Pekka Kuusisto appointed Artistic Director of ACO Collective
Finnish violinist, Pekka Kuusisto, has been appointed as Artistic Director of ACO Collective (formerly known as ACO2). The appointment is for three years and Kuusisto takes up the position from the beginning of 2016.
When Kuusisto first toured with the ACO in 2001, we fell in love with this musical maverick’s exuberant style of music-making, bristling with invention and energy, taking “every piece he performs, however familiar, back to first principles, stripping any vestige of interpretative tradition and playing it as though he were hearing it for the first time.”
Kuusisto’s sense of musical adventure and highly individualistic style sees him equally adept at playing folk, electronic, jazz, rock, and improvising, alongside classical music. His ability to direct his musicianship so unswervingly in a multiplicity of directions sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. “It’s more that he’s a very rare example of a musician who can focus his puckish intensity in several different directions without diluting what he does in any of them.” This most versatile of artists directs his own music festival, is in demand internationally as a soloist and director, and is evangelistic in his promotion of new music.
With a pedigree like this, Kuusisto is the perfect catalyst to ignite the imaginations of the fiery young guns of ACO Collective in their spirited touring adventures across the country. Kuusisto’s first program as the Artistic Director of ACO Collective is the season opener for the ACO’s main-stage season of 2016. Kuusisto leads the ensemble in Beethoven & the 21st Century on an 11-concert tour of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Newcastle. ACO Collective first appeared in an ACO main-stage season in 2013 under the direction of ACO’s Artistic Director, Richard Tognetti, with The Australian saying “[it was]…one of the year’s must-hear concerts.”
Richard Tognetti says, “I first met and heard Pekka shortly after his historic win at the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition in 1995. He was the first Finn to win the competition which is one of the top three in the world. Pekka was invited to direct the ACO and a relationship was forged, resulting in his being a part of the collective consciousness of the ACO. It’s in no small part due to Pekka that we have Timo-Veikko Valve as our beloved Principal Cello, and a profound connection with his musical, mythical homeland. Pekka has a calling to turn things on their head. A musical insight that is as disturbing as it is compelling. He’s a musician for the new world and, therefore, his appointment to the newly branded ACO Collective couldn’t be bettered. I look forward to working with Pekka and eagerly anticipate how he will evolve new forms from ancient traditions. This is a big appointment for the ACO, and for the future of music in Australia, and we confidently entrust Pekka with these responsibilities. “
Kuusisto says, “The ACO’s 2016 season is themed around Beethoven’s late string quartets, and so this formed the basis of the programme. After much discussion, Opus. 95 was chosen as the closing work of the concert. I was then given the extremely delicate task of exploring repertoire which would both complement and introduce this highly experimental work.”
“Op.95 has a particularly explosive opening statement, so we needed something very intimate and gentle to precede it, in order not to steal Beethoven’s thunder. Rakastava by Sibelius is the perfect thing. Rakastava is a piece that has a feel of very distinct lighting to it. At the risk of sounding like a tourist advert for my part of the planet, I’d say that it’s very much about dusk in a Fennoscandian forest, around mid-June. Everything in Rakastava feels and smells like nature at night, so we needed another kind of light before it. Cue Tenebre by Bryce Dessner. It’s originally written as a gift for the lighting designer of the Kronos Quartet, and its shadows are very architectural. Tenebre is inspired by ceremonial vocal music, which ties it nicely to Rakastava as well, since the Sibelius work started its life as a suite for male choir, with lyrics from Finnish traditional poetry. Maybe we’ll sing a bit in this concert as well.”
“The massive nod that Tenebre gives to earlier music is mirrored from Tippett’s Lament, which contains a direct quote from Ah, Belinda by Henry Purcell. Sir Michael Tippett’s amazing handling of a string orchestra has certainly been an inspiration to Bryce Dessner and Erkki-Sven Tüür. Tüür’s work also has some delicious Purcellian clashings, especially in the middle movement, and the warm and fuzzy activities in the low register constantly remind me of Vaughan Williams and Britten. The outer movements give us a healthy reminder to listen to Estonian prog rock, as well as echoing some moments from Britten’s Les Illuminations, which is convenient, since Britten is one of the heroes of Nico Muhly.”
“Nico’s beautiful collection of violin gestures is originally the first movement of a suite for violin and piano, and includes an element of contained improvisation, which is a lovely way to begin a concert. Both Nico and Bryce are dear friends of mine, and I’m ecstatic to get to bring their music to ACO Collective.”
