Born in Belarus and based in America, violinist Yevgeny Kutik is performing for the third time with the Cape Town Philharmonic, on 16 November 2023, when he performs the Second Violin Concerto by Shostakovich, and on 18 November 2023 when he performs for the Cape Town Concert Series, says PETA STEWART, who spoke to the violinist ahead of his performances:
Yevgeny Kutik is happy to be back in Cape Town, and happy to be working with an orchestra that has the same values as he does – making music with people who need to experience what music can do to restore the soul in times of need. The CPO community concerts, schools concerts and vast youth projects address this, and Kutik addresses this in several ways … the most recent being The Birch Festival he just launched in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, where he now lives. The festival benefits music education for school children and its success means that he will hold a second festival in the American spring, and then the next autumn and so on.
“This first festival in October worked with a large group of young kids who don’t have regular access to classical music and artists. We performed for them and had an interactive conversation about music. Later we held a concert with an amazing clarinettist from Syria, an Israeli pianist and me – we are all from divergent paths and it was the most beautiful concert ever, I felt. For 90 minutes there was hope, there was a bright light in the air, there was a brighter future. That’s the power of music, the power of collaboration, of communication, of different people coming together in dialogue, united by the human spirit.
“I believe that the world has changed and today performers are citizen artists with a responsibility to our listeners. We have to offer humanity; it’s part of our job requirement and this is vital for all musicians to grasp. We are not making music in a vacuum. We need to see if we can help improve lives a little.” Shared ideals with the CPO!
While he is here, he will improve lives most specifically, for he is giving master classes to CPO and Cape Town Philharmonic Youth Orchestra violinists.
Kutik also addresses community needs by highlighting the plight of refugees and working with the Jewish population (he will do a private concert at the Jewish Museum while he is here) and is sick about what is happening in the Middle East today.
“This has been one of the most heartbreaking weeks I can remember. Right now we are collectively witnessing this horror and we are more than saturated with a torrent of aggressive awful news. Music is helping us to make sense of this awful world, and the Shostakovich Violin Concerto is ideal.
A powerful concerto
“It’s a powerful concerto, one of my favourites, and not often enough played in the US. It reminds me of late Beethoven. In this concerto Shostakovich becomes private, allowing us to listen, to glimpse the accumulated knowledge of his later years. There are electrifying moments, almost like an enigma. He wants us to process and to come away with answers. It’s very special, some kind of testament, leaving the listener more reflective and open,” he says. “I wish it were played more often.”
He enjoys performing with the CPO as much as he has enjoyed the city of Cape Town – he has performed Wieniawski and Brahms on previous occasions – and will enjoy it more this time because he is accompanied by his wife, Rachel. They are already preparing to hike up the mountain, perhaps guided by two CPO musicians who have a hiking company.
Looking to the future, he doesn’t foresee too much of a change, for as his career grows he will still be preparing, performing and thinking about how to improve his festival. It’s a good thing he sees his work as his hobby!
On the CPO programme, which will be conducted by Adam Szmidt, will be the Barber Adagio for Strings, Mozart’s Linz Symphony and Wagner’s Prelude to Acts 1 and 3 of Lohengrin. For the Cape Town Concert Series he will perform Joseph Achron’s Jewish Melody, the Prokofiev Sonata no 1 in F minor and with pianist Francois du Toit and cellist David Pinoit, the Brahms Piano Trio no 1 in B.
What: Violinist Yevgeny Kutik with the CPO
Where and when: Cape Town City Hall on 16 November 2023
What: Violinist Yevgeny Kutik at the Cape Town Concert Series
Where and when: Baxter Concert Hall on 18 November 2023