The violinist who splits the house

The violinist who splits the house


norman lebrecht

April 11, 2017

Opinion is divided down the middle over : Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s account of Ravel’s Tzigane at the Wigmore Hall.

Some find it exhilarating.

One eminent violin professor has called it disgusting.

Your view?

You can watch the full recital by clicking here.


  • Ravi Narasimhan says:

    I listened first and enjoyed the hell-bent-for-leather approach. Watched it and still liked it although the moving around was a little over the top. Thought the pianist, Leschenko, was also excellent and am inclined to look for more from both.

  • M2N2K says:

    It is hard to articulate a serious and valid opinion about a performance based on seeing and hearing just a quarter or so of it. However, even this short excerpt is enough to show that she does have a few original ideas about the piece and is capable of realizing at least some of them relatively well. The result is not really convincing musically but I respect her for giving it a good try. She certainly is a very talented performer.

  • Alexander says:

    splitting house is the first step, next – bringing the house down 🙂

  • Myrtar says:

    The pianist is a GREAT accompanist, because being able to accompany this kind of mess is very difficult. Patricia made this all about herself and not about the music, or Ravel’s vision. It’s a circus act and it’s a shame, because she is a very competent violinist who shouldn’t need to resort to these eccentricities that bring nothing to the table other than a headache.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    Hmm…extremely virtuosic, but maybe over-egging the pudding a bit? Impressive, though.

  • LondonPianist says:

    I was there. It was extraordinary. Having grown up listening to many recordings of this piece, I found Kopatchinskaja’s version at Wigmore to be a revelation, shocking and illuminating and completely compelling. Can’t wait to hear her in concert again.

  • Nathan Braude says:

    One can like or dislike this performance ( everyone their own taste) HOWEVER one thing i can tell for sure that our music world desperately needs more artists like Patricia and Polina and less of the “industrial” boring and predictable players that dominate today’s “music business” ( isn’t it a horrible expression?)
    In all honesty there are very few artist whose concerts i would still want to attend. This duo for sure would make me want to go to a concert!

  • Fred says:

    “Disgusting” seems, to me, like a quite appropriate description. The violinist seems to be out to prove that it’s possible to play at a high technical level without ever bothering to be at all concerned with making music.

  • Ungeheuer says:

    Talented, yes, but disgusting and vulgar. It’s the Simone Kermes syndrome again. The first thing I’d ask her is to please put on shoes, if anything, out of respect. Anything to draw attention, I see. A desperate measure, to be sure.

    • Paul Davis says:

      Whatever have shoes got to do with it? I had to watch again to even notice that! “Respect” – for what?…for whom…?
      If this signals the end of those ghastly hi-heels women suffer, this musician has rendered great service.

      And whatever one’s opinion on the style, it obviously works for her playing.

      • Nicholas Bartulovic says:

        I honestly don’t know how you missed her not having shoes, you must be dense. Quit trying to act above the fray. I know she was going for the whole “gypsy aesthetic,” but it’s just another attempt (like many have said) at getting attention.

        • Paul Davis says:

          My visual attention obviously must be slipshod!
          Maybe i listen first and look later.

          Oh, sorry, i forgot to preface this with “Dude!”

  • May says:

    Eminent violin professor = couldn’t make it as a performer perhaps? Why not print the name of this personality?
    For those who know their music history, Ravel couldn’t get enough of Jelly Aranyi’s rendering of gypsy tunes and was inspired to write Tzigane. Apart from PK’s ignoring Ravel’s markings at a few places (instead of the written diminuendo at the ends of phrases she makes instead quite extreme crescendo, as does the pianist with the cascading arpeggios leading into the final section), her playing is simply exhilarating and true to the spirit of the piece, not to mention the genre. Pity the poor listener who instead concentrates on PK’s bare feet or gyrations: she is an extremely insightful and talented musician, who will eventually introduce a lot of people to the classical repertoire who might not have otherwise been interested in classical music. Chapeau!

