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Violin virtuoso

Leonidas Kavakos performs at the Mariinsky Concert Hall on Saturday.

Published: June 20, 2008 (Issue # 1383)



  • The Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos brings his 1692 Stradivarius to the city this weekend to perform Henri Dutilleuxs 1985 violin concerto L'Arbre des Songes at the Mariinsky Concert Hall.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

His first violin may have been nothing more than a token Christmas gift from his father but today Greeces Leonidas Kavakos is one of the worlds most distinguished and versatile virtuoso violinists with a packed concert diary.

A regular at renowned international festivals, including the Salzburg Festival, the BBC Proms and the Ravenna Festival, Kavakos comes to town this week to perform at Valery Gergievs Stars of the White Nights Festival. Saturday sees Kavakos performing Henri Dutilleuxs 1985 violin concerto LArbre des Songes at the Mariinsky Concert Hall.

The winner of the 1991 Gramophone Award for the first-ever recording of the original version of Sibelius violin concerto, Kavakos performs a stunningly diverse repertoire spanning centuries of classical music. His programs feature works by Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Stravinsky, Schubert, Ravel, Sibelius, Debussy and George Enescu as well as cutting edge contemporary composers such as Dutilleux all played on a Stradivarius made in 1692.

The violinist regards LArbre des Songes as one of the most fascinating concertos of the 20th century.

Dutilleux has a unique sense of orchestration and color and a wonderful ability of designing these colors, he said.

Kavakos initially came across the Dutilleux concerto after a friends recommendation, and was immediately enchanted by the piece. Learning the work turned out as somewhat of an adventure for the 41-year old musician, however, as he was drafted to the Greek army in 1996. Kavakos was already engaged to perform the concerto in Minneapolis, Minnesota after completing his service so the need to practice was essential.

The military authorities granted the musician 90 minutes in the evening (during dinner time) for rehearsals and assigned him a humble room with a small window and no electric light for the purpose. The violinist did not complain about the spartan conditions as long as he had the time with his musical instrument.

My love for this concerto was so great that I would have learned it in any circumstances, and in this sense, although Dutilleuxs was a very complex score, I did not mind the darkness, Kavakos remembers.

He talks about this part of his service fondly, recalling the light coming into the room from the street, the beauty of the concerto and the chance of artistic escape from a military environment in which he felt lonely and alienated.

Born to a family of musicians both his parents and his grandfather played Greek folk music Kavakos grew up in an artistic atmosphere in the house with music all around.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Sept. 19


SPIBAs newest addition to their Cultural Discoveries events is Handmade in Germany, an exhibition featuring unique handmade objects of a significantly higher quality than mass-produced items. The work of over 100 German manufacturers will be displayed during the event, which opens today in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul on Nevsky Prospekt and runs through Sept. 28.



Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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