Video: Kopatchinskaja plays Tzigane

March 4, 2013 at 07:07 PM · This piece suits her perfectly. I love her for the risks she takes, for her imagination and for the energy she gets across. What an exciting violinist!

Replies (35)

March 4, 2013 at 09:08 PM · A revelation. She is like a native speaker. It has the ring of truth!

March 4, 2013 at 10:34 PM · ....but have you heard how native speakers mangle their mother tongue, these days?

"So, like It's very restless but."

Not saying I don't like this but I do like Szeryng's version.

March 4, 2013 at 11:51 PM · exaggerating everything isn't necessarily a sign of true art to me. Of course she has some nice technique, but overall I am not so much impressed by her in general. I once heard her live and she was stomping all the time. I think she played Bruch concerto. It was like Vanessa Mae without amplifier. I am sorry.

Sometimes I think i shouldn't be to open with my criticism, but on the other hand... we are here to discuss, right?

What disturbs me most with her is that she is obvieously really trying to sell herself. One more classical musician who didn't find his job in the music itself.

I have not so much a problem with this rendition, because this piece of course is something quite fitting her. My problem is that she is exaggerating everything.

Yes there is emotion in every music, but in some its a little more sophisticated and maybe even deeper emotion than that one wich blows straight to your face.

March 4, 2013 at 11:56 PM · What happened around 3:20?

I do like the colours she creates in the pizz. section (together with the snappy oboe rhythm) and the following harmonics.

Oh, but watch the Szeryng on youtube, especially the finale!

March 5, 2013 at 12:51 AM · Sick

March 5, 2013 at 01:18 AM · I'm not sure who sick is applicable to.

Yes, I could fall in love with Ms Kopatchinskaja - but perhaps not for the violin playing! As we are doing a bit of a knife twisting job here maybe I should add my thoughts as well.

I find her sound a bit rough, and one dimensional. There is little shape, phrasing or nuance. Some bits are faked, and some for effect, but overall I would not turn out to hear her. But maybe this was an off day. Most of my days are off days, these days.

March 5, 2013 at 05:17 AM ·

March 5, 2013 at 08:54 AM · Simon, I agree with your criticism regarding her "self-selling" attitude. However, in this particular case it does not disturb you and me. Peter, it's hard for me to understand why you find her phenomenally versatile sound one dimensional. I simply find this an exciting and personal interpretation, shedding new light on the piece and perfectly matching her obviously a bit histrionic personality (which is not necessarily a bad thing). I heard her live two times (and hope to hear more in the future), the last time in January when she played piano trio with Gabetta and Kadouch. While their Shostakovich somehow matched her style, the Schubert D 929 (what a wonderful but difficult piece!), I regret to say, appeared a bit "unintendedly superficial" to me. Her exaggerated movements and her showiness in the Schubert (e.g. throwing her left hand 30 cm away from the violin while playing an open e string or letting her dreamy eyes follow a soft note into infinity, which was located above the listeners in the last row) were distractive in my perception, but at least to a certain extent (besides an honest joy of acting) driven by an incredible will to strive for maximum intensity in music making (maybe not the e string gesture). And that's a good thing. She is still young and she is very talented. She may discover that "less" may sometimes be more (an inward instead of an outward movement, keeping her incredible intensity) and that the greatest music speaks for itself and does not want help or even provocation (and I absolutely do not care whether she wears shoes or not, I am talking about the music). Maybe and hopefully she will abandon some things, clearly impeding the purity and honesty of her music at least in my limited perception. I think she has depth. Let her mature. I am curious about her further devolopment. She is brave and has her individual voice which really is rare enough. To me she is one of the greatest younger violinists. Repetition is the mother of boredom. She makes me curiously hear with new ears and that's wonderful and exactly what I am looking for.

March 5, 2013 at 09:50 AM · I don't mind Monti's Czardas being "gypsified", as it's a fairly shallow, "fun" piece; but Ravel's Tzigane is pure Ravel: poised, elegant writing, brilliant and colourful rather than earthy.

At the risk of being locked up, I also admire rather than like Ivry Gitlis' tendency to turn everything into a gypsy fantasia - even Massenet's sublime Meditation. It makes me suspect a covering-up of technical insecurity, which in Gitlis' case is certainly not true!

March 5, 2013 at 06:24 PM · Adrian, what exactly do you think Gypsy violin playing is?

