principal players from the Berlin Philharmonic. She made her Carnegie Hall recital debut at Stern Hall in October 2011.
Many of the world's esteemed conductors have collaborated with Yuja including Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Daniele Gatti, Valery Gergiev, Mikko Franck, Manfred Honeck, Pietari Inkinen, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Antonio Pappano, Yuri Temirkanov and Michael Tilson Thomas.
Last year Yuja returned to the Israel Philharmonic to work with Zubin Mehta, followed by a tour of the U.S. that included performances at Carnegie and Disney halls. She then launched into a three-week tour of Asia with the San Francisco Symphony and Tilson Thomas, traveling to Macau, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. Yuja again joined the Berlin Philharmonic's principal players, this time with a series of all-Brahms concerts at Salle Pleyel in Paris. In spring 2013 she was presented by the Berlin Philharmonic in recital at the Philharmonie, and returned to Carnegie Hall in both recital and a concerto appearance with the San Francisco Symphony. Her season included a recital tour of Japan where she made her Suntory Hall debut.
This season the London Symphony Orchestra have invited Yuja as their featured artist in the LSO Artist Portrait series for 2014 which includes performing three concertos, a recital and chamber music in London, followed by a tour of China with Daniel Harding conducting. She makes her debut with the Hungarian National Philharmonic conducted by Zoltan Kocsis performing Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 2. Yuja's frequent summer collaborations with violinist Leonidas Kavakos are extended further as they will undertake multiple tours of Europe focusing on the great violin and piano sonatas of Brahms. She returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic for subscription concerts and on tour in the U.S. with Dudamel conducting. Yuja also returns to the Boston Symphony, Sir Andrew Davis conducting, and the Cleveland Orchestra, Giancarlo Guerrero conducting.
At a young age Yuja entered the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing to study under Ling Yuan and Zhou Guangren. From 1999 to 2001 she participated in the Morningside Music summer program at Calgary's Mount Royal College, an artistic and cultural exchange program between Canada and China, and began studying with Hung-Kuan Chen and Tema Blackstone at the Mount Royal College Conservatory. Yuja then moved to the U.S. to study with Gary Graffman at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she graduated in 2008. In 2006 she received the Gilmore Young Artist Award, and in 2010 was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. Yuja is a Steinway Artist.
Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang - Brahms Violin & Piano Sonata No. 3
After their much talked about partnership at the 2013 Verbier Festival in Switzerland, praised violinist Leonidas Kavakos and star pianist Yuja Wang team up once again for the Decca/Universal Music Classics release, Brahms: The Violin Sonatas. Kavakos' third recording for Decca follows his GRAMMY Nominated complete Beethoven sonatas and includes the three violin sonatas which were written for Brahms' muse, Joseph Joachim, who premiered the Violin Concerto and contributed its cadenzas. Added as a bonus track, the F-A-E Scherzo which Brahms contributed to a composite sonata with Schumann and Dietrich, is also included on the album.
32 New 'ON' 37 TOTAL
SYND: PRI/Classical 24 Direct: SiriusXM, Music Choice, MOOD Markets include: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Wash DC, Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Cleveland, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Portland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Detroit, Austin, Madison WI Online: MusiClassical, WGOE
Internationally acclaimed violinist, chamber musician and conductor Leonidas Kavakos first performed with the National Symphony Orchestra in 1988. His decades-long association with the NSO continues May 7 -16, 2015 with a two-week residency that includes performances of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, a violin sonata recital with Christoph Eschenbach at the keyboard, and a turn on the podium leading the NSO in works by Mussorgsky and Sibelius as well as Bach's first violin concerto.
Classical WETA: Wash DC Deborah Lamberton spoke with Mr. Kavakos about the music, and about his personal philosophy of music-making. LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION.
This week, violinist and conductor Leonidas Kavakos is working with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra on their upcoming performance of Bach and Bruckner. In this interview, he speaks about music making, the magic of violins, working with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, his passion for archaeology, and much more. Watch the full Leonidas Kavakos interview here.
Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos made his debut on the Decca/Universal Music Classics label in January of 2013 with a major undertaking. His first recording was a three-CD set of the ten sonatas for violin and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven. His accompanist was Italian pianist Enrico Pace, with whom he had performed the full cycle in recital at the 2012 Salzburg Festival.
On April 15th, Decca released Kavakos' third recording, this time covering the complete sonatas by Johannes Brahms. This is a far more modest collection, since Brahms composed only three of them: Opus 78 in G major, Opus 100 in A minor, and Opus 108 in D minor. However, Brahms also contributed the Scherzo movement to the "F-A-E Sonata," a collaborative project dedicated to the violinist Joseph Joachim, whose personal motto was frei aber einsam (free but lonely). The other contributing composers were Robert Schumann and his pupil Albert Dietrich, but Kavakos' recording includes only Brahms' movement. However, this is still a generous disc (at a little over an hour and fifteen minutes); and it concludes with an "encore track" of Brahms' famous "Lullaby" (Opus 49, Number 4) with Kavakos playing the vocal part. His accompanist for all selections is Yuja Wang. READ THE FULL AXS REVIEW.
A short sampling of great duos: John and Abigail Adams. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Tom Brady and Bill Belichik.
Each of those examples seems so right, so natural, so ... complete. It's as though each half of each duo was meant for the other. The best teamwork between two collaborators leaves us with the impression that it was easy, whether that was the reality behind the scenes or not.
