Infinitely refreshing and innovative
The last thing this world needed was yet another recording of the Tchaikovsky concerto. There are already about five million too many, with all of them being more or less the same tepid performance trapped within the rigid box of "cultured" convention.
And then this bomb dropped. And let me tell you, it's nuclear. From the very beginning it's clear that PatKop and Currentzis with his groundbreaking orchestra have completely redefined this concerto. The first movement is a roller coaster of drastically contrasting tempos, dynamics, and moods. PK goes from lush and lyrical to light and peppy to a ferocious madwoman slashing away at her fiddle in the blink of an eye. At times they push the tempo beyond what is plausible, adding a new kind of energy and excitement to the movement. She even somehow finds a way to reinvent and rejuvenate the tired cadenza. Her phrasing is completely unexpected and unpredictable, keeping you guessing throughout. The orchestra, too, is almost just as innovative and fresh as the soloist and they never struggle to keep up with her high octane approach.
The Canzonetta lies in stark contrast to the rest of the concerto here. Of the many renditions of this I've heard, I've rarely if ever heard the soloist drop below a mezzo forte, almost as if they are afraid someone may miss one of their "genius" notes. But PK takes the written pianos plus con sordino to heart. Her tone is light and airy, unlike her usual brazenness, and at times is almost inaudible. In fact, I'm sure if she performed this live the people in the back could not possibly have heard much of it. But it definitely works brilliantly. It's surprisingly pretty and lyrical, especially for her, and serves as a nice interlude between the driving forces of the outer movements.
The orchestra is just fading into a peaceful silence when it suddenly erupts into the brash intro to the finale. Their tempo is unthinkable and within seconds you're sure you're about to experience something truly remarkable. They drop off as PK comes in with the short cadenza. She drags here, pulling away from each new note like she's reluctant to continue. It serves wonderfully to build the tension and anticipation for what's to come. Then she launches into the main theme, her bow ricocheting over the strings impossibly fast. All the while somehow never missing a note. Her folk roots really shine here as her characteristic aggressive, take-no-prisoners style takes over. They throw in an intriguing trick with the back-and-forth dialogue with the clarinets, setting them in different spots to get a three dimensional effect. She slows considerably for the more lyrical sections, reverting to the lighter tone from the earlier movements, before diving headfirst back into the fray. Towards the end, the dialogue between soloist and orchestra is more like a cataclysmic battle between gods, PK going toe-to-toe with her peers in a maelstrom of sonic intensity. Teodor seems to somehow push the tempo even harder after that and it becomes a race to the finish, Patricia's bow churning out an inhuman flurry of rapid-fire notes. She rides the formidable wave of the orchestra like a pro to the very end when it breaks upon the listener in an ecstatic climax. It's guaranteed to be one of the most exhilarating, breathtaking experiences of your life.
The other work on this album, Stravinsky's ballet Les Noces, is a piece that I was not previously familiar with. But I listened raptly through the whole thing, even though I didn't understand a word of it. It's unique and wildly entertaining and I'm so glad they included it here.
So in conclusion. If you're someone who doesn't like change, if you are stuck on the classical traditions of the past, or if you have grand ideas about how musical works "should" be played, then this is definitely not for you and you should steer clear so that your cultured sensibilities aren't offended. PatKop is anything but traditional. She is the exact opposite of the perfectionistic, prim and proper young virtuosi playing in some conservatory somewhere. She plays on instinct alone, no matter the result. She takes HUGE risks and they almost invariably pay off. She leaves rules and conventions to others and plays whatever the h$&@ she wants however she feels like it. And she doesn't give a darn what anyone else may have to say about it. It's utterly refreshing and enthralling. Do yourself a favor and buy this album. It'll be the best money you've ever spent.