I think it's important to educate oneself about a topic first, otherwise we run the risk of making generalized uninformed comments.

I would suggest you listen to some great romanian and hungarian gypsy violinists from the past...Sandor Jaroka, Lendvay Csocsi Jozsef, Ion Voicu, Karoly Puka, Grigoras Dinicu and many more. Thats an easy way to get a feel for the type of style these musicians had.

God bless Ivry gitlis and kopachinskaja or anyone else who doesnt sound like other violinists. Not only do neither of them play like gypsy violinists, they also sound nothing like each other. So before just using Gypsy as a word for something extroverted or passionate "unknown style", it's great to explore what it actually means - there's a lot of value in their world of sound and their approach as a performer. Anyways, im done posting :) so please enjoy your explorations

March 5, 2013 at 11:06 PM · Daniel, I used the word "gypsify" with a lower-case "g", and between inverted commas, referring to a parodying style... No refence to the real thing!

I appreciate Mr Gitlis, but I don't feel the need to overlay the music's own "élan" with quirky phrasing and rubato.

March 5, 2013 at 11:58 PM · Having known the Ravel Tzigane for many years, and heard/seen many performances including the Youtube video of Szeryng, I have never been convinced of it's musical value. I've always felt that it was more trouble than it's worth. Until now. Patricia Kopatchinskaja has made me a convert. She has shown me the special beauty and magic of this work. Thanks to her, I am, for the first time, thinking of playing it.

I feel her playing is heartfelt, and based on deep musical conviction. It's true that she also puts on a good show. I don't have any problem with that. Every successful concert artist is intensely aware of how he/she communicates visually with the audience.

March 6, 2013 at 03:37 AM · I wonder what people hear with their eyes CLOSED - just from music..... It reminds me of the roma women that I saw in films by Tony Gatlif. I know it's somewhat romaniticized view of romas, but maybe so with Ravel's piece.

Her profile on the management company goes “Eastern-European folk music is in my blood, whilst contemporary music is the air that I breathe. The classical repertoire is the skeleton that holds all this together." Born in Molavia to musician parents - I imagine she could have been in a circumstance where she was surrounded by the kind of music that Ravel was inspired to write this song.

I understand when someone step out from norm, there's always criticism, and I think it's a part of the deal. But I also hope more violinist would have this kind of courage to demonstrate their own rendition of the music. Otherwise, as depicted in the discussions here a few months ago, classical music would be dead...

March 6, 2013 at 04:48 AM · Taste trumps self expression.

March 6, 2013 at 10:29 PM · In my opinion she can do what ever she wants with the music. I am in no means someone to tell someone how to play. Asked for my opinion I just say, that I don't find her playing as interesting as her gestures might suggest. I also find her sound not very good, I heard students or competition violinists with a much more interesting and to me appealing sound.

I think she is smart and her marketing is too, because I think with shoes on and with a more modest appearance there wouldn't be so much left distinguishing her from other violinists on her technical level.

I don't want to hate here, I just don't like her appearance and playing. When I want to hear classical music I don't need this kind of showing off. When I look for totally instant excitement and heavy adrenalin rushes, I go with heavy metal or other pop/rock/mainstream music.

Or what about that!?

controversial stuff :D I will keep my opinion back first.

March 6, 2013 at 11:30 PM · Simon: And I find her playing much less uninteresting than her gestures might suggest ;-) Roy, we are in the same boat, I also newly discovered the piece through her interpretation and I had similar feelings before. Simon: She is clearly able to produce a very controlled and solid sound if that's what you miss (it can be heard in the Tzigane and I heard that in concert) - however, obviously it is not her main interest to keep everything under control (rather the opposite because complete control may be perceived as boring - no risk, no fun). She successfully tries to expand the traditional sound spectrum and "allowed" range of interpretations, crossing many borders and provoking disagreement. I find this exciting, because in my perception there is lot of musical substance. That's a crucial point, because otherwise it simply would be ridiculous. David Garrett successfully tries the opposite, playing a role of everybody's darling. He attracts many uninitiated people to our beloved instrument and that's wonderful. Let him go. Who cares whether a few snobbish violin crackpots are bored by his (not so bad!) playing.

March 7, 2013 at 01:06 AM · Simon, I think you have hit on something important.

