Sunday, April 19, 2009


M&G concert at the Civic Theatre


Finnish wunderkind Pekka Kuusisto was soloist and director for a fresh, lively end to this season of M&G concerts.

In an amusing and infornative pre-concert talk - shades of Victor Borge - he told us how Sibelius got his name, how he grew up with jazz, and how many gigs he does in a year: around a hundred, or two hundred if you include playing in pubs ...

He got the City of London Sinfonia chatting cheerfully and smiling as they came onto the stage, and he shared his enjoyment with them, and us. You could compare his style and charisma to Nigel Kennedy, though of course Kuusisto's English is much better ...

The programme began with music from the Nordic lands, strongly influenced by traditional airs. A duo first, from Kuusisto and violist Stephen Tees, Brustard's playful and aggressive Capricci, followed by a sinewy account of Grieg's Holberg Suite.

Rautavaara's Suite “The Fiddlers” is based on Finnish folk tunes collected in the Eighteenth Century, and we were treated to the unvarnished originals as well, especially effective in the first piece, where the lone fiddle suddenly became two dozen players at full throttle.

Not the most gentle version,  not powdered and pretty ...” More like a fiddle band, in fact, explained Kuusisto about their version of Bach's 3rd Brandenburg. Just eleven musicians, but effective crescendos and exciting impetus throughout. Mozart's Turkish violin concerto was even quirkier, and not just in the cadenzas. But it was hugely enjoyable, and elicited the most enthusiastic audience response we've heard all season. Our reward was one more folk tune from this remarkable virtuoso, with the orchestra humming a drone in the background.

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