Announcing Pekka Kuusisto as our newest Artistic Partner


Following up on the recent appointments of Jeremy Denk, Martin Fröst, and Patricia Kopatchinskaja, we’re thrilled to announce today that Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto will become one of our Artistic Partners. Pekka is no stranger to Minnesota, having thrilled SPCO and Schubert Club audiences in recent seasons. To get a taste of Pekka’s virtuosity and imagination, here are some media clips from our Listening Library and YouTube. Our full press release announcing his appointment appears below.

Listening Library

Recordings from Pekka’s most recent SPCO performance in January 2014:


Press Release

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) announces today that internationally celebrated Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto has been named the orchestra’s newest Artistic Partner. Kuusisto will begin his tenure in the 2016-17 season where he will be joining current Artistic Partners Jeremy Denk, Martin Fröst, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Thomas Zehetmair. The SPCO is the first major American orchestra to engage Kuusisto as an artistic leader.

Pekka Kuusisto is internationally renowned as both soloist and director, and for his fresh approach to classical repertoire. An advocate of new music, Kuusisto regularly works with contemporary composers such as Nico Muhly, Thomas Adès and Bryce Dessner. He frequently directs ensembles from the violin, including the Mahler, Australian, and Irish Chamber orchestras in addition to the SPCO. His recent chamber music partners include Iiro Rantala, Anne Sofie von Otter, Kimmo Pohjonen, Nicolas Altstaedt and Kuusisto’s traditional music group, The Luomu Players.

Although his Artistic Partnership with the SPCO will not officially start until September 2016, Kuusisto will lead the orchestra next season (April 2-3, 2016) in a program that interweaves contemporary works by a diverse selection of living composers during the first half, and movements from Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 with Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in the second half. Kuusisto’s most recent Twin Cities appearance for the Schubert Club included a recital of Bach with the accordionist Dermot Dunne at the new Ordway Concert Hall, and a mixed program of solo violin work with juggler Jay Gilligan at Aria in Minneapolis.

Kuusisto’s Theme and Variations project, recently showcased in Saint Paul, combines different art forms within one concert program – dance, electronics and light installations, gastronomy and film all feature alongside performances of standard and contemporary repertoire. The REDDRESS “pocket concerts” (a subset of Theme and Variations) are a great example of his boundary-defying approach to classical music: in collaboration with Korean designer, Aamu Song, performers and audience alike actually inhabit a gigantic red dress during the performance, creating an immersive and shared audience experience. SPCO audiences can expect the same kind of unorthodox re-examination of our core repertoire, as well as collaborations and new concert formats which push the boundaries of classical music and the traditional concert experience.

Kyu-Young Kim, the SPCO’s senior director of artistic planning and principal second violinist, looks forward to the musical exploration this partnership will bring to the SPCO. “We are thrilled to welcome Pekka Kuusisto as our newest Artistic Partner. Pekka has been delighting SPCO audiences for the past seven years with the freshness of his interpretations of our core repertoire and the pure, infectious joy of his music making. Whether he is soloing on a Mozart Violin Concerto, leading a Haydn Symphony, or simultaneously whistling and playing Finnish folk tunes for a club2030 happy hour after an SPCO concert, Pekka always opens our ears to new possibilities. I know his Artistic Partnership will be a great adventure, both for our players and for our audiences.”

About becoming an Artistic Partner, Kuusisto said, “One might ask if there aren’t enough Finns in Minnesota already, but fortunately for me, the SPCO doesn’t seem to think so. I’ve already had some ecstatic times with them, and the opportunity to explore possible (and maybe also impossible) new ways of working and performing with the orchestra gives me reindeer-bumps. My fellow Artistic Partners are a family of some of the most inspiring musicians around, the new hall at Ordway is a dream, and the SPCO is on fire. Good times!”

Kuusisto has received great acclaim from audiences and critics alike during his Twin Cities performances. Star Tribune music critic Randy Beard reported on Kuusisto’s March 2015 performance at the Ordway Concert Hall, stating “Kuusisto is clearly a risk taker and in this case, he was eminently successful. This collaboration represented an inventive reimagining of the classical sound and offered the opportunity to hear this music afresh. The freewheeling program offered a novel way to structure a recital, thinking outside the usual box…Kuusisto himself provided much of the energy of the event…He was clearly having a rollicking good time and his mood was contagious…he is a true virtuoso, playing with expressive flair and control…Kuusisto demonstrated mastery as a classical violinist and as a fiddler, a different skill set…the ear-catching thrills kept the audience enthralled.”

About the appointment, SPCO President Bruce Coppock said, “In seeking Artistic Partners for the SPCO, we look for artists who are not only talented performers, but who also have the capacity to inspire our audiences and musicians alike. Pekka Kuusisto is an amazingly poetic and imaginative musician who clearly fits the bill. He dares to explore new repertoire and new ways of presentation, but his music-making is always grounded in exquisite violin playing. His powers of communication and his innate ability to convey a deeply personal point of view make his performances transcendent, regardless of what he is playing. His performances over the years with the SPCO have been electrifying and we are thrilled to welcome him to our already dynamic group of Artistic Partners.”