The subversive power of recall according to violinist Pekka Kuusisto | New



The following excerpt is from the May issue of The Strad about soloists’ changing approach to callbacks. To read it in full, click here to register and log in. The digital magazine and the print edition of May 2021 are on sale now

Kuusisto’s most famous encore came at the BBC Prom 2016 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, when he brought down the house playing and singing a Finnish folk song in a duet with solo violin Laura Samuel and enlisting everything the Proms audience as singers. “I think an orchestra and a conductor will always be happy if the soloist chooses an encore that is part of the whole concert,” he begins. “The 2016 encore got a bit larger than life, but its original context was tied to the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto I had just played, the finale of which contains elements of traditional Russian music. Tchaikovsky spent a fair amount of time in St. Petersburg, which is the closest major Russian city to Finland. So the folk song I chose comes from Karelia, a border region between Finland and Russia. Then, after the intermission, the orchestra played Stravinsky’s Petrushka, which is of course a mishmash of traditional Russian music and other traditional music. ‘

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Indeed, one of the joys of folk songs for Kuusisto is that there is one for every contemporary situation. “I am reluctant to go to mainland China because I have been genuinely shocked so many times by the Chinese government’s position on a number of issues,” he continues. ‘But I was booked to go back a few years ago when Falun Gong people were being persecuted. It turns out that Falun is also a city in Sweden with a strong tradition of folk music. A Swedish word for walking is gÃ¥ng, and there is a traditional song style in the tempo of the march they call it – and, coincidentally, Falun has a lot of them, so I was quite ready to go. China and playing Falun gÃ¥nglÃ¥t as reminders and being thrown in jail, or at least out of the country! But the trip was canceled.


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