Kutik’s Wieniawski comes of age
WHEN you stumble up to the piano you want to play at the age of two, your future is not really in doubt! This is what Yevgeny Kutik, in town to play the Wieniawski Concerto no 2 in D minor with the CPO on November 24, has been assured by his parents.
“My violinist mother was my first teacher, and my father was a trumpeter in the Belarusian State Symphony, and my first lesson was when I was 5.”
With huge rampant anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, the family decided to leave, and after some months near Rome, Italy, they settled in the United States in 1990.
Kutik grew up outside of Boston, where he now lives.
“It was hard for musicians to make a living to support a young family and my father went into computer work. My mother became a violin teacher/orchestra conductor in the public school system, and both remain my constant support.
“I grew up surrounded by music from infancy. I have loved music always. Music has such extraordinary power to communicate; it goes so far beyond words. I am actually addicted to it!”
Although he studied in America, he is schooled in the Russian string traditions.
“I worked with my mom for those formative four or five years and she was trained in the Russian school. My next teacher was Zinaida Gilels, the niece of Emil, and who used to teach at the Moscow Conservatoire.
The three years I spent with her in Boston were hard years, but she taught me much about the grand Russian tradition of violin playing--proper technique, sound production and interpretation--all in the service of music.”
He also studied with Roman Totenberg for the last eight years of this 101-year-old legend’s life. He died in 2012.
He came from a long line of great violin playing in Poland, where Wieniawski was and is an iconic figure, so in a way Kutik has come full circle.
He was also influences by several great American teachers but his style is his own.
“I always strive to continue improving my personal voice and style,” he says.
He is praised for his “dark-hued tone and razor-sharp technique” (The New York Times), and for the “old-world sound that communicates a modern intellect” along with technical precision and virtuosity, and poetic and imaginative interpretations and “rhapsodic style”.
Kutik is not a fan of music competitions.
“Having won a couple like the Boston Symphony Young Artists’ competition with the prize of a concert with the Boston Pops, I decided about six years ago that I had had enough. I don’t want to be a competitor and I don’t want to be on a jury. I was very naïve in the beginning, and didn’t realize that many of my fellow competitors had taken lessons with several of the jurors. Not doing that made me a sort of outsider.
“Competitions are not like horse races; they are not quantifiable. How can one judge emotions of unspeakable proportions? Every juror will feel something different about each competitor so how can you say who is the best? Who is to say what is right and what is wrong? You are creating a breed of players, for winning means there has to be clinical perfection and adherence to a strict conservative interpretation and this results in a style of playing that doesn’t appeal to me at all. Being a musician is hard; it is all-consuming and I think there has to be a better approach.
Kutik is a fan of the Jewish Federations of North America.
“When we came to the US, they did so much for us. They helped my family and many others, Jewish and non-Jewish, to rebuild our lives.
“They helped us start again. I just love the way they are committed to helping anyone in need. Where I can, I speak to and play for their communities across the country because we are a living story of the good that can happen when communities come together. Lots of people need help. When we want to, the human race is capable of amazing actions.”
Kutik has released two solo CDs --- his 2012 debut album, Sounds of Defiance, features the music of Achron, Pärt, Schnittke, and Shostakovich. Funded in large part by a Kickstarter campaign initiated by Kutik, the album focuses on music written during the darkest periods of the lives of these composers.
His 2014 album, Music from the Suitcase: A Collection of Russian Miniatures, features music he found in his family’s suitcase after immigrating to the United States from the Soviet Union.
It features music of Eshpai, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, and more.
Yevgeny’s third album, Words Fail, comes out this October and was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s adage, “where words fail, music speaks,” best encapsulated by Mendelssohn’s iconic Songs ithout Words. In this album, Kutik uses Mendelssohn’s songs as a starting point to expand upon the idea that music surpasses traditional language in its expressive capabilities through works by Mahler, Prokofiev, Messiaen and others, plus two works he commissioned for the album by composers Timo Andres and Michael Gandolfi.
He arrives in Cape Town direct from a concert in Missouri, goes into rehearsal and 24 hours after the concert is over he will be at the airport going back to America. His fiancée will be with him, and hopefully the next time they will have time for a holiday here.
On the programme are the mighty Alexander Nevsky Oratorio with Violina Anguelov (mezzo) as soloist, and the Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town. The first work will be the London Symphony by Haydn. Daniel Boico will be on the podium.
The concert takes place at the Cape Town City Hall on November 24 at 8pm.
Tickets: Computicket 0861 915 8000, www.computicket.com, Artscape Dial-a-Seat 021 421 7695. Iinfo: cpo.org.za, 021 410 9809.
BEYOND WORDS: He was also influenced by several great American teachers, but his style is his own.