"When I look for totally instant excitement and heavy adrenalin rushes, I go with heavy metal or other pop/rock/mainstream music."

I feel that classical music should be precisely where we go for excitement and adrenalin rushes as it presumably was in the days of Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, Paganini, Mahler, Stravinsky, Toscanini, Bernstein, to name just a few. Of course we also expect other values and experiences as well from a classical concert such as beauty and a deeper meaning.

However, I don't think we should abandon visceral excitement as something we strive for. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that if classical music is in trouble today, perhaps it is because of the lack of this kind of excitement.

March 7, 2013 at 01:49 AM · Isn't the problem of the fast lived excitement, that it has no context and that it doesn't buld up anything "superhuman"? Of course I know, that Kopachinskaja plans out very much of her performance, but the rhapsodic character.. all this exaggerations

I may be something I am actually not if i would say now: "maybe better play together with the orchestra and get the octaves clean before starting to stomp and wave all over the stage"

I also hear the same "problem" with her sound in the tchaikowski. To me it sounds scratchy and not very different in colours. Of course she uses extreme contrasts in dynamics and vibrato, but I don't really feel it... for me its like on and off, just more extreme

Of course its good, if she gives you something you look for in classical music. But I personally have a different approach to classical music, maybe because I actively participate in rock/punk/crossover and get my adrenaline there. Classical music to me is sacred. Its all above our heads. To me a revelation is the Beethoven Concerto, wich has a greater impact the more the violinist actually serves the music instead of his/her personality (Menuhin performance for example or Schneiderhahn). Of course its not comparable to tze Ravel Tzigane or 3rd tchaikowski movement. But those are just one facette of classical music and Robert Schumann maybe used even Irony in his Violinconcerto, wich has a very happy last movement in contrast to first and second movement. Those are the things wich interest me in classical music. Or how bach can be played by the new star violinist on a big stage with a strange orchestration and still be bach?! I find the Garrets performance very nice and certainly well played. I actually would prefer him with Beethoven to Kopachinskaja. And there are a lot more out there too. Zimmermann, Zehetmair, Kavakos, Mullova, Kremer. To me they are all on a different level than Kopachinskaja and I find it very speaking for itself, when Kopachinskaja limits herself to a certain kind of repertoire.

Btw. regarding colours and nuances: I once heard Gidon Kremer with an contemporary music encore. It was like a wild picture with so many beautiful colours and sounds. The whole audience was blown away! Good art convinces, even if its the so called modern music. A good interpret can translate it into something beautiful.

Ravels tzigane was never one of my favorite pieces and it still isn't. I would love to hear Kopachinskaja with Shostakovich though.

March 7, 2013 at 03:02 AM · The violinists that take a piece of music and make it sound other than what the composer intended are the ones that I am not so fond of. They are the ones where you listen to them and you say, "Ah yes, that's so and so." You wouldn't say "Ah yes, that's a wonderful interpretation of XX. I think it's played by so and so."

I think PK's interpretation sounds like Ravel intended. I don't think he'd say, "that's not at all what I meant for it to sound like."

I think she is creative, and plays around with the piece. Some pieces one can do a lot of that to and it makes them sound better. Tango music benefits greatly from bending the beat - it makes it sound better.

While Tzigane is clearly a concert piece, it is also a gypsy piece. Tsigane means gypsy. So it needs a bit of schmaltz to it, not too much perhaps, but a bit.

I personally don't think she's overdoing it. I think she makes the sound breathe and sing. I think she uses a lot of variety in her palette. I love her use of quiet and space.

I really like it.


Now I see Simon's added a recording of her playing Tchaikovsky. This one I'd say is not so good. I don't care for the exaggeration, it's out of context. This one I'd say is not what the composer intended.

March 7, 2013 at 08:23 AM · I realise after hearing the Tchaik what the problem is. She has appalling taste.

March 7, 2013 at 08:49 AM · Isn't or wasn't it the primary intention of many composers to move listeners by their compositions? I would say in the Tchaikovsky she tries to birch some life into one of the deadest (=overplayed) bodies of violin literature. It is a desperate fight, deliberately sacrificing conventional taste. I have heard so many interpretations of the Tchaikovsky concerto that I am even bored if it is played at the highest technical level (including clean octaves) in a conventional way. Here, at least I watched the video to the end. I think she plays less extreme the lesser a work is known. To me this is telling about her intention: get something new out of it, make the listeners listen to a fresh piece of music. Try not to meet expectations. Of course this is not the one and only approach, but at least an interesting one.

