Stravinsky / Bach

Leonidas Kavakos, Peter Nagy

CD18,90 out of print

Leonidas Kavakos performs Bach’s Partita No 1 in B Minor and Sonata No 1 in G Minor for violin solo and, with Péter Nagy at the piano, plays Stravinsky’s Duo concertant and Suite Italienne. The results, in both cases, are breathtaking, and bear out the judgement of the world’s press on Kavakos’s recent ECM recording (also with Nagy), which combined music of Ravel and Enescu.
“Kavakos makes the music howl, shriek, weep or croon, infuses it with humour or passion, takes risks. And he is well on his way to becoming the most famous Greek in the classical world since Callas and Mitropoulos” – The Independent; “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.“ – Classic FM Magazine

Featured Artists Recorded

October 2002, Radio Studio DRS, Zürich

Original Release Date


  • Duo concertant for violin and piano
    (Igor Stravinsky)
  • 1Cantilène03:00
  • 2Eglogue I02:16
  • 3Eglogue II03:46
  • 4Gigue04:26
  • 5Dithyrambe03:23
  • Partita No. 1 in B minor for violin solo BWV 1002
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 6Allemanda04:58
  • 7Double03:07
  • 8Corrente03:10
  • 9Double03:21
  • 10Sarabande03:17
  • 11Double02:31
  • 12Tempo di Borea03:09
  • 13Double03:02
  • Suite Italienne
    (Igor Stravinsky)
  • 14Introduzione01:59
  • 15Serenata02:59
  • 16Tarantella02:18
  • 17Gavotta con due Variazioni02:56
  • 18Scherzino01:16
  • 19Minuetto e Finale05:05
  • Sonata No. 1 in G minor for violin solo BWV 1001
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • 20Adagio02:56
  • 21Fuga. Allegro04:53
  • 22Siciliano02:38
  • 23Presto03:51
In an imaginative new coupling from ECM, …, the Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos, thoroughly in his element throughout, shows just how much Stravinsky and Bach have to say to each other. As has often been noted, Stravinsky’s “Neo-Classicism” of the 1930’s could as aptly be called neo-Baroque. Just listen to the running accompaniment in the Cantilène that opens the “Duo Concertant”, as played by the Hungarian pianist Péter Nagy, and the skittish activity of both instruments in two movements that follow. … Dances weave through the program, from a Stravinsky gigue to a Bach allemande, a Stravinsky gavotte and a Bach siciliana. And there is beautiful song from both composers, starting with that Cantilène. …
The performances, excellent in themselves, are given added immediacy by intimate miking… Mr. Kavakos makes the necessary distinctions between the 18th century and the 20th, particularly in adjusting his use of vibrato.
This is a conversation across the ages that you don’t want to miss.
James R. Oestreich, The New York Times
Few violinists have Kavakos’s gift for making their instrument sing in so many tongues. In this intelligent recital, accompanied by Péter Nagy, he profiles the modernity of Bach as much as the classical rigour of Stravinsky. Each piece responds to Kavakos’s sharply attuned personality, but there’s no self-serving virtuosity. In Stravinsky’s “Duo Concertant” and Bach’s Partita No. 1, he taps the ethereal purity of the music without losing sight of its simple humanity.
Andrew Clark, Financial Times
Leonidas Kavakos takes a similar approach to both works, maintaining as tight a rhythmic grip in Bach’s music as in Stravinsky’s, yet one never feels he is merely metronomic. Indeed, in the Courante’s Double he wrests the torrent of notes into long, shapely phrases, erecting a structure of impressive breadth and integrity. Equally stunning is the lucidity of the counterpoint in the fugue of the G minor Sonata; each line emerges sharply etched, and Kavakos takes unusual care in balancing the voices (rarely have I heard such delicate double stopping).
