Saturday, 4 February 2017

Patricia Kopatchinskaja: Ravel's Tzigane

I listened with interest to a concert (31st January 2017 in Hamburg) given by Patricia Kopatchinskaja (NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock). The work concerned was Ravel's Tzigane of which I happen to have no less than 87 different recordings; it's a popular piece for violinists. As with anything Kopatchinskaja plays – apart from her avant-garde stuff – the playing is immensely interesting (and violinistically superb, of course). My impression is that the nearer the music gets to Moldova (Patricia's homeland) the more the music resounds within her. But what of Ravel's "gypsy" pastiche, written in France around 1926? Should it be played "straight", as a French composition of 1926, or can one take its tzigane label and treat it with the freedom any gypsy would have brought to it?

Kopatchinskaja, inevitably, treats it as gypsy music and allows herself a lot of freedom and rubato ad infinitum. I agree with her; Ravel's Tzigane is not a profound piece of late Beethoven that should be played with reverence and close adhesion to the composer's score. If I ever played Tzigane (miracles may occur, one day) I would like to play it like Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and with her free approach to the French score.

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