Ku­tik’s Wieni­awski comes of age

Cape Times - - ARTS - Christina McEwan

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.

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