When the legendary Ysaÿe student Josef Gingold heard Leonidas Kavakos’s audition recording, he couldn’t believe it: was it possible to play Paganini’s breakneck caprices so flawlessly without any recording post-production? Apparently so, because after Gingold had convinced himself of this, he immediately accepted the young Greek as a student. Soon after, Kavakos embarked on a meteoric career with his unparalleled technique and sparkling musicality, which also brought him regularly to the Berliner Philharmoniker – in the 2016/17 season even as Artist in Residence.
Leonidas Kavakos had three important teachers and mentors: Stelios Kafantaris in his home town of Athens, Josef Gingold at Indiana University and the pianist Ferenc Rados. At the age of only 21, Kavakos had already won three major violin competitions: the Sibelius Competition in Helsinki in 1985, the Violin Competition in Naumburg, and the Premio Paganini in Genoa in 1988. These successes led to the premiere recording of the original version of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, for which Kavakos received the Gramophone Concert Award in 1991. Today, the violinist works with the world’s most prestigious orchestras and conductors and is a regular guest at major festivals. Leonidas Kavakos was Gramophone Artist of the Year in 2014 and was awarded the Léonie Sonning Music Prize, Denmark’s highest musical accolade. For the Beethoven anniversary year in 2020, Kavakos’s recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto was released, which he recorded in the dual role of soloist and conductor with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Other orchestras Kavakos has conducted include the London, Boston and Houston Symphony Orchestras, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and the Budapest Festival Orchestra.