Digital Concert Hall
Patricia Kopatchinskaja in conversation with Ulrich Knörzer about Eötvös' concerto DoReMi and the works of the works of the Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya,
September 2014

Patricia Kopatchinskaja: The wild child of classical violin
The Telegraph, 14 August 2014
written by Ivan Hewett

The most exciting violinist in the world

Strings Magazine, April 2014
written by Corinne Ramey

Der Ton, der durch die Musik wandelt
Der Bund, 20 March 2014
written by Peter König

Art should be alive

Reuters, 14 March 2014
written by Michael Roddy

Violinist unchained

Classical Music Magazine, February 2014
Interview with Toby Deller

Comfort is de vijand van de creativiteit
Staalkaart, January 2014
Interview with Véronique Rubens



Patricia Kopatchinskaja: The wild child of classical violin
The Telegraph, 14 August 2014
written by Ivan Hewett

Half-way through our conversation, Patricia Kopatchinskaja suddenly announces: “I am not interested in the violin. I am not really a violinist.” Coming from the woman described as “the most exciting violinist in the world”, this is disconcerting. But then everything about Kopachinskaja is startling. She’s the inexplicable wild child of the violin, the opposite of those perfectly honed young female virtuosi who are now ubiquitous on the world’s concert stages. Whether it’s a Corelli sonata or a concerto by Ligeti, she plays with an astonishing, folk-like passion, throwing speaking looks at the other players that are just as expressive as the sounds she makes. When she leads an orchestra or group – which happens often, all around the world – the other players take on that same impetuous, fiery quality, like iron filings lining up along a magnetic field.

We’re meeting in the library of an impressive castle near Salzburg, where Kopatchinskaja has just given a private concert to try out the programme for her forthcoming New York recital. She’s now had the eccentric idea of playing it again, at 4am, to simulate the jet-lag she’ll be feeling when she plays that concert. “Will you come?” she asks, in a way that doesn’t permit the answer “no” (fortunately I have an excuse, and in any case, wiser heads talk her out of this crazy idea). She’s dressed in a black tie and tails, which somehow emphasises her elfin, ageless looks. She could be 16 or 30 (she’s actually 37). She seems dissatisfied, and at first I think it’s because she wasn’t entirely happy with the way the concert went. But it turns out her sense of “not being a violinist” has deeper roots.

“You know when I was young, I composed all the time. I wrote so many pieces, hundreds of them. Now I only play old music,” she sighs. But didn’t she just play music by Kurtág and Bartók in her recital? That’s hardly standard fare. “Yes, but that’s not enough. It’s so hard to persuade promoters to take a programme with new pieces. They just want a premiere for the prestige. I think there should be a society for promoting second and third performances.” When I ask her about the influences on her own music, she reels off the names of the most difficult contemporary composers: Kurtág, Sciarrino, Scelsi, Ustvolskaya.
What led the immigrant from the Carpathian foothills to this recherché modernist music? She shrugs. “I don’t know. It just speaks to me. It’s the same with all music, old or new. Sometimes when I encounter a piece or a composer, I can form no relation to it, so I think: 'Why play it?’ The concertos by Dvorˇák for example, or Brahms. They don’t need me, and I don’t want to disturb the music by playing it.”

It’s extraordinary to think one could “disturb” a piece by playing it unsympathetically, and it points to the utterly instinctive nature of Kopatchinskaja’s playing. “Instinct is the most important organ we have,” she says. “Intellect can give materials and ideas, but instinct will tell you what is right.” Relying on instinct is dangerous, and Kopatchinskaja admits it has occasionally gone wrong. “Sometimes I find I am with people who don’t want to listen to my ideas,” she shrugs, “so next time I don’t accept the invitation.” And can the learning be two-way? “Oh yes! When I played the Beethoven concerto with Philippe Herreweghe and his orchestra, they wanted me to play in the authentic way, with gut strings. I had never done that before, but they showed me a few things, and it soon became natural.”

Kopatchinskaja’s faith in her instinct was nurtured by her slow and unorthodox musical formation, much of which took place in isolation. “My parents were folk musicians playing in the Moldovan state folk ensemble. They were often away, so I was brought up by my grandparents in the country. I played the violin, and wrote little pieces, but I was not so special. I was never a prodigy, and I am very grateful for that.”

