Leonidas Kavakos

Leonidas Kavakos Photo: Marco Borggreve

Leonidas Kavakos
Photo: Marco Borggreve

Léonie Sonning Music Prize Winner 2017 / Artist in Residence, New York Philharmonic 2016-17


Leonidas Kavakos is recognised across the world as a violinist and artist of rare quality, known at the highest level for his virtuosity, superb musicianship and the integrity of his playing. He works with the world’s greatest orchestras and is an exclusive artist with Decca Classics.

The three important mentors in his life are Stelios Kafantaris, Josef Gingold and Ferenc Rados. By the age of 21, Leonidas Kavakos had already won three major competitions, the Sibelius Competition in 1985, and the Paganini and Naumburg competitions in 1988. This success led to his recording the original Sibelius Violin Concerto (1903/4), the first recording of this work in history. It won Gramophone Concerto of the Year Award in 1991.

The orchestras with whom Kavakos has developed close relationships include the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Eschenbach/Chailly) Berliner Philharmoniker (Rattle), Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Jansons/Gatti), London Symphony Orchestra (Gergiev/Rattle) and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (Chailly). Kavakos also works closely with the Dresden Staatskapelle and Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala and, in the USA, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras. This season, he tours with the London Philharmonic Orchestra to Spain, with the Bayerischer Rundfunk to the USA and plays at the Verbier, White Nights, Edinburgh International, Tanglewood and Annecy Classic festivals, as well as the complete Beethoven Sonatas at the Dresdner Musikfestspiele. Latterly, Leonidas Kavakos has built a strong profile as a conductor, working with the London and Boston symphony orchestras, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Wiener Symphoniker (VSO) and Budapest Festival orchestras. This season, Kavakos returns as conductor to the VSO, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and, for the first time, the Bamberger Symphoniker, Danish National Symphony, Netherlands Radio Symphony and Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestras and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.

His first release on Decca Classics, the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Enrico Pace (January 2013), resulted in the ECHO Klassik award ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’, followed by the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Riccardo Chailly (October 2013), and Brahms Violin Sonatas with Yuja Wang, (March 2014). He was awarded Gramophone Artist of the Year 2014. His earlier discography includes recordings for BIS, ECM, and subsequently, for Sony Classical, Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (ECHO Klassik ‘Best Concerto Recording’) and Mozart’s Violin Concertos, conducting and playing with Camerata Salzburg.

Born and brought up in a musical family in Athens, he curated a chamber music cycle 15 years at the Megaron Athens Concert Hall, featuring Mstislav Rostropovich, Heinrich Schiff, Menahem Pressler, Emanuel Ax, Nikolai Lugansky, Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuçon, among others. Kavakos curates an annual violin and chambermusic masterclass in Athens, attracting violinists and ensembles from all over the world and reflecting his deep commitment to the handing on of musical knowledge and traditions.

The art of violin- and bow-making is considered by Kavakos a great mystery and, to our day, an undisclosed secret. He plays the ‘Abergavenny’ Stradivarius violin of 1724 and owns modern violins made by F. Leonhard, S.P. Greiner, E. Haahti and D. Bagué.