At the end of Beethoven’s ‘middle period’, he used his Op.95 Serioso quartet as a springboard into the completely new language that would exemplify his final quartets. Kuusisto says ”In the case of Op.95, we are faced with a dilemma – Beethoven himself wrote that the work should not be performed to the general public, but only for a small circle of connoisseurs. I’m excited about the challenge and will dive into it trusting that Beethoven would have changed his mind upon hearing ACO Collective.”
Kuusisto’s second tour of the year with ACO Collective sees him lead the ensemble on tour to Western Australia from 29 April to 8 May 2016. ACO Collective performs works by Vivaldi, Piazzolla, and Philip Glass in Albany, Manjumup, Margaret River, Bunbury, Mandurah and Geraldton.
In keeping with his adventurous programming, Kuusisto has invited META4, one of Finland’s most internationally successful string quartets, to lead ACO Collective on its third tour of the year. ACO Collective performs Webern, Jaakko Kuusisto, Mendelssohn, Sculthorpe and Beethoven across NSW, visiting Albury, Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Penrith, Dubbo, Tamworth, and Taree.
About Pekka Kuusisto
Recently described by one critic as a musician “who surely has the most personal sound of any classical violinist now alive”, Pekka Kuusisto is internationally renowned for his fresh approach to the repertoire. An advocate of new music, Kuusisto works with composers such as Nico Muhly, Thomas Adès and Sebastian Fagerlund. As soloist, he performs with Seattle, Toronto, BBC Scottish, Singapore and Cincinnati symphony orchestras, as well as the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, MDR Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Bamberger Symphoniker, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia and Philharmonia Orchestra.
Collaborating with performers across the artistic spectrum, Kuusisto joins forces with actress Seela Sella and director Kristian Smeds for a new theatrical production Tabu at the Finnish National Theatre, which features Kuusisto as both composer and performer. A keen chamber musician, regular partners include Anne Sofie von Otter, Simon Crawford-Phillips, Nicolas Altstaedt, Alexander Lonquich and Olli Mustonen.”
Kuusisto is widely recognised for his directing work, and in addition to his position with ACO Collective, he becomes Artistic Partner with Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra from September 2016. He also regularly directs the Mahler, Swedish and Irish chamber orchestras, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and Britten Sinfonia.
Pekka Kuusisto received the Nordic Council Music Prize in 2013 and is Artistic Director of the award-winning ‘Our Festival’, based in Sibelius’ home-town. His latest recording features Fagerlund’s Violin Concerto with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (BIS).
About ACO Collective
ACO Collective is the ACO’s critically acclaimed 17-piece string ensemble which delivers the ACO’s regional touring and education programs Australia-wide. ACO Collective (formerly known as ACO2) combines musicians of the ACO with Australia’s most talented young professional musicians at the outset of their careers, creating a combined ensemble with a fresh, energetic performance style. These young professionals have all participated in the ACO’s year-long Emerging Artists’ Program and are in demand from Australia’s professional orchestras, but dedicate themselves to the ACO’s high-octane performance style for intense touring periods.
ACO Collective commenced touring as ACO2 in 2007 and since then has performed in more than 80 regional centres in every state and territory, all of Australia’s state capitals, and has toured to Japan. The Ensemble works regularly with guest artists of the highest calibre, both international and Australian, including violinists Elizabeth Wallfisch, Benjamin Schmid, Henning Kraggerud and Thomas Gould; cellist Daniel Müller-Schott; harpist Alice Giles; recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey; singer / songwriter Tim Freedman from The Whitlams; and oud player Joseph Tawadros.
In 2013, the ACO presented the Ensemble in a national subscription tour led by Richard Tognetti and it was named by The Australian as “one of the year’s must-see concerts”. Biennially, the Ensemble is the Orchestra-in-Residence at the Vasse Felix Festival in Western Australia and in 2014 it was the Orchestra-in-Residence at the Canberra International Music Festival.
ACO Collective – Supporters
To coincide with the appointment of Pekka Kuusisto as Artistic Director and the change of name to ACO Collective, the ACO is proud to announce that its longstanding partner, Wesfarmers Arts, has expanded its support of the Orchestra to become Principal Partner of ACO Collective. Wesfarmers has supported the ACO’s Perth Series and WA regional touring activities for over 10 years, so it is fitting that this visionary partner joins with ACO Collective to help it reach even greater heights.
ACO Collective is also directly supported by the ACO’s exciting new philanthropic program ACO Next. This exclusive membership program supports, shapes and engages with Australia’s next generation of great musicians.
For more information, or to arrange interviews, contact Mary Stielow on +61 2 8274 3812, or firstname.lastname@example.org