Then came a huge upheaval in her family life, which threw the girl further on to her own resources. “After the end of Communism in the Soviet Union, things were different in Moldova, and my father realised there was no future there. So we emigrated to Austria. We were so poor, I had to help the family to earn a living. So I used to play piano and violin in restaurants.” It’s hard to believe this eminent musician was once only a cut above the Balkan accordion players one sees on the streets of London.

But people were starting to notice the gifted young musician. At the age of 17 she entered the Vienna Academy of Music. “I would practise for four hours at home in the morning, and then compose my pieces on the tram,” she says. At the age of 21, she won a scholarship to study in Berne, and then – just as the money was running out and poverty beckoned again – she won a competition run by Credit Suisse. That was the moment that brought her to the world’s attention.
Now she has the busy life many aspiring young virtuosi would envy, but Kopatchinskaja confesses to finding it difficult. “I still get so nervous, sometimes I have to be dragged from the toilet to the stage,” she says. “Also, being a soloist is lonely. I only really enjoy music when I find the right partners, like the conductor Vladimir Jurowski. I had such a wonderful time when I toured with him and the London Philharmonic.”

Next week she’ll be reuniting with those performers for Bartók’s second violin concerto at the Edinburgh Festival. She recorded the piece recently, along with the concertos by Ligeti and Peter Eötvös, but she’s not yet relaxed with the piece. “I always feel like I am bloody afterwards. It’s like a fairy-tale battle which I never win, like fighting a dragon with three heads. It really reminds me of fairy-tales I heard as a child, it’s very vivid and earthy.”


'Der Ton, der durch die Musik wandelt'
Der Bund, 20.03.2014
von Peter König

Sie treten mit der Camerata Bern gleich in dreifacher Funktion auf, als Dirigentin, als Solistin und als Komponistin - ist das nicht etwas viel auf einmal?
Wieso? Von Vivaldi, Johann Georg Pisendel und Bach bis zu Mozart, Paganini, Liszt oder Louis Spohr war es der Normalzustand, dass Komponisten eigene Werke interpretieren und dirigieren. Dirigenten sind nur für grosse Besetzungen unerlässlich.

Das Programm ist überschrieben mit «Seelische Landschaften - . . . und die Freude an Wandlungen». Was bedeutet Ihnen dieser Titel?
Er beschreibt das Programm sehr zutreffend, auch mein Violinkonzert passt hinein - es heisst «Hortus Animae», Seelengarten also. Das Stück besteht aus Zuständen, die dem Boden dieses Gartens entwachsen, und es wandelt diese Zustände um in akustische Träume. Unbeabsichtigt ist es auch ein Abschied von Mihaela Ursuleasa geworden, meiner verstorbenen langjährigen Klavierpartnerin und Freundin. Ein anderer Satz handelt von einem verlorenen Ton, den der finnische Geiger Pekka Kuusisto einmal in einer Quartett-Probe zufällig gezupft hat. Dieser Ton hat die grösste Freude, jetzt durch meine Musik zu wandeln.

Es wird eine Komposition von Ihnen selber gespielt. Dazu die Orchesterfassung zweier verwandter Werke, Beethovens «Kreutzersonate» und dann das Janacek-Streichquartett nach Leo Tolstois gleichnamiger Novelle. In Tolstois «Kreutzersonate» wird eine Pianistin umgebracht - schwierige Werke?
Warum denn schwierig? Zunächst einmal: Beethoven hat seine Sonate für einen exotisch-bizarren Geiger geschrieben; sie wurde von Zeitgenossen als «voll grotesker Excesse», ja als «ästhetischer Terrorismus» empfunden. Tolstois Novelle beschreibt, wie eine verheiratete Pianistin mit einem leidenschaftlichen Geiger genau dieses extreme Stück spielt, worauf ihr eifersüchtiger Ehemann in Raserei verfällt und sie umbringt - der reine Opernstoff. Janacek vertont Tolstois Novelle mit extremer, gestischer und geräuschhafter Musik, wobei er Beethoven sogar mehrfach zitiert, teils lyrisch, teils grotesk verzerrt. Alle drei Werke gehen an Grenzen künstlerischer und menschlicher Existenz. Wir als Interpreten müssen an diese Grenzen gehen, ja sie überschreiten, um auch das Publikum in den Wahnsinn zu treiben.

Der vierte Komponist im Konzert ist der Armenier Tigran Mansurian, gerade 75 Jahre alt geworden. Sie mögen und schätzen ihn - was macht ihn so besonders?
Mansurians Musik ist gleichzeitig eigenständig und neuartig, wohlklingend und leicht verständlich, immer tief spirituell. Sie basiert auf Folklore und Christentum, Hoffnung aufs Paradies. Diese Musik bekannt zu machen, ist eine meiner Lebensaufgaben.

