New possibilities

Kuusisto with flamenco dancer

From Baroque to electronics, Pekka Kuusisto can’t stop exploring new possibilities. PETER SOMERFORD finds out how the Finnish violinist’s perspective on music has evolved

Young violinists looking to stand out from the crowd may reasonably choose to specialise in one particular field. Not so Pekka Kuusisto. At the age of 35, the Finnish player has carved out a career that embraces electronic and new music, folk and jazz, as well as standard repertoire from Bach to Bartók. Just this month, he is performing Paganini sonatas and Finnish tango in Amsterdam, chamber music in Lockenhaus, and works by Steve Reich and Radiohead at the festival he directs in Finland. His path may be chameleon-like but he is not one for blending in. He is very much his own animal, with an individual playing style in whatever guise. His maverick, mischievous nature has endeared him to more adventurous orchestras, which recognise that his unorthodox interpretations are not created for shock effect but are rooted in serious convictions about the music and the composer’s intentions.

The weekend of our meeting in Glasgow neatly encapsulated Kuusisto’s multi-sided artistic temperament. On the Sunday he was all serious intent in Morimur, a performance of Bach’s D minor Partita in which the great Chorale was fused with fragments of Bach chorales sung by the four-voice Hilliard Ensemble. It was a huge contrast to his solo electronics session the day before, in which he improvised on Bach, rattled off Finnish folk tunes, and at one point set up plinky, retro loops on an iPad with all the glee of a boy discovering a new toy.

 

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