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BIOGRAPHY

Artistic Director: Our Festival

 

In 2013/14, Pekka joins frequent collaborators Britten Sinfonia at the Barbican Centre in directed performances of four Britten works, with choreography by the Richard Alston Dance Company. He also returns to the Cincinnati Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony and Philharmonia orchestras. In October 2013 he was awarded the 2013 Nordic Council Music Prize.

A strong advocate of new music, last season Pekka gave the world premiere of Sebastian Fagerlund’s Violin Concerto, written for him and commissioned by the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra. Other recent highlights have included concerts with the Finnish Radio Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Swedish Chamber, Toronto Symphony and Washington’s National Symphony orchestras, as well as the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Konzerthausorchester Berlin.

Pekka regularly directs ensembles from the violin, including the Australian, London, Irish, Mahler and The Saint Paul chamber orchestras, as well as the Amsterdam Sinfonietta. His recital partners have included Iiro Rantala, Anne Sofie von Otter, Angela Hewitt, Kimmo Pohjonen, Nicolas Altstaedt and Olli Mustonen. He is also a member of quartet-lab, alongside Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Lilli Maijala and Pieter Wispelwey.

Pekka has enjoyed a number of prestigious residencies, including at the Aldeburgh Festival, the Concertgebouw’s Robeco Zomerconcerten, and as a ‘Junge Wilde’ artist at the Konzerthaus Dortmund. His most recent CD features Magnus Lindberg’s Violin Concerto with the Tapiola Sinfonietta (for the Ondine label).

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REVIEWS

“Thomas Adès's violin concerto Concentric Paths is a bracing, if barbed, work. Pekka Kuusisto attacked the busy, complex, circular patterning of the first movement with relish and held his nerve in its whistling, high-wire writing. Something of a maverick, he was at once battling vigorously with the fast writing and seeming to joust with it physically, jumping suddenly forwards and back. There’s a dystopian, or at least chaotic, edge in the slow movement too, a quality that Kuusisto evoked in the fast angular yet legato runs over rumbling tuba and drum. Much of the remainder of the movement calls for well-fuelled high-lying playing, in which Kuusisto excelled.” (Edward Bhesania, The Strad, June 2014)

“Pekka Kuusisto, the elfin Finnish violinist who surely has the most personal sound of any classical violinist now alive… For his encore Kuusisto played the Sarabande from Bach’s D minor Partita. Here, finally, Kuusisto’s own rhapsodic voice stood out nakedly, as delicate and fleeting as a distant bird.” (Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, February 2014)

“Mr. Kuusisto’s passionate rendition of the work’s Chaconne proved arresting; his idiosyncratic style stopped short of indulgent with unpredictable twists of tempo, phrasing and dynamics. During his no-holds-barred playing, there were many broken bow hairs, which danced over his instrument like gossamer insect legs.” (Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times, January 2014)

“Kuusisto, directing from (and occasionally rising from) the concertmaster’s chair, offered a bracing account, historically informed yet personally inflected, that captured the music’s vigor and wit. His breathless tempo in the finale left both orchestra…and audience pleasantly warm. I went home singing….he is not so much a violinist as a musician who happens to play the violin.” (Larry Fuchsberg, Minnesota Star-Tribune, January 2014)

“…to hear the whispered tenderness that Kuusisto brought to the final simple motif was worth the trip to Perth in itself.” (Rob Adams, The Herald, April 2013)

“The solo was played with bracing intensity and brilliance by the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto.” (New York Times, February 2012)

“Pekka Kuusisto, a violinist whose rare gift is to become rather than perform the music he plays, made light work of the finely spun figurations that filter through into the dappled orchestral textures...Here and throughout, the playing was marked by the kind of luminous and infectious beauty that comes only from a true marriage of mastery and love.” (The Guardian, February 2012)

“Kuusisto makes an extraordinary sound, delicate and changeable and yet tough as steel wire." (The Telegraph, February 2012)

“The Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto, probably the most engaging maverick in classical music today, appeared once to give a startlingly eerie account of Stravinsky’s Airs du rossignol and Marche chinoise, again to supply the piano part in the orchestra’s aptly grotesque romp through the same composer’s Suites Nos 1 and 2 for Small Orchestra; and a third time as a superbly characterful soloist in Adès’s own violin concerto, Concentric Paths.” (The Times, February 2012)

“The young Finn produced some of the most spontaneous and out-of-the-box violin playing and musical interpretation I have heard…what Kuusisto did with it all was fresh and unpredictable. There were no templates, no predictable strategies. At one moment in the Stravinsky he was playing in period style, the next with sweet tone, then with full-on passion, then at the threshold of audibility, and finally barnstorming rambunctiously.” (The Herald, February 2010)

“Lending his wayward genius to all this was the guest solo violinist, Pekka Kuusisto. What an extraordinary sound he makes, tremulous as a reed, often folk-like in its flatness, and yet so expressive.” (The Telegraph, February 2010)

“Other highlights are the gorgeous romancing of the Cantabile, the effortlessly sweet-singing Sonata in A and the heroic Tarantella, originally for violin and orchestra: here Kuusisto really shows his violinistic mettle with some impeccable double-stopped spiccato and frenzied, stratospheric twirling.” (The Strad, February 2010)

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