Pekka Kuusisto
Violin

“Pekka Kuusisto…surely has the most personal sound of any classical violinist now alive” (Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph)

Contacts

Jane Brown +44 (0)20 3725 9129
Liz Sam +44 (0)20 3725 9122
Holly Brunskill +44 (0)20 3725 9115

Biography

Artistic Director: ACO Collective (from January 2016)
Artistic Partner: The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (from 2016/17)
Artistic Director: Our Festival

 

Following his enormously successful London BBC Proms debut, the 2016/17 season sees Kuusisto perform with the Seattle Symphony, Mahler Chamber and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras and Junge Deutsche Philharmonie. An advocate of new music, Kuusisto gave the world premiere of Sebastian Fagerlund’s Violin Concerto, leading to a critically acclaimed release of the work with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (BIS) in 2015. He also collaborates frequently with composers such as Nico Muhly, Daníel Bjarnason and Thomas Adès, and premieres a new work by Anders Hillborg this season with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.

 

Artistic Director: ACO Collective (from January 2016)
Artistic Partner: The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (from 2016/17)
Artistic Director: Our Festival

 

Following his enormously successful London BBC Proms debut, the 2016/17 season sees Kuusisto perform with the Seattle Symphony, Mahler Chamber and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras and Junge Deutsche Philharmonie. An advocate of new music, Kuusisto gave the world premiere of Sebastian Fagerlund’s Violin Concerto, leading to a critically acclaimed release of the work with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (BIS) in 2015. He also collaborates frequently with composers such as Nico Muhly, Daníel Bjarnason and Thomas Adès, and premieres a new work by Anders Hillborg this season with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.

Last season, he toured Europe with Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä, including his Edinburgh International Festival debut, and returned to the Scottish Chamber, City of Birmingham Symphony and Toronto Symphony orchestras. Recent recital highlights include London’s Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and Dortmund’s Konzerthaus, with upcoming performances at Mozarteum Salzburg, Carnegie Hall and Princeton University.

Joining together with performers across the artistic spectrum, Kuusisto works with electronic musician Brian Crabtree, jazz-trumpeter Arve Henriksen and Dutch neurologist Erik Scherder. Regular chamber partners include Anne Sofie von Otter, Simon Crawford-Phillips, Nicolas Altstaedt and Olli Mustonen.

Widely recognised for his flair in directing ensembles from the violin, this season Kuusisto becomes Artistic Partner with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and continues as Artistic Director with ACO Collective. He also regularly directs The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Tapiola Sinfonietta and Britten Sinfonia.

Kuusisto received the Nordic Council Music Prize in 2013 and is Artistic Director of the award-winning ‘Our Festival’, based in Sibelius’ home town. His next CD release features him as both director and soloist for Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with the Tapiola Sinfonietta.

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Contacts

Jane Brown +44 (0)20 3725 9129
Liz Sam +44 (0)20 3725 9122
Holly Brunskill +44 (0)20 3725 9115

Reviews

“The Festival’s string highlight, however, was Finn Pekka Kuusisto’s bracingly fresh account of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in a triumphant concert with the Minnesota Orchesstra under Osmo Vanska (23 August)…he transformed it into a thoroughly modern, forward-looking work, fleet and glacial in its opening and disarmingly direct in its strongly defined finale, with a distinctive folk twang too.” (The Strad, November 2016)

“Kuusisto and Altstaedt absorbed each other’s roles, blending and rising to forge the dominant idea so seamlessly that one could have been listening to a single interpreter. Their performances was always unassuming and intelligent in delineating the phrasing and textures. This whole concert was a treat.” (The Strad, October 2016)

“[Kuusisto] executed the virtuoso work with flair and a charming chuckle, suggesting both a zest for life and musical supremacy.” (Kolnische Rundschau, Olaf Weiden, September 2016)

“The Festival’s string highlight, however, was Finn Pekka Kuusisto’s bracingly fresh account of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in a triumphant concert with the Minnesota Orchesstra under Osmo Vanska (23 August)…he transformed it into a thoroughly modern, forward-looking work, fleet and glacial in its opening and disarmingly direct in its strongly defined finale, with a distinctive folk twang too.” (The Strad, November 2016)

“Kuusisto and Altstaedt absorbed each other’s roles, blending and rising to forge the dominant idea so seamlessly that one could have been listening to a single interpreter. Their performances was always unassuming and intelligent in delineating the phrasing and textures. This whole concert was a treat.” (The Strad, October 2016)

