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Barefoot Fiddler

The Australian Chamber Orchestra presents Tour Five, BAREFOOT FIDDLER at Angel Place Recital Hall, Sydney.

‘The Barefoot Fiddler’, is an alias for Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the Guest Director with The Australian Chamber Orchestra and Lead Violin for this program. The hallmarks of Ms Kopatchinskaja’s musical interests are evident simply in the variety of choice of her Directorship for this concert. From a transcription for a string ensemble of Heinreich Schutz’s last work (1671), “German Magnificat, SWV494” to an Australian première of Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian’s Violin Concerto No.2, “Four Serious Songs” (2006); Sandor Veress’ “Four Transylvanian Dances” (1944/49); Australian Elena Kats-Chernin’s composition “Zoom and Zip” (1997); Joseph Haydn’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in G major [Hob.VII:4] (C.1761); and finally Antonio Vivaldi’s “La Tempesta di Mare” Concerto in E flat for violin, Op.8 No.5, RV253”.

But more even more interesting is her approach to the work. In bare feet Ms Kopatchinskaja leads the Concert and plays her violin in a very embodied, physical manner. Mostly hunched over with a curved back, she appears to be possessed by the very vibrations of the sounds, and expressively responds, particularly facially, to the notes of the scores. She snorts, stamps her feet and mouths her responses to the experience around her. Like a mischievous troll or gremlin she alternately scowls and smiles, totally possessed by the work she is engaged in. A “wildcat” in action.

In an interview in the program notes (Clemency Burton-Hill, 2010) Ms Kopatchinskaja in talking of the program says “I think we need all these elements: the animalistic music of folklore, the modern music for inspiration and fantasy, the classical to be the architecture and hold it all together.” The pressing beauty of the Mansurian, the pell mell escapade of the Veress, the contrasted zest of the Kats–Chernin ; the cheek of the Haydn reading and finally the exuberant liberties of the Vivaldi covered all of the quoted aspirations. “In some ways I feel I am unteachable, I always have to find my own way, with my own mistakes. I don’t feel so much the heavy weight of tradition; I’m not in a corset! I use the tradition to find the inspiration of creation. It’s not a cage.” It is this second to last phrase “I use the tradition (the architecture) to find the inspiration of a creation” that propelled me into a total surrender to her vision and treatment of these works. Her respect, regard for the music, that is the structure for her choices, that are very often surprising and to some traditionalists maybe challenging, that keeps one tantalised with her offers. That the musician is not more important than the music is the virtue of her performance. Sharing her idiosyncratic inspirations from the score and in the playing of her violin, the appearance of transcendent spontaneity and its infection of the Australian Chamber Orchestra is what triumphs.

This is my first engagement with Ms Kopatchinskaja and unlike, what I perceive, as ego driven eccentricities of, say Nigel Kennedy and his violin, I am not wearied or driven to objecting to the musician’s output or the manner in which she exudes her passions. In repeated experiences I may, but at present I look forward to hear more of her live contributions to my appreciation of the modern, folk and extending classic readings. It was a very exciting concert.

Sometimes too much continued energetic effort from all, more wafting gentleness, to contrast, would have been good, as it was accumulatively very exhausting. My empathy went to all on the stage in my applause. Bravo. Again.