  • Ben says:

    1) We don’t need a Bang Bang violinist. One Bang Bang is one too many. Gotta stop now.

    2) A professor who worth some salt may use ‘disgraceful’, or ‘disrespectful’, instead of ‘disgusting’. Hard to take him/her seriously. Nevertheless, I cannot think of any trustworthy professor who would be prominent and made comment anonymously at the same time. Sorry, England isn’t a Putin State last time I check.

    In conclusion, a sensational mess to keep readers coming to this website. 🙂

  • James says:

    Yuja Wang, Khatia Buniatishvili, Patricia Kopatchinskaja – seems like every young woman who steps outside the perceived norms of classical music performance decorum becomes a target for misogynists, snobs, or both.

    • Ungeheuer says:

      Self confessed snob, yes. Misogynist, no. For example, you wouldn’t catch Argerich dead presenting herself before audiences like that. And she is no shrinking violet.

      • James says:

        Neither is she a young woman, the demographic that appears to draw the snobs and misogynists out at their most vituperative.

    • Paul Davis says:

      I’d have to give some nuance to that; there is a common theme of bad taste/vulgarity/sensationalism present in certain younger-generation female artists, including two you mention, but if the musical result (with eyes closed if neccessary!) is convincing, i couldn’t care at all what is worn. I happen to detest glitter, frilly lacey garb, make-up and hi-heels, all loathsome artifice, but it doesn’t stop me recognising that Yuja, for example has done some amazing things pianistically and musically,(even if i haven’t liked all her recent work so much). I can close my eyes and still listen. Certain others, (also mentioned!) have equally poor taste and seek sensation to make up (that again!), for a lamentable lack of any musicality or even technical competence.

      I wouldn’t be able to judge Patricia Kopatchinskaja, not having heard enough of her other work, but i see no reason to put her in the same sensationalist category.

  • AMetFan says:

    I recently attended a concert in NY where Ms. Kopatchinskaja played the Prokofiev 2nd concerto. As a violinist myself, I admired her technique. However, technique is about control and a means toward intelligent interpretation, and for this she is supremely lacking. Either self-imposed or encouraged by mentors, her style of presentation and interpretation is so impossibly mannererd as to become annoying within moments. There was no seeming attempt to engage with the orchestra (and certainly not with the audience.) The audience went wild, but this in an era when the Khardashians rule. I will never again waste my time with this violinist.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    Terrific! This isn’t just a young player trying to be outrageous. It’s a young player rethinking a piece that’s outrageous in its own right. Every other rendering I know – including the way I’ve played it at home – is a progressively faster, louder set of variations like ‘Bolero’ on uppers for a high-strung fiddler.

    In Kopatchinskaja’s romp, she’s sedate or raucous or frenzied – whatever the devil she feels like. And it feels right because Ravel threw in plenty of his own gratuitously crazy arpeggios and atonal keyboard cascades – with a wink of the eye – to caricature the playing of Hungarian virtuosa, Stefi Geyer, who inspired this little barn-burner.

    I say good for her! Thanks for sharing!

  • Paul Davis says:

    Worth hearing at least once! It’s certainly at the extreme limit of acceptable style even for this piece but if the players have the technique and chutzpah to bring it off….Bravo! The “disgusted” prof has a point if one is rigid about Ravel’s finesse; everything is in the score, no need to add spice. But here, P&P don’t seek to give an overview of Ravel’s style but a dazzling glimpse of one important element of it. As Ravel was inspired by another female virtuoso, (Jelly d’Aranyi) playing gypsy melodies, it’s quite possible he’d have appreciote these two virtuosi. I hear it as more of an “event” rather than an interpretation to be set on record, and as such find it captivating.

    I feel sorry for the commentator who mentioned shoes and “respect!” I had to watch again to notice the bare feet. Much preferred to those ghastly heels the poor ladies have to suffer, clicking and tottering…ugh. It obviously works well for her playing, whatever one’s opinion of the interpretation.

