Less shouting more listening: A brief Q&A with Pekka Kuusisto

Pekka Kuusisto is one of the most exciting conductors and violinists on the planet right now. Known for his artistic freedom (check this video of him playing with juggler Jay Gilligan, or this video of him teaching the audience a Finnish folk song at BBC Proms), Pekka breathes freshness, life and energy into all of his projects. This is why we are so excited to be working with him on our latest Live Stream All Time Is Eternally Present.

We caught up with Pekka for a brief Q&A to find out what he’s been up to during the past year.

Manchester Camerata: Hi Pekka, thanks for taking the time out to talk to us. What first got you into music?

Pekka Kuusisto: A combination of genes and environment. My parents are musicians, my father’s family have been musicians for generations, and my older brother started playing the violin when I was one or two years’ old. 

MC: What are you listening to right now? 

PK: A friend pointed me in the direction of an album called Miss Colombia by Lido Pimienta. I’m sitting on a plane, stuck on the first song Para Transcribir. There’s just enough vocal processing to give it an unreal coating and a trumpet arrangement that makes me think of slow Stravinsky as well as the Dancer in the Dark soundtrack. It’s wide open and haunting – what a great way to begin an album. 

MC: Who would you most like to collaborate with?

PK: There are so many, and my priorities (like everyone’s, I suppose) tend to change from time to time, but the one I’m currently hoping to make happen would involve the fascinating American composer Ellen Reid

All Time Is Eternally Present

Pekka will be conducting the orchestra alongside saxophonist superstar Jess Gillam and our very own Caroline Pether and Hannah Roberts in our live stream All Time Is Eternally Present, 8pm Friday 26th February. The stream also features the world premiere of Camerata commission ‘Be Still’ by Daniel Kidane. 

Buy tickets now.

Pekka Kuusisto’s hilarious Proms encore
Pekka & Jess at the rehearsal of All Time Is Eternally Present

MC: How have you been passing time during lockdown? 

PK: It’s of course been quite stressful, but I’ve tried to use the opportunity of looking at my profession from a distance. I think it’s safe to say that finding out the size of the arts and culture industry has surprised even many of us inside it, and the sad fact is that we must learn to defend our livelihoods much better, as a collective. Our governments do not have an easy job at the moment, but we still cannot let them off the hook concerning decisions made that are clearly hostile to the arts, the artists and the people who make art possible. In the UK, you have among other lamentable acts the whole visa farce, and in Finland, for instance, a pub can host only a fraction of its capacity if there is a musician performing. If it’s just customers drinking or even singing karaoke, the capacity rules are much more relaxed. It’s a middle finger to artists – who are already the second most suffering industry after air travel. 

MC: What’s your least favourite musical instrument?

PK: I’d say the most heart-breaking one is a fantastic violin that a musician cannot afford.

MC: Hopes and dreams for 2021?

PK: World peace, equality, a solution to the climate crisis, an end to the pandemic, more listening and less shouting, seeing trustworthy people in positions of global power, to have my sense of smell back to normal, having a well-designed third beat in my 4/4 conducting, making more time for writing music, writing a successful storyline for a TV series, building a home recording studio, eating strawberries and ice cream.

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