“[Kuusisto] executed the virtuoso work with flair and a charming chuckle, suggesting both a zest for life and musical supremacy.” (Kolnische Rundschau, Olaf Weiden, September 2016)

“The oft-played work is match made in heaven for the captivating Kuusisto, who is as brilliant as charismatic. With chameleon-like changeability he shows everything off here: total melodiousness in the “Aria”, enchantment in the “Lento intenso”, then dance-like tricks and soulful, lyrical solo melodies.” (Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger, Rainer Nonnenmann, September 2016)

“What followed, however, upstaged all else. It was the Proms debut of Pekka Kuusisto, the maverick Finnish violinist, improbably playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto ... He really is the David Bowie of the fiddle. His played-and-sung encore … brought the house down.” (The Times, August 2016)

“Who needs a ‘Last Night’ when you have Pekka Kuusisto?  The Finnish violinist’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto will surely prove to be one of the most joyous events at this year’s Proms. ... Kuusisto gave us sheer joy: ‘light-hearted’ and ‘cheeky’ were not words I’d ever thought I would use to describe this work, but they are apt in this case, supplemented by ‘honest’, ‘open-hearted’ and ‘songful’. ... Sparing with vibrato, the violinist revealed an innate sense of phrasing, letting the melodies unfold with the gentle ease of a folk singer, taking Tchaikovsky’s themes back to their roots.” (Seen & Heard International, August 2016)

“This Finnish violinist has always gone his own way, as likely to be found playing jazz, electronica or folk music as a concerto, and his Tchaikovsky last night was no different. ... From the long opening melody to the Finale’s boot-stamping dance of a theme, Kuusisto was as much a fiddler as a violinist. Arms flowing loose, feet syncopating to the rhythms of his bow, mouth constantly on the edge of a grin, he took Tchaikovsky’s art music and distilled it down to its folk essence. Tempos, freed from the weight of Romantic emotion and vibrato, suddenly danced, and melodies relocated from ballroom to barn shook off maturity for lightfooted youth.” (The Arts Desk, August 2016)

“Undeniable star power supplanted mere ensemble virtue in the complicated concerto, with Pekka Kuusisto making the impossible solo challenges seem rapturously easy” (Martin Bernheimer, The Financial Times, June 2016)

“Then the virtuosic violinist Mr. Kuusisto gave a fearless account of Ligeti’s Violin Concerto…Mr. Kuusisto vanquished the concerto’s daunting challenges, giving a wild yet masterly performance and eliciting a tumultuous ovation. Mr. Gilbert, the proprietor of the biennial, beamed.” (Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, June 2016)

“Kuusisto is a one-of-a-kind violin player – supple, lyrical, virtuosic and intensely personal all at the same time. He played the Nielsen as though it had been written for him – actually he played it as though he had written it himself, so thoroughly did he inhabit this odd, compelling music… Kuusisto made every twist and turn of the score make sense, and conductor Mena was with him every step of the way. The performance was balanced, expressive and thrilling, just as you hope music can be.” (Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail, June 2016)

“[Kuusisto]...then displayed his imagination by leading the SPCO strings in an absorbing mix of music by contemporary composers Nico Muhly, Erkki-Sven Tuur and Bryce Dessner […]Taken as a whole, it was an ideal blend of intellect and heart, tremendous technique and ebullient abandon.” (Pioneer Press, April 2016)

“Kuusisto has a stage presence that is simultaneously elegant and mischievous. With his balletic conducting gestures and expressive eyes, he led the ensemble into the exciting territory of modern works, classic masterpieces and a reimagined Beethoven quartet.” (Canberra Times, February 2016)

“Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto gave us a rugged and intensely intimate blow-by-blow account with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and conductor Tuomas Hannikainen. Nielsen was a folk fiddler and Kuusisto made it show in the gorgeous looseness of his rhythms and stripped-back grit of his sound. There’s not an inch of formality to his playing: he might as well have wandered the hall and whispered, crooned and stomped directly into our ears. His encore was a pair of traditional polskas, full of spry ornamentation and raucous swing. What a thrill.” (Kate Molleson, The Guardian, October 2015)

