Janet Banks saw the event at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam on 19 May 2019
Dutilleux’s Violin Concerto L’arbre des songes (The Tree of Dreams) is an elusive work. Four movements are connected by interludes to become one richly sonorous and complex whole, with shimmering percussion and use of bells and cimbalom reminding us of the composer’s early days as a percussionist.Kavakos’s insouciant stage demeanour belied his evident immense respect for the score and cherishing of every tiny detail. The fact that he stood side-on to the audience and played from the score emphasised this reverence.
Kavakos’s first entry, over a rumbling gong, was understated, delicately querying rather than declaiming. Every skittering semiquaver, impossibly high trill and otherworldly glissando was made to count. In the second movement his incredible left-hand dexterity and powerful double-stops left him bouncing on to the balls of his feet at the end of a particularly taxing passage. His con sordino melodic line in the third movement was movingly morose, passed on to a cello section moving as one in muted harmony.
The humorous final interlude (in which Dutilleux so effectively portrays the sounds of an orchestra tuning up that there is always a rustle in the audience) saw Kavakos sharing the joke with conductor Myung-whun Chung, as the orchestral sound swelled to animal level. Throughout the concert, Chung presided over flawless ensemble with poised control, and seemed to have been inspired by the flow of the Dutilleux to run the four movements of Beethoven’s Symphony no.7 almost as seamlessly.