BBC Proms 2016 / 27: Pekka Kuusisto plays Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

I’m not entirely clear why it is I missed this particular performance last week. I stumbled on it during the Radio 3 repeats series this afternoon. It was an electrifying interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s rip-roaring concerto for the violin. Pekka Kuusisto provided a clarity to the work (I’m fairly certain) by using considerably less vibrato as well as taking an irreverent approach to the performance. He kept his ego in check at all times, and yet he let his playful personality shine through. I was gripped throughout. It was incredible.

I ended up stumbling on it during the Radio 3 repeats series this afternoon. It was an electrifying interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s rip-roaring concerto for the violin. Pekka Kuusisto provided a clarity to the work (I’m fairly certain) by using considerably less vibrato as well as taking an irreverent approach to the performance. He kept his ego in check at all times, and yet he let his playful personality shine through. I was gripped throughout. It was incredible.

What followed – his encore – was equally entertaining. A traditional Finnish folk song ‘from around about the time Russia was still a part of Finland,’ he joked. The four verse ditty even resulted in some hastily directed audience participation. The effect was incredibly heart-warming to listen to.

There’s a funny thing about encores. There will be some who will assume that the best stuff is what you hear in the encore. They’ll assume that there’s no point in listening what went on before and direct you to the encore as the location of the real entertainment. Social media only serves to fuel that assumption. It does, I confess, drive me wild.

The point about encores is that they’re the light relief after the heavy dose that has gone before. It’s a chance for the soloist to show-off even more, often in a slightly more relaxed mood. It’s another opportunity for the audience and soloist to bond before both have to say goodbye. But, like a whisky chaser at the end of a rich five-course meal, one can’t really be savoured without the other.

A good encore needs an equally good performance before it to warrant the encore itself and to bring the soloist’s moment in the light to a warm appreciative end. Listen to Pekka Kuusisto’s Tchaikovsky without the encore and you’ll miss out on one of the most special moments in the Albert Hall this season. Listen to the encore without the Tchaikovsky and you’ll miss out on the finest violin concerto, and a compelling interpretation from a young Finnish man brimming with energy.

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