    • James says:

      Agree on the lack of shoes. Evelyn Glennie has played barefoot in order to feel the music better, sure she’s profoundly deaf but has a valid reason for going barefoot. Who’s to say that’s not the case for this violinist and that she has a reason beyond what she’s being accused of on here?

    • AMetFan says:

      Sorry, but the bare feet were totally distracting throughout, as was her “dancing”. (Doesn’t work for singers, either, by the way.) In the aftermath of the concert I attended, the first thing people commented on were the bare feet. This should not be the takeaway from a performance of a Prokofiev concerto. Shoes are a societal norm. No one says they have to be heels. Charlotte Moorman may have regretted certain career choices.

      • Paul Davis says:

        Well, that’s fair enough, you’ve stated your musical opinion already. But the bother about bare feet…. just suppose an artist you’ve admired and enjoyed played barefoot, would that jaundice your opinion? Or you heard a fantastic radio broadcast and later, seeing the televised/video version, found that the artist/s were not dressed as you approve? The Tie was a performance norm until hi-profile artists such as Ashkenazy and Previn showed good sense; musicians can still give of their best when comfortably attired.

        In your original comment, you rather contradict yourself: “There was no seeming attempt to engage with the orchestra (and certainly not with the audience.)”…. then: “the audience went wild”…. surely many soloists engage fully with the music and their playing, allowing the music to do the communicating and trusting the conductor to engage between the different protagonists? In fact if a classical artits ostensibly dispalyed “communication” with the audience, Liberace style i’d be put off and rather suspicious!

        Anyway, i’ve not heard enough of PK to give an in-depth opinion, and i’m not bothered about attire if the musical result is fine. At least she appears not to shoo away her audiences, a considerable feat!

  • Bruce says:

    Well, she obviously knows what she’s doing, technically and musically (and public image-wise). Her success doesn’t bother me. If the way she plays is not my cup of tea, well… she’ll just have to manage as best she can without me 🙂

  • boringfileclerk says:

    I’m sure she’s a nice person, but her interpretation is vulgar.

    • Mikey says:

      I don’t particularly care who she is as a person, but I found her interpretation absolutely wild and full of life. It was Tzigane as it should be performed – seeming to be a wild, passionate improvisation.

      You see? others actually disagree with you. And that should probably indicate to you that your use of the word “vulgar” is questionable. I hear nothing “vulgar” about her interpretation.

  • Edmund Coxon says:

    Great stuff. Truly refreshing and as bold as you like (or depending on one’s view, not). I’d pay to hear her for sure. There’s far too much store in opinion held by so called professors these days. Many of them have been fine players in their day but equally, many who have not – either way, it doesn’t make them (or him/her) right.

  • sisi tatum says:


  • John Sullivan says:

    It brought a big smile to my face! Kept me guessing at what was coming next. So it was a little overwrought, but this is just the piece to do it with!

  • Steve P says:

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around what she is doing. I went on a Currentzis jag recently and listened to her Tchaikovsky concerto; I enjoyed it, but I certainly wouldn’t have it as my go-to rendition. Same for this Ravel: very emotional and high spirited, but I can’t help wondering whether Ravel is a little less than important during the performance. JMHO.

  • Doug Grant says:

    For those who have a critical response : please view all the way through. I hope you will find the joy in this that I did.


    What an impressively spirited performance followed by an equally impressive encore of the Hora Staccato with an incredible down bow staccato. By way of comparison, I attended a recital the day
    before by a previous winner of the Queen Elizabeth competition which included Tzigane, Devil’s Trill, a solo Ysaye Sonata & Paganini’s La Campanella. All very well played with the utmost accuracy & secure intonation & an equally accomplished pianist. I could not help thinking that he is a typical product of the competition circuit. PK with her fire & brimstone interpretation & equally fabulous technique is, to my mind, far more preferable. All strength to her & long may she prosper shoeless or not!!

  • Mario says:

    I would like her to compose and play gypsy music without borrowing the authority of a composer. Ravel had told a pianist that “the performer is a slave of composer”. I think that this is not the music of Ravel.

