the Gramophone awards are considered the Oscars of classical music, and, just like for the Oscars, the winners are usually professional, middle-of-the-road performances, with a marked anglo-saxon bias. Not this time: I am listening to the 2013 Record of the year, a French recording, of a Moldovan violininst and a German orchestra directed by a Hungarian composer. Which would count for nothing if it weren't the most exciting performance of Bartok 2nd Violin Concerto I have ever heard
Kopatchinskaja is a great violinist, with a terse sound that is just perfect for contemporary music, but I think the heroes of this performance are Peter Eotvos and his orchestra(s). I never heard an orchestra playing Bartok with so much attack and emotion at the same time. At the beginning of the second movement you may think you are hearing the BPO playing Grieg under Karajan, and yet they are as fierce and precise as a Boulez orchestra when needed (e.g. the opening of the third movement). Naive Classique, as usual, added a near-perfect engineering with a gorgeous, rich timbre that matches Eotvos emotional approach. I think the violin of Ms Kopatchinskaja is miked a bit too "big" in Bartok (not in the other two recordings for some reason) but nothing that I can't live with.
A quick word about the two other Hungarian Violin "Concertos" (from Ligeti and Eotvos himself). Ligeti's is not as immediately engaging as some of his small ensemble works. Eotvos own "Seven" (a memorial to the seven victims of Space Shuttle Columbia explosion) is an even tougher nut to crack. For both work I suspect it will take a few listenings to form an opinion...
Edited by calaf - 9/18/13 at 1:12pm