The legendary violin professor Josef Gingold did not believe his ears the first time he heard a recording by Leonidas Kavakos. He could hardly imagine anyone being able to play so quickly and so perfectly without there being some sort of technical trickery used in the recording. However, for the Greek violinist, truthfulness of expression takes precedence over virtuosity, something which the Berliner Philharmoniker audience were able to hear for themselves when Kavakos made a guest appearance with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in 2009.
It is particularly appealing that Kavakos, who has been familiar with classical Greek culture since boyhood, turns his attention to the works of the First Viennese School. For him, both periods are closely connected in their desire to strive for timeless perfection – which also inspires Kavakos in his work: “Classical antiquity represents an aesthetic standard that has never been achieved since and will perhaps never be achieved again. This aesthetic standard drives me on – as a human being, violinist and musician.”
Conductor for the evening is Zubin Mehta, who performs with the Berliner Philharmoniker with a regularity virtually unmatched by any other podium guest. The evening opens with Schubert’s Third Symphony – a work which formally still harks back to the world of Haydn yet in which a subliminal Romantic yearning can be discerned. Second comes the suite from Bartók’s arresting pantomime ballet The Miraculous Mandarin.