Two life-changing concerts this weekend, both including Finnish violin virtuoso, Pekka Kuusisto, and both in Folkestone as part of the annual Sacconi Festival. The first was a concert in St. Mary and St. Eanswythe’s Church that included the Sacconi Quartet and the Chamber Orchestra of the Royal College of Music. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and knowing they would was the main reason for my attendance. PK’s recording of Vivaldi is the most exciting and thrilling I know. But this live performance was on another plane entirely. Usually The Seasons are twee and smugly complacent. PK’s recording is not that, but rather raw and rustic. The live performance, in contrast, was sharp and edgy, thrilling and exciting too but in a different way entirely to the recording. If Vivaldi is usually suburban gemütlichkeit, then the recording is from the wild spaces of Africa, and this performance was from the mean streets of Shoreditch or Mile End.
PK’s playing as always was superb. He has an ability to mimic a flute, producing a sound sublime, something I saw him do in very different work. Yet, at other times it was if he understood the violin as a percussion instrument, not hitting it with his hand but striking the strings in a multitude of calibrated ways with the bow. Later, in the pub after the second concert, he agreed this described his intention. Moreover, he treated the work as a modern work – moving around the stage, for example, to confront directly the other players in the various duets, having face-offs at various times, interacting physically and with immediacy in accord with the temper of each phase of the music. The other players responded in kind. The acoustics in the church were excellent, so that everything could be heard well. This was certainly the best musical experience of my life, and I feel immensely privileged to have witnessed it.
The second concert followed straight afterwards, in the primary school across the street. We were party to a violin and electronics meditation on Bach’s Partita in D minor, by PK and Teemu Korpipaa. The movements of the Bach were played without modification by solo violin, and interleaved with duo improvisations on what we had just heard. This was also sublime, and had the effect of elongating and deepening the emotions invoked by the Bach, an annotation that added to the original. It was clear the two had worked together before, and so the annotations were profound and heartfelt.