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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

Thursday, Dec. 18


Improve your English and knowledge of British culture during todays FORM lesson at the British Book Center. These free English lessons with a native speaker elaborate not only on grammar particulars but cultural topics as well. Todays event will discuss the BBC Two documentary Victorian Farm Christmas.



Friday, Dec. 19


Test your mastery of parlor games during Game Evening at the British Book Center. Learn how to play a variety of classic, mentally challenging games and use your newly acquired skills to crush weaker opponents. The event beings at 5 p.m.



Saturday, Dec. 20


The citys Babushkina Park on Prospekt Obukhovskoy Oborony will be invaded by dozens of rocking-and-rolling Santa Clauses during todays Santa Claus Parade. Not only will they parade through the park but there will also be competitions amongst the festively-clad participants and a musical master class. There will also be a prize for the best-dressed Santa Claus.


Stock up your record collection during the Vinyl Christmas Sale at the KL10TCH bar on Konyushennaya ploschad today. Spend the afternoon perusing the records for sale while listening the classic, clean sound of records spinning out hits from a variety of musical genres and time periods.



Sunday, Dec. 21


TheZenit St. Petersburg basketball team returns to the northern capital this evening for a matchup with Krasny Oktyabr, a Volgograd-based basketball club. Tickets for the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. this evening, can be purchased on the clubs website or at their arena, Sibur Arena, on Krestovsky island.


Satisfy your sugar cravings during Sweet New Year, an ongoing seasonal festival at the Raduga shopping center. Each weekend of December will welcome hungry visitors to taste hundreds of different kinds of desserts made from a plethora of sweet treats. Workshops are open to visitors and seasonal gifts can also be purchased for those rushing to finish their New Year shopping.



Monday, Dec. 22


Pick out the latest fashions as holiday gifts for loved ones or as early presents for yourself during the Christmas Design Sale at Kraft on Obvodny Kanal, starting on Dec. 20 and continuing through Dec. 27. Designer clothes will be on sale every day of the week or you can buy something more festive to decorate the home while sipping on hot coffee and perusing the various master classes.



Tuesday, Dec. 23


Meet Arctic explorers Fedor Konukhov and Viktor Simonov during SPIBAs and Capital Legal Services event Arctic Expedition this morning in the Mertens House business center at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. The meeting will discuss the explorers ongoing eco-social project and how companies can use the project as a unique marketing opportunity. Email office@spiba.ru by Dec. 22 if you wish to attend.



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