Music

Music: Pekka Kuusisto, Jan Mráček, Evgeni Bozhanov: celebrating the concerto

From young Finnish fiddler Pekka Kuusisto to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, it's concertos galore up and down the country. David Fay picks some highlights.

The concerto has to be the most popular form in classical music. Works like Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 constantly top ‘favourite piece’ polls, and those by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Brahms aren’t far behind. It has become the central element of the standard concert format (overture, concerto, symphony), and concertos are played up and down the country night after night.

It’s no surprise. At their best, concertos are designed to draw us into an intriguing musical conversation between soloist and orchestra. Pitting a single musician against a whole ensemble creates a tension between flighty individual and stable collective that is fundamentally compelling. A soloist’s virtuosity can be truly thrilling to witness, and the flexible way in which a conductor and orchestra adapt to and enhance that brilliance can be just as wonderful.

Holly Mathieson conducts four concertos with the RSNO.

This week there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to concertos. On June 14, one of my favourite violinists performs one of my favourite concertos alongside one of my favourite conductors at London’s Cadogan Hall. Finnish fiddler Pekka Kuusisto, whose irreverent performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto at last year’s Proms was hugely fun and memorable, will be playing his compatriot Sibelius’ Violin Concerto – a piece of filigree beauty and brooding tempestuousness – with the London Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Cadogan hosts another young violinist, Jan Mráček, playing another great concerto (Beethoven’s) on June 16 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins; they perform the piece together the previous day in Cheltenham’s Town Hall. Brabbins and the RPO have a packed concerto schedule this week, travelling to Cambridge on June 17 to play Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in the Corn Exchange. The soloist for this joyous piece is 18-year-old Lucienne Renaudin Vary.

At their best, concertos are designed to draw us into an intriguing musical conversation between soloist and orchestra.

Another conductor keeping busy with concertos is Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. On June 14 they’re joined on home turf by pianist Steven Osborne for the Piano Concerto by Michael Tippett, a work he has recorded to critical acclaim. From thence to Suffolk for Aldeburgh Festival, joining with violist Antoine Tamestit on Saturday for Jörg Widmann’s Viola Concerto, a work Tamestit premièred in 2015.

There’s more concerto-ing going on across the country: Evgeni Bozhanov playing Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto in Liverpool on June 15, and cellist Leonard Elschenbroich playing Vivaldi in London on June 17, for example. But I’ll end by giving a shout out to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, who’ll be performing no fewer than four different concertos in a single concert on June 15. The soloists are top students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow: Hayley Tonner plays Strauss’ Horn Concerto No. 1; Shannon Merciel Elgar’s Cello Concerto; Irena Klimach Martinů’s Oboe Concerto; and Yicheng Pan Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3. The conductor is Holly Mathieson. She’s going to have her hands full.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Bikini Kill star and riot grrrl legend Kathleen Hanna: 'I'd ask my younger self why she was doing meth'
Kathleen Hanna
Letter to my Younger Self

Bikini Kill star and riot grrrl legend Kathleen Hanna: 'I'd ask my younger self why she was doing meth'

Bob Vylan: 'Is it OK for me to cry? As a man you can feel there's not space to be vulnerable'
Bob Vylan
Music

Bob Vylan: 'Is it OK for me to cry? As a man you can feel there's not space to be vulnerable'

Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community
Soweto Kinch
Music

Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'
Ardavan of The Unknowns
Music

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know