“Kuusisto’s personality shone through from the opening Bach-inspired flourishes, through to the macabre, dance-infused finale. His rich full-bodied sound was mirrored by the orchestra with some lyrical contributions from the brass and playful exchanges with the woodwind section.” ***** (Susan Nickalls, The Scotsman, October 2015)

“The performances are strong, confident and poetic, and violinist Pekka Kuusisto tackles the challenges of Darkness in Light as though they were by Prokofiev or even Tchaikovsky.” (Stephen Johnson, BBC Music Magazine, July 2015)

“The Violin Concerto Darkness in Light (2012) was composed for and dedicated to Pekka Kuusisto, who gives a dazzlingly virtuoso account of it here…Kuusisto navigates his way brilliantly through the gamut of effects including multiple-stopping, microtones, harmonics et al, all expressed with a broadly legato flow…” (Guy Rickards, Gramophone, May 2015)

“Magnus Lindberg’s violin concerto…[was] a true technical and sonic showcase. Frankly spectacular. Kuusisto…demonstrated his full virtuoso abilities and stood up to the challenge like very few fellow violinists could possibly have done.” (Jorge Aráoz Badí, La Nación, April 2015)

“Fagerlund's music is highly energetic and detailed. The recording in addition is penetrating, dynamic and rings, just like the composition, with Pekka Kuusisto’s virtuosic playing; the concerto being commissioned for him.” (Wilhelm Kvist, HBL, April 2015)

“…There are passages of subtle virtuosity from Pekka Kuusisto as well as a lovely static passage where the violin hovers over a constantly shifting quiet orchestra…This is a very fine concerto indeed full of invention, colour and energy. It receives a terrific performance from Pekka Kuusisto with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu.” (Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer, April 2015)

“[The Sibelius Violin Concerto] is often played – but never quite like this, and the performance by violinist Pekka Kuusisto was the evening’s great surprise…he launched into the music with a straightforward intensity that had the listeners leaning forward in their seats. There were no showy virtuoso flourishes and no grand gestures; instead, Kuusisto wielded an awe-inspiring technique and displayed a brilliantly thorough command of this challenging score. After the final bravura notes, the audience just exploded, into an ovation that sounded less like sedate symphony-goers and more like the 12th Man. Kuusisto was called again and again to the stage, until he provided a wonderfully Finnish encore by the 19th-century folk musician Samuel Rinda-Nickola, complete with foot-stomping emphasis.” (Melinda Bargreen, The Seattle Times, March 2015)

“…Kuusisto stood out. He committed at every moment to Sibelius’ music, whether spinning a thread of tone in his opening bars or turning to the orchestra with a smile between solos, absorbing energy for his next entrance…Kuusisto consistently draws you in with his playing, as if he’s trying to share a secret…Everyone left for intermission with the same huge smile Kuusisto wore at the end, and a guy walking past me up the aisle told his date, ‘I have a new favorite fiddler.’” (Lawrence Toppman, The Charlotte Observer, March 2015)

“Kuusisto is clearly a risk taker and in this case, he was eminently successful. This collaboration represented an inventive reimagining of the classical sound and offered the opportunity to hear this music afresh. The freewheeling program offered a novel way to structure a recital, thinking outside the usual box…Kuusisto himself provided much of the energy of the event…He was clearly having a rollicking good time and his mood was contagious…he is a true virtuoso, playing with expressive flair and control…Kuusisto demonstrated mastery as a classical violinist and as a fiddler, a different skill set…the ear-catching thrills kept the audience enthralled.” (William Randall Beard, Star Tribune, March 2015)

“If you've encountered an uncomfortably aristocratic air at some classical music concerts you've attended, be assured that violinist Pekka Kuusisto seems intent upon doing away with that. The flamboyant Finn engages audiences with a puckish playfulness, approaching the music with a palpable thirst for fun and adventure…Employing an expressive face and a loose-limbed bounciness, he clearly captured the audience's fancy, judging from its lusty ovations. And he underlined the Bach sonatas' foundation in dance by interspersing Finnish folk tunes from Bach's era, climaxing in a "polska for the devil" that was thrillingly fiery.” (Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press, March 2015)

“…a brilliant adventure, full of surprises and imagination…[This was] without a doubt the most incredible improvisation I have ever heard.” ***** (Jónas Sen, Fréttablaðið, February 2015)

“Kuusisto's playing of Lindberg's merciless solo part was spectacularly effective, drawing the ovation that he deserved.” (Michael Tumelty, The Herald, October 2014)

“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, February 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)