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Arts and Entertainment

Violinist Yevgeny Kutik's Performance Schedule is a "Little Bit Non-Stop" These Days

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(photo courtesy www.yevgenykutik.com)
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It's just part of the job.  Violinist Yevgeny Kutik, the guest soloist with the Springfield Symphony this weekend, has done about 16 radio interviews around the country recently.  Luckily, when my "phoner" with him was set up by his manager last week, he told me that "I'm just at the house working today." (I hate to feel like I'm imposing on a busy artist--but like I say, it's part of the job--mine and theirs.)

Born in Minsk, Belarus, Yevgeny Kutik immigrated to the United States with his family at age five.  After completing a Masters in Music at the New England Conservatory, Yevgeny now lives in Boston.  He'll play the Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor with the Springfield Symphony, and we talked at length about the piece.

Asked how many times he's played the Bruch No.1, Yevgeny said, "That's a good question. I mean, it's been a bunch.  It's one of those pieces you get asked to play fairly frequently.  I actually started the (concert) season last month with this concerto. But I've done it, like, two or three times every season for the past several seasons, I guess." He tried to remember if he'd ever played it with Kyle Wiley Pickett, Springfield Symphony Music Director.  he finally decided "probably not," though he has certainly worked numerous times with Kyle. "I have worked with Kyle a bunch. We definitely did Brahms, and maybe the Tchaikovsky concerto. But I've known Kyle for a while. I worked with him in Alaska, I worked with him in California, and Topeka [his other current orchestra besides Springfield].  I've actually had the chance to play with Kyle several times, and I think he's amazing."

The Bruch Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, along with his Scottish Fantasy (also for violin and orchestra), have kept Max Bruch's name on concert programs since the 1870s. But they're the only works of his that are regularly performed.  Says Yevgeny Kutik, the G minor Concerto in particular has a certain reputation, at least within what he calls the "musicians' circle... people possibly associate the Bruch concerto as--well, I don't want to use these words, but just for the sake of this point--they see it as kind of a 'student' concerto.  The reason is, in the training of a violinist in the conservatory, it's one of the first pieces that a violinist tends to learn, one of the first major concertos.  And that's because it presents the violinist with a fair share of really advanced technical things, but also allows the violinist to develop their sound, their vibrato, and their interpretation. Depending on how advanced the violinist is, it's one of the pieces you probably get in high school. But that doesn't take away from the fact that this really is a phenomenal piece--and a really well-known one.  Even in Bruch's day, when he wrote it, this piece just took off like wildfire across Europe.  And that's kind of rare, honestly, for a composer. Usually when they write something it's not necessarily played that much right away.  It's a really wonderful piece--great melodies, great fireworks."

In fact, the work's popularity eventually began to irk Bruch--after all, he wrote three violin concertos along with the Scottish Fantasy, symphonies and other music. He rather resented feeling like a one-hit wonder. (Yevgeny, in fact, is also playing the Scottish Fantasy this season.)

For his part, Yevgeny himself was one of those players who learned the Bruch G minor "when I was quite young, and I certainly, in recent years, kind of totally redid it in the practice room and relearned it from scratch, because it is very difficult.  It's beautiful music, but you really have to know what you're doing."  He feels sure he's not alone in learning the Bruch twice: once as a student and then later when one's professional concert career has begun in earnest.  He's definitely a fan of the piece. "The second movement is known the world over because it's just so stunning.  Structurally, it's like the perfect size--it's easy to grasp, kind of easy to understand, and it's strung so well together between the three movements. It's expertly crafted.  So whenever I hear people complain, 'Oh, another Bruch!', I always like to remind myself --and them--that there's a reason that the piece has been performed, gosh, I don't know, 100,000 times.  It's a joy to play--it's wonderful to play."

Yevgeny is in a busy period right now in terms of his career. Sunday he leaves Springfield for Cape Town, South Africa to play the Wieniawski Concerto there.  Before he got to Springfield he had played the Schubert Trout Quintet in a chamber music concert in his home base of Boston with members of the Boston Symphony.  After Cape Town he returns home to Boston for a solo recital... "and then I think I finally get a break for a couple of weeks!  And then next year starts again with fire and vigor in terms of scheduling... so it's been a little bit non-stop."

As Kyle Wiley Pickett said here on KSMU last Wednesday, Yevgeny's career is taking off in a major way, and the Springfield Symphony was "lucky to get him" for what the orchestra was able to pay him!

The concert, which also includes the Mahler Symphony No.1, is Saturday Nov.19 at 7:30pm at the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts. For ticket information, call 836-7678 or visit www.missouristatetix.com.