Kavakos - Nel Cor

February 4, 2008 at 06:45 AM · Here's the first half of Nel Cor

this is the 2nd half, which I like better... his stacatto/flying stacatto/whatever is just insane. There's nothing he can't do. Check out his Brahms concerto as well.

Replies (51)

February 4, 2008 at 06:42 AM ·

second half

February 4, 2008 at 08:22 AM · I'm entranced by this bloke. How does he get so much sound from such a tiny little bit of bow, its so beautiful to watch his hands,

February 4, 2008 at 09:17 AM · Unbelievable! I would bet that >99% of mankind are less relaxed when lying in their bed. I also find his bow control the most striking thing.

February 4, 2008 at 09:39 AM · Really strange that he is still unknown to most people even though he has been one of the greatest violinplayers in the world for over 15 years.

He is a good example of a violinist that would have been a superstar if he was born 80 years earlier, dont you think?

February 4, 2008 at 10:14 AM · Kavacos is quite a fine player, I heard him playing the Sibelius concerto with the BBC Orchestra, he produced one of the most beautifull sound I've ever heard. He uses also an interesting "bow vibrato" on the G string.

He was quite kind to "test drive" one of my violins too.

February 4, 2008 at 12:15 PM · He's great, but he looks just like weird Al Yankovich. -even his facial expressions. It really freaks me out.

I keep expecting him to start singing some famous aria, but with goof-words substituted.

February 4, 2008 at 04:51 PM · I'm too busy focusing on his playing, didn't notice that. He doesn't look like that anymore really, he had some kind of image makeover.

Andreas, I agree with you that he should be more famous, but he does have a good career. In the United States he has played with many of the top orchestras (he will play Berg with Cleveland this week). He might not have a lot of name recogition, but he plays a lot of concerts.

Check out his Bach as well. He adapts his playing to different styles so well, moreso than almost anyone, and if that weren't enough, he has the most unbelievable technique. My other two favourite players, James Ehnes and Frank Peter Zimmerman, also have huge techniques, but the difference with Kavakos is that he's almost not a violinist. He seems to play the violin as if it were a piano. He brings out things that violinists tend not to.

February 4, 2008 at 07:36 PM · He's not so well known here in the US. But ask anyone in Europe and they all know him. He's as famous there as Perlman is here. I especially take pride in him being Greek (like me). Ahhh Greeks... not so well known in the classical music world but when they make it they make it big... Maria Callas... Dimitri Mitropoulos... Kavakos... Karajan...

February 4, 2008 at 08:01 PM · have a technical question:

i have noticed that at high register e string, his pinkie during vibrato is quite flat at the DIP joint (near the nail), not saying it is fully extended. is this some special technique, something to get more "meat" on the string, for fuller sound?

there are couple closer-up views with this clip, around 1:40.


February 4, 2008 at 08:10 PM · it's just easier to have a flat pinky than one that is bent... to have a bent pink that high up would depend on moving a lot of other things.

If you want to see a crazy pinky look for the video of Anne Sophie Mutter playing Penderecki concerto (2 I think).

February 4, 2008 at 08:15 PM · Practice, Megan!

But I do wish it were synchronised - I'd love to see just how those connections really work.

February 4, 2008 at 08:21 PM · WOW! Leonidas Kavakos is one of the greatest fiddlers in the WORLD! His recordings of Ysaye, Sibelius, etc. are just stunning and so thought-provoking! Thank you for sharing this!

February 4, 2008 at 08:41 PM · "He's not so well known here in the US. But ask anyone in Europe and they all know him. He's as famous there as Perlman is here."

Here in Sweden he is nowhere near as famous as Perlman.

People have started to notice him during the recent 2 years but 15 years ago he was unknown to almost everyone in Sweden

February 4, 2008 at 08:51 PM · Is he much better than Joshua Bell, and if so, by how much?

February 4, 2008 at 08:59 PM · he is better by exactly 47 points in my book.

February 4, 2008 at 09:13 PM · That's absolutely ridiculous... it cannot be by more than 38.67 points.

February 4, 2008 at 09:20 PM · I also think he is one of the greatest violinists in the world today.

I saw him (just last year) in Seattle with the Seattle Symphony playing bartok#2, it was really great!

February 4, 2008 at 10:35 PM · Greetings, we Europeans have a much more sophisticated scale of goodness than this post-Cartesian points system. Would you give him your last prune? If yes, he`s smokin.



February 5, 2008 at 02:12 AM · ^^^

In England,music is oft long to catch the public.

Reason being--too many zealots,especially to a numerical catagorization of same...

