Patricia Kopatchinskaja - Time & Eternity - Limelight Magazine

The violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, known for the uniquely fierce extent to which she immerses herself into and ‘recreates’ a piece of music, gives us her take on the Holocaust. The program is built around two great 20th-century works for violin and string orchestra: Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Concerto Funebre (1939) and Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Polyptyque (1973). Kopatchinskaja writes: “The music is made out of the blood and tears of tortured souls: a strangled scream, voices muttering amid a terrified silence…”, and her aim is to explore that.

The result is the most visceral version of Hartmann’s work that I know. Martin’s Polyptyque, based on a series of medieval paintings of Christ’s life, is a little more restrained. Her reading of the beautiful second movement is touchingly inward. Indeed, wherever Kopatchinskaja’s mood takes her, Camerata Bern stays with her all the way.

But… this is a concept album. Surrounding these two works are a number of other tracks: of ancient music, a Jewish cantor speaking, John Zorn’s Kol Nidre, some avant-garde babble and sounds of breathing (my bête noir). Most annoyingly, the movements of Polyptyque are interspersed with string orchestral arrangements of chorales from Bach’s St JohnPassion. It is insulting to Frank Martin, who knew how to structure a piece of music.

The contextualising extras are by no means gratuitous, and would make this an interesting concert program, but on disc they don’t bear repetition. I loaded the CD into iTunes ready to delete all that stuff, but instead I deleted the whole thing because (heresy!) Kopatchinskaja’s intensity cumulatively registers as obsessive overkill. Instead, allow me to commend to you Vladimir Spivakov’s version of the Concerto Funebre (on Capriccio, with James Conlon) and a better integrated, uninterrupted performance of Polyptyque by Muriel Cantoreggi (on ECM with Christoph Poppen).

Limelight Magazine
17 February 2020