I went to a concert celebrating Nordic music at the Southbank centre, and it was quite something: Sibelius’ 6th and 7th Symphonies and a new violin concerto written by Daníel Bjarnason for Pekka Kuusisto. I’m a big fan of Pekka Kuusisto not only in his fluid performance style (it’s as if he’s composing the piece himself when he performs) but in his philosophy about music and passion for folk.
The Bjarnason violin concerto was amazing – I’d never heard a violin sound like that before. The instrument was reinterpreted and pushed to it’s limits. Afterwards I learnt that the lowest string (G) had been lowered to a D, a 4th lower. One change like that alters the entire resonance of the violin and how the notes interact with eachother. The piece also featured whistling where Pekka or the violin section would whistle the melody whilst also playing it pizzicato. This simultaneous playing of the melody blurred the lines between the body and the violin, both in the quality of sound and the act of performing.
Afterwards Pekka was joined by Ilona Korhonen for a contemporary Runo folk session.
Again, Pekka used the violin in a completely innovative way, this time combining it with electronics. The variety of effects and sounds he produced to enhance Ilona’s storytelling was fascinating. The whole concert felt like it lifted the restrictions on music – being classically trained, you feel like you have to use the violin in the way you’re taught, that there’s a right and wrong way to perform, to interpret a piece. Pekka speaks about looking past standardised interpretations of pieces and I think that translates into how we use instruments themselves. By bringing the violin, for example, back to it’s rawest components and re-imagining how it can be used, can a greater understanding of it be gained?