March 7, 2013 at 12:10 PM · Mathias thanks for bringing this lady to my attention. I did some research on her, she has a very interesting website, check also her "kitchen". She seems an extremely honest artist who has as goal to create new interpretations of music, be it old or new. She is very honest about it and says "if you want to hear the standard interpretations played by the best people, by all means go ahead, you know where to look". On her website there is an hour-long documentary about her made by Swiss television (she is based in Bern).

March 7, 2013 at 01:51 PM · I doubt, that there is any "standard-interpretation" Every good violinist sounds different, even today. of course there are boring renditions of the repertoire, but why does she refer to that?! In my experience classical concerts are better than their reputation. Even local string quartets, regional orchestras and not so well known soloists can produce very nice concerts (at least here in germany I don't know about other countries). And if someone thinks the Berlin Philharmonic or other top orchestras are interested in "standard interpretations" probably never heard any concert of them in the last years. To my ears todays best orchestras are still developing. Not every orchestra of course, depending on the musical director of course and other circumstances, but there are some, who can make new interpretations while still staying in tune, comprehensible and profound. Many orchestrl musicians these days are also in contact with other music than classical and of course new compositions. That makes them sound quite fresh and far from "standard".

I think the Idea of Kopachinskaja is good, obviously, but its also quite a mainstream Idea and I don't feel her executions of it is what I would call "sophisticated".

March 7, 2013 at 07:58 PM · I think the Ravel and the Tchaikovsky alone, two worn-out war horses (nothing against the pieces, it's only partially [maybe in a good way] their fault), may give a misleading idea about her approach, which is extreme in these cases. It's not about provocation for its own sake, it's everything about allowing access to living music. I mentioned my impression that she plays pieces, which are less accessible to the broader public, in a more conventional way - using the controlled beauty of tone to allow entry into the music. In my view, the following live (!) recording (at leat I hope it's uncut) of the Bartok solo sonata, which is not one of the easier pieces to play and hear, clearly demonstrates this point (and should convince most doubters that she is a phantastic instrumentalist and a serious, deep musician like only few with great charisma):

Want more Bartok?

And stay tuned after the last Bartok movement. There will be a very interesting and funny short encore by Sanchez-Chiong, which I think she plays quite often, and a - compared to the Bartok - wilder and less controlled, easier accessible Piazolla etude:

March 14, 2013 at 08:23 AM · Hello Simon, on 4. of march you wrote that you have heard Kopatchinskaja once, probably with Bruch. Your memory of her performance may not be very distinct, because I happen to know that she never played the famous first Bruch concerto, its not on her repertoire list and she does not intend to play it ever. In fact she only once played one of the other obscure Bruch concertos in a competition ten years ago. Otherwise her repertoire is not limited it goes from Baroque to contemporary.

March 14, 2013 at 09:23 AM · Yes, maybe it was the famous prokoffiev...

March 14, 2013 at 09:44 AM · And maybe it was not Kopatchinskaja... ;-)

March 14, 2013 at 10:05 AM · she was barefoot... ;)

March 14, 2013 at 01:47 PM · LOL This limits the range of candidates: Was it this one?

March 14, 2013 at 02:00 PM · she had no visible beard!

March 14, 2013 at 02:06 PM · How long ago was the concert?

On the other hand, back then you may not have mistaken him for a female. I am puzzled.

March 26, 2014 at 11:29 PM · This may not be news to some of you but surely not to be missed. Patricia Kopatchinskaja has won the prestigious 2013 Gramophone Classical Music Recording of the Year for her Bartók No 2 and Ligeti album. Enough of a vindication or what?

Here is the link

March 27, 2014 at 02:34 PM · Pretty phenomenal technique IMO and she sure does put everything she's got into the performance. I rather enjoy watching and listening to her interpretations albeit unconventional. I think she is good for classical music, even if some do not care for her playing.

March 27, 2014 at 02:37 PM · And I agree, Szeryng's Tzigane is sick.

@Peter, "sick" is American slang for phenomenally good.

March 28, 2014 at 01:56 AM · Hi,

Yixi: thanks for that link. Great news and I am very happy for her! I certainly extend her the best of congratulations on this incredible achievement!


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