February 5, 2008 at 04:15 AM · Andreas - I remember his first concert here in Sweden with the RSO and Salonen (Tchaikovsky), it was back in 1987!

February 5, 2008 at 04:36 AM · Thanks Pieter for posting this video.

February 5, 2008 at 12:18 PM · Pieter - thanks for posting this - what superb playing!


February 5, 2008 at 05:40 PM · Thanks for posting these vids! Of the younger generation violinists Leonidas is one of my favorites. He has the most incredible dynamic range as well as a rubato that can only be described as perfect.

I saw him play the Ysaye #6 Sonata during the '85 Indianapolis Competition (when he was just 18) and to this day have not heard it played better. My teacher also saw this segment and was blown away by his technique.

February 5, 2008 at 08:36 PM · Yuval Yaron was also his teacher besides JG.

February 5, 2008 at 08:59 PM · But the right hand technique's his own, isn't it? It's certainly not the conventional 'modern school' that we see these days - where does it come from? I think the closest I've come to it was working with Stephan Picard in Austria one summer - low elbow, higher wrist, and a tracking of the bow through the first finger joint. When everything worked, I could make a gorgeous sound, but it only worked when everything was absolutely perfectly in order.

February 5, 2008 at 09:56 PM · Megan,

Some people do things the way they want. This whole russian/belgian/Egyptian whatever school doesn't have to apply to everyone.

His entire setup works for how he sees music. It's the most perfect example of technique serving musical ideas.

February 5, 2008 at 10:28 PM · I know, but that's what makes it interesting, isn't it?

February 5, 2008 at 10:43 PM · Discussing schools of violin playing is interesting? That makes me want to kill myself.

I don't know if I understand what you're asking... but, if you're saying that it's interesting that Kavakos has such a highly tailored technique, I agree.

No one plays like him. The other guy who is sort of like this is Kremer, but I think Kavakos is even more unique in his approach, at least technically. In many ways he is very unviolinistic, he plays like a pianist.

February 5, 2008 at 11:15 PM · Greetings,

which school of piano playign are we referring to?



February 5, 2008 at 11:19 PM · It's interesting because it's unique - and I want to know what I can learn from it, and why it works so well for him.

February 5, 2008 at 11:20 PM · Buri - Barenboim's piano school. They both play (or conduct) with an incredible sense of overall form and architecture.

February 5, 2008 at 11:28 PM · Megan,

He built his technique by listening. He doesn't play within a system as much as his colleagues, and in that way he could be a bit of a "rebel". The sound he likes is in his ear. More than anyone I think he really plays what's on the page, and like a piano player, the notes plucked out of the violin instead of the coaxing and moulding that is more common with more conventional player. With him in mind, I envision a harpsichord.

February 6, 2008 at 01:17 AM · Wow, great playing...his flying stacatto is really smooth. I wonder what edition he's using. That bel canto variation right before the final one isn't in my part, and I haven't heard it played before...then again, I've never seen this piece performed with the exact same variations twice. Isn't the story that Paganini never wrote this down, but someone transcribed it from memory after a live performance?

Pieter, you said one of your other favorite violinists is Frank Peter Zimmerman - I heard him play Nel Cor Piu last year in Cleveland as an encore after playing Brahms concerto, it was out of this world...

February 6, 2008 at 01:55 AM · this weird russian kid at keshet eilon played Nel cor this summer... he added left hand pizz to literally everything... it was kind of surreal.

February 6, 2008 at 02:03 PM · Anyobody know if Kavakos will record and release Offertorium?

I sadly missed his perfromance of this piece

Anbody heard him play it?

February 6, 2008 at 02:36 PM · Yeah, but Pieter, watching this guy is like watching a car with square wheels blow past you on the autobahn. I mean, you kind of want to know how that works, right?

But it does remind me not to be too dogmatic in the way I teach because then you preclude innovative solutions generated by the students themselves. Also, every "weird" approach like this sheds light on what is and is not a valid explanation for why something works. When you see a technique like that, you really have to re-evaluate what you THINK you know about the violin, as a teacher, that is.

February 6, 2008 at 02:38 PM · Ok, perhaps the above is a bit over-stated... On second thought, he's actually not THAT strange looking, technically, but some of the things he does make me queasy... like the super flat pinky mentioned above. Makes my palms itch just watching it.

February 6, 2008 at 04:20 PM · Like I said before, it won't help if you just look at the mechanics and try to emulate it. It won't help you if you cannot hear the same way he does. The people with the best technique start out with a good base, and then change and evolve based on the sound they want.