His light touch suits the balletic portions of Stravinsky’s Duo very nicely, too. The gigue dances with uncommon grace, for example, aided by Péter Nagy’s effervescent pianism. It’s the closing Dithyrambe that makes the most powerful effect, however: the exquisite tenderness of the playing gives the music a sense of timeless, poignant beauty. The Suite Italienne is not so profound, certainly, but provides a delightful respite in the midst of an otherwise very serious programme – and the performance here is exceptional for its unruffled poise and delicious detail. Not to be missed.
Andrew Farach-Colton, Gramophone
I do commend Leonidas Kavakos’s Bach performances. His unhurried tempos allow him to mould the B minor Partita with warm and expressive phrasing, the doubles fleet of foot and stunning in their dexterity. … Kavakos stresses Stravinsky’s Russian roots with the motor rhythms of the Duo concertant, and his generous and warm vibrato brings beauty to the final movement, as the two instruments weave around the melody. The Suite italienne, a reworking of music from the ballet Pulcinella, finds Kavakos ideally moving from the brilliance of the Tarantella and Scherzino to the gentle lyricism of the Serenata. … Throughout Péter Nagy is an excellent partner.
David Denton, The Strad
Ohne Zweifel ist er einer der wichtigsten Geiger seiner Generation. Auf seinem neuen Album hat Kavakos nun kühn und doch absolut schlüssig Werke für Solovioline von Johann Sebastian Bach mit Kompositionen von Igor Strawinsky zusammengebracht. Kavakos präsentiert einen großen Ton, halsbrecherische Läufe, ätherische Flageoletts und höchste Gestaltungskraft in puncto Artikulation und Phrasierung. Das gelingt ihm in allen Variationen aufs Vortrefflichste: Ob im vielstimmigen Geflecht der ersten Sonate für Violine solo oder in den tänzerisch inspirierten Formen der ersten Bach-Partita, auch in der neoklassizistischen Musikwelt von Strawinskys Suite Italienne. Blitzsaubere Doppelgriffe auch in Strawinskys Duo Concertant für Violine und Piano, bei dem Péter Nagy dem Geiger ein verlässlicher und kongenialer Begleiter am Klavier ist und mit Kavakos vortrefflich den indifferenten, schwebenden Gestus de Musik trifft.
Dagmar Zurek, Financial Times Deutschland
Die Kopplung Strawinsky und Bach scheint nur auf den ersten Blick ungewöhnlich. Wie viele Brücken es zwischen beiden gibt, bringen Dramaturgie und Werkauswahl dieser klug zusammengestellten CD zum Ausdruck. Ob tänzerische Leichtigkeit oder polyphoner Ernst – Leonidas Kavakos und Péter Nagy vermitteln mit einer bewundernswerten Leichtigkeit zwischen den beiden kompositorischen Welten, die näher zusammenliegen, als man glauben mag.
Norbert Hornig, Fono Forum
Welch erhellende Einsichten eine kluge Programmatik jenseits von Gesamt- und Ersteinspielungen bewirken kann, zeigt die neue CD des griechischen Geigers Leonidas Kavakos. In der Kombination zweier Solowerke für Violine von Johann Sebastian Bach mit Igor Strawinskys „Duo Concertant“ und der „Suite Italienne“ (beide in beglückend inspiriertem Zusammenspiel mit dem Pianisten Péter Nagy) offenbart sich hier die tiefe Geistesverwandtschaft der Komponisten. Beide suchten sie den Ausdruck primär in der essentiell musikalischen Form, in der Klarheit der Architektur.
Frank Armbruster, Stuttgarter Zeitung
As Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich writes in his liner notes to this disc, “Electrical sparks are flying fast and furiously between the past and the future” in this recital by Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos and Hungarian pianist Péter Nagy, which brings together music of Igor Stravinsky and Johann Sebastian Bach: “a dramaturgical element unfolding…acting to suspend the works in a state of balance.”

