Something interesting has been happening in the period instrument movement recently. For many decades 'authenticity' was the watchword. But as more research was done, that supposed authenticity became more and more elusive. So instead a couple of young orchestras - first Les Siècles under François-Xavier Roth, now MusicAeterna under Teodor Currentzis - have taken the gut-strings, the strident brass, and the hollow woodwind of the nineteenth century, thrown 'authentic performance practice' out of the window, and begun experimenting with what these instruments can do when unconstrained. And the results have been electric. I'll probably deal with Les Siècles at length another time, but for now I'd like to say a few words about MusicAeterna's new recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.
Trust me, you've never heard anything like this.
Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja swings wildly from exuberant excess to extreme pianissimo, as she carnivals her way through the piece. It's extraordinary. Currentzis - just as he did in his recording of Mozart's Così fan tutte - is not afraid of finding violence in otherwise sublime music, and the contrast between moments of scratching, grating gut strings, and the dancing grace of the solo part makes an old warhorse live (and indeed burn) again. It won't be to everybody's tastes, but my God, it has to be heard to be believed.
You can perhaps get an idea of how revolutionary Currentzis' vision is from his unusually choice of filler - Stravinksy's Les Noces. I don't know Les Noces well enough to say much about the performance beyond that it has a lucid clarity that is fresh and edgy. But other reviews are very favourable indeed.
All in all, very highly recommended.
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto; Stravinsky Les Noces - Patricia Kopatchinskaja, MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis - SONY