Few violin concertos have taken longer to find a public. The work crashed on first performance in 1904 and did not pick up until Jascha Heifetz made the first recording in London, in 1936. In the following years, Ida Haendel, Ivry Gitlis and Gidon Kremer gave astonishing interpretations. Each was then said, within the violin community, to ‘own’ the concerto.
Last night in Paris the ownership question was thrown back into play.
Leonidas Kavakos, winner of the Sibelius Competition and the only man to play both known versions of the concerto, gave a performance of such terrifying intensity and so many blazing risks with Paavo Jarvi and the Orchestre de Paris that it was two Bach encores and ten minutes more before the Salle Pleyel audience would let him go.
Sitting in our row, unknown to the soloist on stage, was Ivry Gitlis, 90 years old, full of the joys of spring and presently being seen in a French feature movie on the Champs Elysees.
Ivry went backstage to pay respects. The look on Leonidas’ face was an amalgam of fear and aspiration. Ivry put his fears to rest with a few fine words. There was a sense of a bow being passed.
Is there any other concerto in which such a transmission could still take place?