The music of Johann Sebastian Bach was a touchstone for Igor Stravinsky, throughout his life (Robert Craft reported that he was working on Bach transcriptions even on his deathbed). He revered Bach’s music not for its religious or spiritual underpinnings but for its clarity, vigour and motoric energy, above all its sheer craftsmanship. Liberal in his borrowings from classical models, Stravinsky said “I repeat in my own accent” and argued that in submitting to the demands of a given style a composer could find new freedoms of expression. The artist’s personality, he said, “is more detached and stands out better when it moves within the definite limits of a convention”. The impulse was a progressive one: “A composer can use the past and move forward”.

Leonidas Kavakos addressed the same issue in a recent interview with Strings magazine: “I’m totally against this idea that what is composed today should be like nothing that has ever been composed before…While you are looking for something absolutely new, are you sure you have exhausted all the possibilities of what you have?”

The Duo Concertant of 1932 and Suite Italienne of the following year derive from the inspired friendship between Stravinsky and American violinist Samuel Dushkin that led to the formation of their touring duo. From Dushkin, Stravinsky became acquainted with a performing manner that “rejected heavy-handed ‘expression’ and rhetorical clichés and instead radiated crystal clear lucidity.” The composer had at last found a performer whose concept of “interpretation” was faithfulness to the score rather than imposition of his own personality. (Kavakos: “None of us as performers are bigger than the people who wrote the music, I tell you that.”)

The Duo Concertant is frequently cited as one of Stravinsky’s finest and most original compositions. Jungheinrich: “Stravinsky achieves something like an ideal balance between figurative elements and melody, gestural articulateness and insistent tonal magic…J.S. Bach can be heard as a tacit reference point in all five movements, without ever being quoted literally.”

The Suite Italienne, meanwhile, reworks material from the ballet music Pulcinella (1919/20) which in turns took much of its melodic impetus from Pergolesi and other composers of the pre-classical period.
In its way Bach’s B minor Partita is also “dance music”, its stylized dances, as Jungheinrich observes, “presenting a structurally rather relaxed variant of Bach’s solo violin poetics”. The G Minor Sonata meanwhile presents Bach’s “musical science” in its most concentrated form. Kavakos meets the challenge of Bach’s music in both its austere and playful modes.

Leonidas Kavakos was born in Athens in 1967. After studies in Greece and the USA (on a stipend from the Onassis Foundation), Kavakos swept to international recognition in the late 1980s, taking first prizes in the Paganini, Sibelius and Naumberg competitions - all before he was 21. Since then, he’s been invited to play with most of the world’s leading orchestras and has worked with numerous conductors and with chamber music partners including Mstislav Rostropovich and Kim Kashkashian. Kavakos most recently appeared on “Monodia” the double album of music by Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian, a project curated by Kashkashian: “Kavakos is simply electrifying, delivering the searingly expressive soloistic part with warm toned brilliance,” wrote Christopher Ballantine in International Record Review.

Hungarian pianist Péter Nagy has also played chamber music with Kim Kashkashian, and played as a soloist with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic, the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra and many other world-class orchestras. In 2001, Péter Nagy received the prestigious Liszt Award.

The ECM debut recording of Kavakos and Nagy, performing music of Ravel and Enescu received unanimous international praise on its release in 2003.

“A CD that has everything: fascinating repertoire, exceptional sound production and playing of genius…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.” – Jessica Duchen, Classic FM Magazine

“Kavakos’s virtuosity is stunning but not showy. His tone is gorgeous: dark, pure, intense, focused, variable with bow and vibrato. Playing with passion and floating delicacy, he identifies naturally with the music’s idiomatic rhythms, harmonies and character…And Nagy, a splendid partner throughout, sounds almost like an orchestra.” – Edith Eisler, Strings

“Kavakos’s fine-honed, chameleon-like sensitivity to colour and atmosphere ensure that no emotional stone is left unturned. A highly distinguished release.” – Julian Haylock, The Strad