If you copied kavakos, you'd probably just look like he does, but you wouldn't have the same sound or approach, because that is much more personal.

I think the most you can learn from him is not by looking but my listening. He plays absolutely everything, he never leaves anything out, and he tends to play things extremely evenly from a rythmic perspective. There's many conventions in violin playing (especially in the major concertos), and he definately ignores a lot of them.

Go look at his Bartok concerto and the opening of the Sibelius. Instantly, there's a fair difference in the openings of those 2 concertos from what most other people, especially in the Bartok where people insist on going way up on the G string with this fat sound, which actually does not fit the texture in the score at all.

I read on this website a while ago that his bowing technique (the square tires) was something he changed before or during the Sibelius competition. Clearly it works for him.

I think the heavily pronated wrist helps him to place things quite precisely. I compared it to a harpsichord, he plucks out the notes. The rest of us with flatter wrists sort of coax things out, but his set up gives a very immediate and sharp, precise attack, which is central to his sound. Even before I ever saw him play, I always thought he's really aloof and "on top of things", like he is above the violin and drops everything precisely into place.

Why does looking at him make you queasy? To me it's a beautiful thing, but then again I never put much stock in the stock in the "paint by numbers" way that violin is often taught. If it works, do it. You do teach kids though and I'm sure you have to spend half the lesson telling them basic things which Kavakos ignores, which is understandable.

February 6, 2008 at 04:46 PM · Pieter,

Let me just say that I am in almost complete agreement with you on this. However, I do think that emulating the mechanics of another person's approach is a good and even time-honored way of coming to an understanding of how they hear the music; it can be a kind of "reverse engineering" of their approach, of their "hearing". Approached in this way, emulating technique is useful. I agree though that simply trying to play like somebody mechanically is like trying to emulate a great general by doing exactly what he did in some particular battle but without having developed any understanding at all of the art of war or the influences and ideas that produced that particular tactic or strategy.

I remember watching one famous violinist at UMD who had a very strange way of twisting his body under the violin. I wanted to understand not just "how he plays" but how did he come to that solution? Well, it was obvious once I tried it- when you stand "his" way, the violin is braced against the body in a certain way and you can pull to your heart's content. Since I knew this guy valued richness and volume above all else, emulating and understanding the mechanics that supported his approach was enlightening.

So I may try playing with my wrist really high and my fourth finger flat (for a short while) just to see what it feels like and to get a better understanding of what sort of musical conception and hearing demands this approach.

February 6, 2008 at 04:55 PM · Yea just keep in mind that his bowarm is only half the equation. The choices he makes with his left hand are quite unique as well, and there isn't as much of a visible difference. It has a lot of to with his sound, and by that token, listening rather than looking is more essential.

February 6, 2008 at 09:38 PM · that's just unreal... I tried sightreading the 7th variation the other day. It wasn't pretty.

February 7, 2008 at 05:43 AM · Very interesting to read the thought that he plays like a pianist. He does, actually - very close attention paid to architecture without being pedantic.

February 7, 2008 at 07:32 AM · Emmanuel,

Try the double harmonics variation...a few of them are nasty

February 8, 2008 at 06:52 AM · something like: my heart can not love more.

Of course I could be wrong on that.

February 8, 2008 at 09:37 AM · "my fingers could not play more"...

February 8, 2008 at 10:29 AM · That's a ridiculous piece. Maybe I just don't get it. I agree his playing is astounding, though.

February 8, 2008 at 11:01 AM · ^To help you get it - the point of the piece is just to demonstrate astounding playing :)

February 8, 2008 at 11:56 AM · Is this piece harder than I Palpati, God Save the Queen, Erlkonig, Last Rose of the Summer?

February 8, 2008 at 12:25 PM · "Is this piece harder than I Palpati, God Save the Queen, Erlkonig, Last Rose of the Summer? "

Most people would propably find Ernst´s Last Rose of The Summer variations and propably also Erlkonig harder

February 8, 2008 at 01:44 PM · I must say, having checked him out further, Kavakos really is amazing, and totally unique. Does anyone know where he got his major training?

BTW - He still looks like weird Al. (g)

February 12, 2008 at 01:01 AM · He studied in Greece and then with Gingold at Indiana.

I think Nel Cor is pretty hard, maybe as hard as last rose but I'm not sure. They have most of the same challenges. If you play the Paganini like Kavakos, with all of that flying stacatto, then it is harder.

The harmonics in last rose are pretty hard... the touch 2nds and the 3rd on D string don't sound very easily.

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