I recently purchased a new version of the Sibelius Violin Concerto by Kavakos and found it intriguing so I bought another for comparison (Chung) and spent some time listening to them and the recordings I currently have.
ANNE-SOPHIE MUTTER, Staatskapelle Dresden, Previn (DG)
Based on some glowing reviews I read I was really looking forward to this performance but was sadly disappointed. To me the performance is undoubtedly virtuosic but affected. All to often nuances are added which to me don't fit, and overall the performance seems somewhat disjointed.
The recording spotlights the violin, and it appears the mike is so close that the violin seems to me around a bit, perhaps when A-S M is turning from side to side. My rig (DX100/627X/F111) is very precise when it comes to imaging so the effect is rather annoying. Although this performance gets many rave reviews it just isn't to my taste.
Dong-Suk Kang Czecho-Slovak RSO, Adrian Leaper (Naxos)
Kang's playing seems almost tentative and his tone is thin to me. The recording of the orchestra is somewhat vague at times. The quality of the recording and the performance is just acceptable, nothing note worthy.
Leonidas Kavakos, Lahti SO, Osmo Vänskä (BIS)
The recording doesn't spotlight the soloist, it's much more realistic in that regard than the Mutter or Chung.
The interpretation by Kavakos and the Lahti SO isn't as passionate as Chung's, it's more brooding. It's quite different but equally valid and excellant. Also where Kang is tentative, Kavakos is assured. Note that the pace is significantly slower than Chung's, the timings of each movement are 15:23/16:57, 8:04/10:07, and 7:22/8:15. Also the orchestra isn't as clear as on the Chung. None the less this is an exceptional performance.
Kyung Wha Chung, LSO, Previn (Decca)
Clarity of the orchestra and violin is really good, a delight to listen to although the soloist is more prominent than realistic. Kyung Wha Chung's playing has a tension, a sense of urgency and passion and a wide range of emotions where appropriate. The orchestra complements her performance throughout making for a wonderful overall experience.
This is my favorite version, I prefer the more up front and clear recording and more passionate performance. However I would be happy to listen to Kavakos.