Being called things like “the most exciting violinist in the world” can impose a heavy psychological mantle on a classical soloist, but Patricia Kopatchinskaja seems to wear it lightly. She performed barefoot a few weeks ago in New York, during an informal Mostly Mozart festival at Lincoln Center, displaying the kind of spontaneity and unpredictability that are her musical trademarks as well.
Already a major name in Europe, Grammy nominee and frequent guest of the London Philharmonic, she will become the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s newest Artistic Partner this fall — a coup for the SPCO, who will be the first major American orchestra to present her in full-length concerts. Like other SPCO Artistic Partners, she also will weigh in on programming decisions.
Critics use terms like “fearless,” “sassy” and “jolting” to describe the 37-year-old Moldova native’s style and effect on audiences. To those descriptives, you might add “joyous.” Cellist Anja Lechner, who has recorded with Kopatchinskaja, told Strings magazine that “some people look more like suffering when they’re making music, but she seems to be very happy when she’s playing, and that is very rare.”
The rising star herself has summed up her unconventional blend of musical influences thusly: “Eastern European folklore is my blood, contemporary music is the air I breathe and classical music is the skeleton which holds all this together.”
In late November, she will be joined onstage in a series of SPCO concerts by her folk-musician parents — her mother also plays violin, her father the cimbalom, a type of dulcimer — for an unusual program including traditional Eastern European music, Ravel’s “Tzigane,” Bartók’s “Romanian Folk Dances,” and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D Minor.
The SPCO’s second violinist Kyu-Young Kim, who also serves as senior director of artistic planning, calls Kopatchinskaja “an artist who takes real risks,” and said he is looking forward to “the freshness and spark” she will bring to the concert experience. “It will be electric, and you will not want to miss it,” he said.
In concert, Kopatchinskaja’s goal, as she said in her recent interview with Strings, is “to take the audience into a magical world. I’m not on stage to prove my quality. I’m there just to tell my story. A very humble goal.”
William Randall Beard's fall classical music picks
Minnesota Orchestra plays Richard Strauss: Three veteran Minnesota Orchestra conductors join forces for a three-week celebration of Richard Strauss, marking the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. In the first week, Andrew Litton, Sommerfest artistic director, conducts orchestral music from Strauss’ operas: the erotic “Dance of the Seven Veils” from “Salome” and the charming suite from “Der Rosenkavalier.” Principal cello Anthony Ross is featured in the tone poem “Don Quixote.” Osmo Vänskä takes the stage next, leading two tone poems, the dark “Metamorphosen” and the ethereal “Death and Transfiguration,” as well as the early “Burleske for Piano and Orchestra,” with pianist Andrew Staupe. To open the concert, Vänskä takes up his clarinet and joins 12 other musicians for the Suite for Winds. The third week features former music director Edo de Waart, a Strauss specialist. The program opens with the later String Sextet, and then to the beginning of Strauss’ career with the Serenade in E-flat major. The concert concludes with the monumental “Alpine Symphony.”
Week one: 11 a.m. Oct. 9, 8 p.m. Oct. 10-11 • week two: 11 a.m. Oct. 16, 8 p.m. Oct. 17 • week three: 8 p.m. Oct. 24-25 • Orchestra Hall, 11th St. and Nicollet Mall • $25-$96 • 612-371-5656 • www.minnesotaorchestra.org
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra/Jeremy Denk: For his first concert as SPCO artistic partner, pianist Denk tackles Mozart’s dramatic Piano Concerto No. 2, a work the young Beethoven was fond of and played often. The concert opens with two works by Charles Ives, including “In the Barn,” which subjects popular melodies to the composer’s eccentric melodic and harmonic treatment. The evening concludes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” part of a season-long programming of all nine symphonies.
10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Oct. 24, 8 p.m. Oct. 25 at Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul • 2 p.m. Oct. 26 at Ted Mann Concert Hall, 2128 S. 4th St., Mpls. • $12-$42 • 651-291-1144 • www.thespco.org
Minnesota Opera: Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West” is one of the rare European operas set in the United States. Based on a popular play of the era by David Belasco (whose play “Madame Butterfly” also inspired Puccini), it creates an iconic portrait of the Wild West in the tale of the tough poker-playing, pistol-wielding saloonkeeper, the handsome outlaw she loves and the tough sheriff who’s in love with her. This underrated opera is full of the lush melodies and dramatic orchestral music one expects from Puccini.
8 p.m. Sept. 20, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25 and 27 and 2 p.m. Sept. 28 • Ordway Center, 5th and Washington Sts., St. Paul • $25-$200 • 612-333-6669 • www.mnopera.org
“Made in MN”: VocalEssence opens its season with a program of homegrown composers and talent. There are works by the usual suspects, longtime favorites of artistic director Philip Brunelle, such as Dominick Argento, Stephen Paulus and Libby Larsen. But the program also celebrates the next generation, including composers Jocelyn Hagen and hip-hop artist Dessa. As a special treat, Dale Warland makes his VocalEssence debut, conducting the Ensemble Singers in Argento’s “Seasons,” a piece written especially for him.
Nathan Gunn: The globe-hopping baritone opens the Schubert Club International Artist Series with his wife, pianist Julie Jordan Gunn, as accompanist for a selection of 19th-century German lieder and 20th-century American art songs. A complete performance of “Dichterliebe,” (“The Poet’s Love”), the best-known song cycle of Robert Schumann, is paired with works by Franz Schubert and Hugo Wolf. Gunn also sings excerpts from “Hermit Songs” by Samuel Barber and songs by Charles Ives.
Dawn of Midi: With piano, bass, and drums, this may look like a standard jazz combo, but the group’s music is anything but. In addition to jazz, it embraces minimalism, rock and world influences, expanding the possibilities of acoustic sounds with music that is ambient yet engrossing, sparse yet rhythmically demanding. For this opening concert of the SPCO’s Liquid Music season, Dawn of Midi will be joined by Berlin-based composer/keyboardist Nils Frahm, whose sonic experiments meld electronic and acoustic sounds.