To refer to the Austrian Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopachinskaja and the Russian pianist Polina Leschenko as musicians is on the edge of reality. Forces of nature, laws in themselves or iconoclasts could be more appropriate descriptors of the two men, who made their debut in Washington Sunday in the Phillips Collection, interpreting Bartók, Enescu and Ravel in the 1920s and Poulenc in 1943.
The focus and intensity of their music is indisputable. Kopatchinskaja and Leschenko are both strong musical personalities, each with a lot to say and the technique to say it well. But together, they achieve a rare overall cohesion, and it is this sense of two minds and two hearts that fits perfectly and that made their performance so exhilarating.
Both are also able to produce and feast on ugly sounds on their instruments, although Leschenko may have had the advantage. Each piece seemed to have at least one assault on the dedicated piano, essentially free.
Kopachinskaja tends to float a musical idea in two ways. Either she creeps around him and, by osmosis, recognizes it little by little, or she jumps on it, as if she had just come out of the consciousness of her creator. During all this time, Kopachinskaja seems to communicate with his violin, speaking it, cajoling and comforting it.
Bartók's second sonata sometimes resembled an agglomeration of abstract sounds rather than a musical discourse. Enescu's third sonata, imbued with Romanian and Moldavian folk influences, is a specialty of Kopachinskaja and I doubt I hear him play more convincingly. Ravel's "Gypsy" was the most artistically satisfying performance in conventional terms.
If there was little room for rest or stylistic finesse, music emerged with uncompromising integrity. When that happened, nothing else mattered.