Leonidas Kavakos is recognised across the world as a violinist and artist of rare quality, acclaimed for his matchless technique, his captivating artistry and his superb musicianship as well as for the integrity of his playing. He works with the world’s greatest orchestras and conductors and plays as recitalist in the world’s premier recital halls and festivals. He is an exclusive recording artist with Sony Classical.
The three important mentors in his life have been Stelios Kafantaris, Josef Gingold, and Ferenc Rados, with whom he still works. 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 him recording the original Sibelius Violin Concerto (1903/4), the first recording of this work in history, and which won Gramophone Concerto of the Year Award in 1991.
Kavakos is now an exclusive recording artist with Sony Classics. His latest recording, to be released worldwide in October 2019 in anticipation of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020, is the Beethoven Violin Concerto which he conducted and played with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, coupled with the Beethoven Septet played with members of the orchestra. In the anniversary year, Kavakos will both play and play/conduct the Beethoven Violin Concerto with orchestras across Europe and the USA. He will also play the complete Beethoven Sonata cycle in Shanghai and Guangzhou, Milan and Rome, and a number of single Beethoven recitals in various cities including London’s Wigmore Hall, Barcelona, Parma and Copenhagen.
In 2007, for his recording of the complete Beethoven Sonatas with Enrico Pace, Kavakos was named Echo Klassik Instrumentalist of the year. In 2014, Kavakos was awarded Gramophone Artist of the Year.
Further accolades came in 2017 when Kavakos was awarded the prestigious Leonie Sonning Prize – Denmark’s highest musical honour, given annually to an internationally recognised composer, conductor, instrumentalist or singer. Previous winners include Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Alfred Brendel, Benjamin Britten, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Yehudi Menuhin, Simon Rattle, Mstislav Rostropovich, Arthur Rubenstein and Dmitri Shostakovich.
August 2019 was a full and rewarding month: after the Verbier Festival where he appeared in recital with Evgent Kissin and conducted the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra in a programme in which he played Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with Antoine Tamestit, he joined YoYo Ma and Emanuel Ax at the Tanglewood Music Festival for a programme of Beethoven Piano trios, in a duo recital with Ax of Beethoven Sonatas, and in an orchestral concert with the Boston Symphony in which he played and conducted Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Dvořák Symphony No. 7.
Kavakos was also invited as Artiste Etoile at the Lucerne Festival where he appeared with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Mariinsky Orchestra with Valery Gergiev, Vienna Philharmonic with Andes Orozco Estrada, and in recital with Yuja Wang.
In the 2019/20 season, in addition to concerts with major orchestras in Europe and the United States, Kavakos will once again join YoYo Ma and Emanuel Ax for three programmes in Carnegie Hall comprising Beethoven trios and sonatas. He will undertake two Asian tours, first as soloist with the Singapore Symphony and Seoul Philharmonic and in recital in the NCPA Beijing, and then in the spring he performs with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra, prior to playing Beethoven Sonata Cycles in Shanghai and Guangzhou with Enrico Pace.
In recent years, Kavakos has succeeded in building a strong profile as a conductor and has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Gürzenich Orchester, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Filarmonica Teatro La Fenice, and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. In the forthcoming season he will return to two orchestras where he has developed close ties as both violinist and conductor: L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. This season he also play/conducts the Czech Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI.
Born and brought up in a musical family in Athens, Kavakos curates an annual violin and chamber-music masterclass in Athens, which attracts violinists and ensembles from all over the world and reflects his deep commitment to the handing on of musical knowledge and traditions. Part of this tradition is the art of violin and bow-making, which Kavakos regards as a great mystery and to this day, an undisclosed secret. He plays the 'Willemotte' Stradivarius violin of 1734 and owns modern violins made by F. Leonhard, S.P. Greiner, E. Haahti and D. Bagué.
Vienna Philharmonic / Chailly, Eschenbach
Vienna Symphony / Afkham, Jurowski
Bayerische Rundfunk / Jansons
Berliner Philharmoniker / Rattle, Mehta
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig / Bringuier, Chailly, Blomstedt
Munich Philharmonic / Denève, Gergiev
WDR Symphony Orchestra / Saraste
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Gatti, Gergiev, Jansons
London Symphony Orchestra / Rattle, Harding
London Philharmonic Orchestra / Jurowski
Orchestre de Paris / Temirkanov, Järvi
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande / Stenz
Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Gergiev
Filarmonica della Scala / Chailly, Harding
Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra / Gergiev
Boston Symphony Orchestra / Nelsons, Denève
The Cleveland Orchestra / Noseda
New York Philharmonic / Gilbert, Haitink
Philadelphia Orchestra / Nézet-Séguin
San Francisco Symphony / Tilson-Thomas
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia
Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
New York Philharmonic
Boston Symphony Orchestra
National Symphony Orchestra
Bachtrack, September 2019
The compassion he infused into the score, his repartee with the players, and his unabated energy showed him an étoile of the first order.
Guardian, August, 2017
Technically, he was faultless, as one might expect, but what was really so remarkable about his playing here was the way he made the music breathe and sing in lyrical, expansive paragraphs while remaining continuously alert both to subtleties of meaning and absolute directness of expression
Gramophone, May 2016
This is playing that sorts out the men from the boys. I doubt if there is more than a handful of violinists alive who can match Kavakos in the tonal variety, accuracy and speed of his harmonics, or in the deft alternation of bowing and left-hand pizzicato. In fact, I wonder if Paganini would have equalled him.