REVIEW: Pekka Kuusisto

Salisbury Journal: Picture by Adrian Harris Photography Picture by Adrian Harris Photography

FINNISH violinist Pekka Kuusisto played four concerts over consecutive nights.

Apparently, in historic times, the Finns’ western neighbours in Scandinavia commonly believed that Finns were powerful wizards.

Kuusisto seems to be reviving this belief in the classical music world, as everything he takes part in mesmerises and delights.

For the Vivaldi Four Seasons concert Kuusisto stripped down the supporting ensemble to a six-piece; using the Sacconi Quartet with harpsichord and a reader (Joanna Wallfisch).

The Seasons early scores have four sonnets printed at the start of each movement, alongside verbal cues to show the musicians exactly what they are representing, be it various types of wind blowing or bird and animal sounds.

The ensemble worked closely together to decide where Wallfisch should read each line and word. The result was a triumph of descriptive music and Kuusisto’s playing is spellbinding.

The next night, Kuusisto presented a new take on Bach’s Partita in D minor.

Working with Teemu Korpipää on electronics, the project is built around Professor Helga Thoene’s theory that the movements are based on funeral chorales.

Taking different chorales and Finnish funeral marches, Kuusisto and Korpipää made five improvised pieces corresponding to each movement of the Bach, with Kuusisto switching between electronic violin and his 1752 Guadagnini.

And so the works unfolded, with plucking strings becoming bells, and minimalist music appearing from the array of loops, as well as whistling, big bass sounds and strange thumps and clunks like some ancient awful creature.

The final Bach - the chaconne - arrived over the last electronic sounds and was a revelation.

Quite simply, sublime.

The Finnish shaman bewitched us all.

SARAH COLLINS

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