  • ViolinBob says:

    Definitely in touch with her inner gypsy

  • Amir Kessner says:

    Patricia Kopatchinskaja is an original artist — she does not play as others do, and has something new and unique to say in her performances.

    Some people just can’t stand this. Some cannot stand Glenn Gould even after all these years, while her work is fresh out of the oven.

    Well, their loss. The only problem is that they get too noisy and self righteous about they petty opinions. But one does not really have to listen to that kind of noise.

    Just listen to the music, with a new taste.


    • Nicholas Bartulovic says:

      Dude, don’t try and equate her with Glenn Gould. Gould was eccentric but could actually back it up with real talent. This performance was sloppy and egotistical (I know that was partly for affect). “her work is fresh out of the oven,”–yeah I agree, but burnt to a crisp and inedible!

      • Amir Kessner says:

        Dude, you missed the point. I wasn’t equating HER with Glenn Gould, I was equating some people’s responses to non-mainstream approaches, even when undeniably backed up with real talent.

        I see little point in judging her and her work by a small scrap of a video, where people’s attention is all too easily shifted to irrelevant issues such as being barefoot or playing the piano with gloves.

        Listen to her audio-only recordings.

        I don’t always like what I hear from her, but there is little doubt that she has her own unique messages in many of her performances.

        People may call this “egoistical” or whatever other attributes that refer to HER motivation or thinking, about which they know nothing at all.

  • Peter says:

    When not looking, only listening, the performance becomes trivial and mediocre. Just listen, no video, and it all is rather pointless. So a show. Nothing to do with music. And a trivial, vulgar and egomaniac show at best. Silly. Desperate. What’s the point? Does it even sell?

  • Alfred says:

    No drugs?

  • M2N2K says:

    Playing in a “new” way – differently from others – may be a wonderful thing or it may be its opposite too. In her performance there are both moments: some that are genuinely interesting/illuminating/exciting, and others that are ugly, distasteful and even sometimes simply boring. It is frustrating to see that she is often misusing her considerable violinistic talent by abusing much of the music that she plays.

  • Mihail Ghiga says:

    I would not comment on the violinistic level, which is good, good is the norm now.
    However, there is a lot of exagerated movements and “show off” in this.
    Ravel’s piece is an intellectual paraphrase of transylvanian and hungarian gipsy music. As Bartok concerti or Enescu’s 3rd sonata , it is to be taken with a grain of salt, but she poured all the shaker in.
    It is our country’s music, and we know well the original music, and ONE thing is constant. Never, EVER, an intellectual paraphrase cannot reach the level of gipsyness of an authentic traditional player. The traditional player will play better EVERY time. Tzigane is an INTELLECTUAL music, in the end. Think about some philarmonic playing some arranged rock music (Metallica). It will be nice, but you’ll not see them shaking their hair (if available) or trash their instrument.

  • Oisfetz says:

    Jascha, please come back, we miss you deadly!

  • Andrew Zaplatynsky says:

    Talented ….. but vulgar.

  • S.F. says:

    For those who do not judge a performer by a small clip of an encore Kopatchinskaja will again play with her outstanding pianist Polina Leschenko in Wigmore Hall on February 16th, 7:30 pm (Debussy, Poulenc, Mozart, Kurtag, Enescu).

    Last time the reviewer of the TIMES gave five stars: (access after free registration).

  • Tony Finley says:

    The problem with this violinist is that she tries to do things too differently. There is no value to bending a note that doesn’t or shouldn’t be bent, scratching the violin when it is outbid place or ignoring the composer’s specific instructions, i.e., superimposing your ideas on top if clear directions or ignoring them. Yes, a lotvof people watch and listen but it is despite the player, not because of her I believe. She has a trash in on her website for all the bad reviews – doesn’t that tell you something? Rather than listen to what knowledgeable people say she ignores and trashed them. Arrogance and lack of good taste are a poor representation of great music.