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NZSO Concertmaster in Line-up for Martinborough Music Festival

August 21, 2019 August 2019 No Comments

Wellington, NZ. 30.01.2017. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

“A curvy Italian lady with a rounded belly and back”.   No, not the description of some valuable Rubenesque masterpiece but rather, the Gioffredo Cappa Violin, made in Italy in 1692 and played by Vesa-Matti Leppänen, the Concertmaster of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO).

Worth over $500,000, the violin was bought by arts benefactors, Peter and Carolyn Diessl, for the exclusive use by the Concertmaster of the NZSO.  Its purchase was an opportunity to give “wings to Leppänen’s musicianship”. His playing has been described as “spine tingling with the notes flying off his bow like shards of ice”. Vesa says “Violins are like a good wine; with time the sound improves and the value of the instrument multiplies. Playing such an old instrument is a huge pleasure. The thought of what has happened in the world since 1692 and this instrument has survived all of it is very humbling”. Leppänen loves this violin “its sound…changes every day I play it. The wood is alive so it reacts to humidity and to the player. You can practice the same piece of music and it sounds different”. 

In 2009, Vesa took part in a TV3 social experiment to see if people could recognise world class talent if it was given freely; apparently not. He played Bach outside Wellington Railway Station on his priceless violin for two hours.  There was just $20 in coins in his kitty. He reasoned that everyone was going home after a busy day at work “I understand that. Would I stop?” 

The engaging Finn moved to New Zealand in 2000 to take up the position of Assistant Concertmaster with the NZSO. From 2003, he has been Concertmaster.  

Vesa has an international reputation for his musicianship as a chamber musician, teacher, soloist and jurist – he is a jury member for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition. Of his own chamber music ensemble he says “playing chamber music is relaxing and musically detoxing. Every time I play chamber music with wonderful colleagues, I listen and adjust my playing to a few individual voices, rather than a philharmonic sound porridge. It reminds me of the basics and helps me to get re-energised for my day-to-day orchestral life”.

Vesa will play in three works by Schubert, Brahms and Mendelssohn. He says “all are masterworks. Performing them will be a pleasure…I guess the Mendelssohn Octet is the drawcard in a sense. It is a classical hit”.

The Octet in Eb major was composed by the 16 year old Felix Mendelssohn in 1825 as a birthday present for his music teacher. There are few pieces in the chamber music repertoire which are symphonic in scope. Mendelssohn successfully scored the scherzo from the Octet as the third movement for his Symphony No 1 in C Minor. It is likely that many in the audience will have heard the scherzo first when listening to this Symphony. The melody will be instantly recognisable.                                                                                           Winifred Bull

Martinborough Music Festival 27-29 September, 


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