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The Boston Globe

Music

Music Review

Free-spirited Bartók with the Philharmonic

CAMBRIDGE — It’s not every day you see a classical musician come on stage barefoot. But in her performance of Béla Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Thursday evening at Sanders Theatre, Moldovan soloist Patricia Kopatchinskaja seemed to draw strength from the floor. Her unshod feet were, in any event, barely noticeable under her long red dress. Her playing was very noticeable, and very good.

Interpretations of the Bartók can range from gentle and lyrical to tough and implacable. Kopatchinskaja began with an intense statement of the first movement’s march-like verbunkos theme, but within moments her violin was whispering ethereally, and she tossed off the 12-tone “calmo” second theme as if it were a lullaby. Her tone can be raw and rustic; it can be serene and starlit. She was mystical in the cantilena section of the first movement where Bartók inverts the theme; then she transformed into a crazed fiddler and by the end was throwing out sardonic glissandos. In the fourth variation of the slow movement, her trills were barely audible hummingbirds’ wings; in the fifth, she turned her instrument into a drum. And she caught the moment where the finale becomes a dizzy waltz. Everything was clearly and imaginatively shaped.

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