In the realm of music, Yuja Wang and Leonidas Kavakos wouldn't seem to be the most natural pairing. Wang, age 27, is a comet, blazing into whatever venue is on her itinerary with technique that brings a crystalline quality and interpretive fire to the most daunting works in the piano repertoire. As a concerto soloist, her presence on stage is magnetic, in no way overshadowed by the world's most virtuosic ensembles. She dazzles.
Kavakos, 46, commands attention through a different kind of intensity. It's slow-burn, deeply felt, and thoughtful. His musical vision can't be channeled through the violin alone, which has led him to the dual role of soloist and conductor, sometimes simultaneously.
Like many great musical collaborations of our time, this one got its start in the Swiss Alps. The summer music festival scene there seems to spark truly insightful partnerships. Usually the performances at Lugano, Lucerne, Gstaad, and the other festivals that dot the countryside live only in the moment, evaporating into the thin mountain air once the applause has died down and the performers have scattered to various other parts of the globe. But in the case of Kavakos and Wang, the Verbier Festival was the start of a more substantial musical partnership, resulting in a new recording of music by Brahms.
And when considered through the filter of that particular composer, this collaboration isn't so unexpected after all. There is no doubt that Brahms was a passionate man, a true Romantic. And yet his work as a composer developed slowly, never in a flash of light, but rather in a glow that grew imperceptably at first before becoming one of the guiding stars of the century in which he lived.
Tune in to 99.5 WCRB to hear Leonidas Kavakos and Yuja Wang: Brahms The Violin Sonatas, this week's 'CD Of the Week'
Leonidas Kavakos and Yuja Wang collaborate (27-30 December 2013) in the complete Brahms Violin Sonatas, each heavily influenced by the composer's admiration for and friendship with Joseph Joachim (1831-1907). Prior to the conception of the formal violin sonatas, Brahms participated in a joint creative effort that included Robert Schumann and Albert Dietrich, the so-called F-A-E Sonata of 1853. The C Minor Scherzo, raucous and driven, has Kavakos and Wang in fine fettle, passionate and sonorously adept. The extraordinary violin tone – from Kavakos' "Il Cannone" Guarneri del Gesu, once owned by Paganini – does much to ingratiate the whirlwind piece, much as it will add seamless affection to the formal sonatas themselves. READ THE FULL Audiophile Audition REVIEW.
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 teams with Yuja Wang, a former Gramophone Young Artist of the Year. Their partnership at the 2013 Verbier Festival was much talked about. The album opens with the Scherzo from the F-A-E Sonata, which Brahms contributed to a composite sonata (along with his friends Schumann and Dietrich). The three sonatas which follow were written for Brahms's muse in all matters violin, Joseph Joachim, who also gave the premiere of the Concerto. The album closes with the instantly recognizable Lullaby. Brahms: Violin Sonata No 2 in A major, Op 100. Leonidas Kavakos | Yuja Wang - Brahms: Violin Sonatas is a WFMT - Chicago New Release Of the Week.
We pause as Leonidas Kavakos' phone beeps again. It is a hectic period in the Greek violinist's career, and not only because of his fiddle-playing commitments. We are talking in London's Maida Vale Studios, pre-rehearsal; this June takes him to Edinburgh's Usher Hall and London's Barbican Centre, where, for the first time, he will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra.
But Kavakos, 46, looks remarkably relaxed. Sinking into a sofa, he informs me that conducting was his "first love". "As a child, my favourite thing to do at home was to put any kind of book on a music stand – not necessarily a music score – and to conduct it." His conducting credits include the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
As for his second love: with his individuality and intellectual rigour, he remains one of the most sought-after violinists on the classical music circuit. He has just released a CD of Brahms' Violin Sonatas with the pianist Yuja Wang. His summer schedule includes dates with the New York and Vienna Philharmonics and he is booked for festivals including the Gergiev, Verbier and Tanglewood. Then there are his duties as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's artist-in-residence: a tour with the ensemble is planned for late summer. READ THE FULL Financial Times INTERVIEW.
As well as the three violin sonatas, this disc, Brahms: The Violin Sonatas, also includes Brahms's much earlier Scherzo in C Minor and - a nice recital touch - closes with an arrangement of the famous Lullaby. At a smidge over £10 on CD (and less still on download) that's nearly 80 minutes of great value, all the more so since pianist Yuja Wang and violinist Leonidas Kavakos have really clicked musically and give a wonderfully vital, intelligent and enjoyable account of these works.
Their partnership, which probably began in the artistic melting pot of the Verbier Festival, is no fly-by-night – Kavakos and Wang went into the studio having performed the sonatas together in concert several times, and their interpretation bears all the hallmarks of having grown organically over time and blossomed into something approaching perfection.
And these works do require a true partnership: with equal importance for the instruments, they are far from the violin sonata as solo showpiece. As with many Brahms chamber works, there is a sense in which they're little symphonies, not dazzlingly virtuosic but musically rich and substantial. Which is not to suggest that they are at all stodgy – what stands out more than anything is the profusion of lyricism, drama and singable melodies.
A minor point is that quite a bit of loud breathing has ended up on this recording, which maybe gives it a raw and real quality but, especially if you tend to listen to your music on headphones, will likely be a little distracting. -Kimon Daltas
Leonidas Kavakos and Yuja Wang's Brahms: The Violin Sonatas is CBC Music's classical disc of the week for May 11th. Each week CBC Radio 2's In Concert looks at new classical music releases and selects one recording that you need to know about.
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. READ THE FULL CBC Music FEATURE.