Was sind Ihre nächsten Pläne in Bern und in der Schweiz, werden Sie wieder an Sommerfestivals in der Nähe auftreten?
Dieses Jahr freue ich mich auf das Menuhin Festival Gstaad, wo ich mehrere Konzerte spielen darf. Nächstes Jahr folgt eine Tournee durch Schweizer Städte (auch Bern) mit der Stockholmer Philharmonie unter Sakari Oramo, einem der besten Dirigenten unserer Zeit. Wir spielen das Violinkonzert von Tschaikowski.


Moldovan violinist Kopatchinskaja: ‘Art should be alive’
written by Michael Roddy, 14 March 2014

(Reuters) – Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja has already applied her virtuosity to a musical depiction of the Columbia shuttle disaster, down to the sounds of the rockets blasting the doomed craft into space and its disintegration on re-entry.

The stunning performance of Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos’s 2006 concerto “seven” – so named for the seven astronauts who died in the 2003 disaster – was last year’s Gramophone magazine recording of the year.

But performing a piece that at times seems to require the violin to disintegrate along with the shuttle is not enough for the restless and questing Kopatchinskaja. For her 37th birthday later this month, she will give the premiere of her first violin concerto in Berne, Switzerland.

It is dedicated to a friend, the Romanian pianist Mihaela Ursuleasa, who died suddenly a year and a half ago at the age of 33. Her death affected Kopatchinskaja so deeply that she said she got carried away composing the music and is not sure she can play it.

“It might be not very realistically written music, it’s a utopia,” Kopatchinskaja who has a penetrating gaze and is as spontaneous in an interview as she is in her concerts, told Reuters over coffee and biscuits at a London hotel. “It’s something that … shaped itself. It controlled me, I couldn’t control what I wrote.”

That intensity and spontaneity is very much a part of a phenomenon sometimes called “Patkop” by promoters seeking a shorthand for the unfamiliar Molodovan name of someone who is becoming ever more familiar in music circles.

During a recent visit to London, Kopatchinskaja added another arrow to her quiver by leading, as first violinist, the conductor-less Britten Sinfonia. She won thought-provoking reviews for performances of Brahms, Bartok, Janacek and the Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian.

“You can like or dislike her steely, confrontational timbre, her penchant for extremes, her almost pathological impulse to sway, jump, stamp or visually mirror every passing nuance,” Richard Morrison wrote in The Times.

“What is beyond argument is her fierce, questing intelligence, allied to a virtuosity that lets her turn her instrument into a thousand different characters in a drama …”

Kopatchinskaja might dispute some of that characterization. She has taken issue with journalists writing about her sometimes performing barefoot, which she refuses to talk about anymore.

But she is also the first to assert that she wants performances to contain an element of risk. Without it, she thinks, classical music is suspended in aspic.

“I think concerts have become in our society something like a social entertainment on a high level, where everything has to be perfect and beautiful. But music is not only about making people feel comfortable and relaxed and enjoying themselves.

“Art in general is something that is not very comfortable to see or to experience – literature or painting or music.”

She says when she walks onstage she puts everything – except the notes – out of her mind.

“I hope to get an inspiration and to become like a column of energy which connects the reality with another world,” she said.


Kopatchinskaja comes from a musical family. Both her parents are well-known folk musicians and her mother was classically trained. But she forged her own musical path from an early age.

“Every folk musician in Moldova gets first a classical (music) education, and when I got this education I enjoyed very much classical music and modern music and there are so many things to discover.

“So I don’t play folk music and when my parents and I came into the studio to record some pieces … they wrote something down … because I know this music, I listened to this music all my childhood, but I couldn’t play it alone. It’s only my roots are in folk music.”

Having broken with the family business, Kopatchinskaja is making her own path in a music world where the boundaries between classical, pop, folk, jazz and pretty much all genres are becoming ever more porous – which probably suits her fine.

“I want to leave all streams open, everything should be open,” she said. “I would never say what I’m going to do in 10 years from now because I know it will be different.

“I think it’s so important for an artist to remain fresh and open to what happens in the world and never a make a definition of something that he or she does because then it becomes a monument and then it’s dead, dead art, and art should be alive.

“People should allow us to make mistakes, this is very important.”

(Editing by Larry King)

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