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The Carletonian

Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Delivers an Innovative Performance with Acclaimed Violinist

<nesday May 2, Carleton welcomed the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) along with renowned violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja for a performance of Fragments, a program that explored the concept of musical fragments across works that span centuries.

Kopatchinskaja, who has performed with major European orchestras and currently resides in Switzerland, has been an artistic partner of the SPCO since 2014. The concert showcased her immense skill not only as a violinist, but also as a director––the chamber orchestra had no conductor but was rather led by Kopatchinskaja from the violin. “She’s a little unusual in that she has been doing a lot of work leading through the violin,” said Professor of Music and Carleton Orchestra Director Hector Valdivia. “So she’s functioning both as a conductor and a violinist.”

The concert was anything but ordinary. The majority of the musicians performed standing up, giving the performance a sense of movement and immediacy. The intense connection among the musicians shone through as they communicated with each other without a conductor.

The result was a concert that had more of a sense of creation than presentation. “It was a dynamic performance,” said music major and violinist Jack Hardwick ’19. “She’s like a model for how to communicate,” he added, referring to Kopatchinskaja’s ability to lead from the violin.

Senior music major and violinist William Decourt noted that Kopatchinskaja is “really incredible technically, but also had a great stage presence.” She performed barefoot and moved expressively around the stage during her solos. On two pieces, Kopatchinskaja delivered a vocal performance while also playing the violin. In addition, the concert featured her skill on piano with a solo performance of a movement from György Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata. “She is an unusual violinist––she is not your standard cookie-cutter virtuoso,” said Valdivia about Kopatchinskaja.

In exploring the concept of musical fragments as well as showcasing other aspects of the SPCO’s repertoire, the concert covered music from a variety of eras. “There was a huge range of styles,” said Hardwick. The first half of the concert created an immersive experience by transitioning seamlessly between contrasting pieces without pausing for applause. “On paper you would never see that type of contrast, so that was really cool to see that here,” Decourt added.

The performance began with the incomplete final section of Bach’s The Art of Fugue, which trails off mid-phrase. The program then moved into Kopatchinskaja’s solo rendition of a haunting excerpt from György Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments, for which she combined voice and violin. The first half of the concert ended with a concerto by 20th century composer Karl Hartmann that quoted fragments of a German chorale.

The concert resumed after intermission with a movement from Kopatchinskaja’s arrangement of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, for which she and the SPCO won a Grammy in January. “She obviously knows how to communicate as a performer, but also as a composer too, which is a rare commodity,” said Decourt about Kopatchinskaja’s arrangement. The string instruments were joined by winds and brass to end the concert with a beautiful performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.

Fragments blended Kopatchinskaja’s skill as a soloist with the talent of the SPCO as a whole. According to Valdivia, “Carleton has a long-standing relationship with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.” Valdivia explained that since its founding in the 1970s, the SPCO has often performed two concerts a year in Northfield, one at Carleton and one at St. Olaf. The concerts have typically been free to both students and the public.

Valdivia acknowledges that it can be difficult for Carleton students to get up to the Twin Cities to see a concert. “One of the rationales in bringing the SPCO is to bring something that students might not listen to on the radio, might not be exposed to,” he said.
Carleton students as well as Northfield residents certainly took advantage of the opportunity – the Kracum Performance Hall was packed for Fragments. “It’s always incredible to think that the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is playing at Carleton,” said Decourt.

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