New artists at the Seattle Symphony

Difficult to spell; easy to enjoy.

That’s the case with guest artists coming to the Seattle Symphony in the next few weeks – starting off April 7 and 9, when violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja makes her Seattle debut. She will soon be followed by cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, playing one of the great concerti of the repertoire – the Dvorak – on April 14 and 16. Both are highly praised, prize-winning soloists whose arrival is eagerly anticipated by string connoisseurs.

April is a month of debuts at the Symphony, and judging from the kudos these soloists have already earned, Benaroya Hall will be an exciting place to be. Both those programs (April 7/9, April 14/16) also will feature guest conductors in their first Seattle Symphony performances. The former program will be led by David Zinman, whose illustrious history includes directorships of the orchestras of Rotterdam, Rochester, Baltimore, Aspen Music Festival, and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra (as well as a long list of award-winning recordings).

The April 14/16 concert features Russian maestro Mikhail Tatarnikov, who has conducted leading orchestras and opera productions in several countries; he is based in St. Petersburg, where he is music director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre. In Seattle, he’ll conduct a program of Liadov, Dvorak, and the U.S. premiere of Valentin Silvestrov's Symphony No. 8.

This month’s first soloist, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, is of Moldovan/Austrian ancestry; born in 1977, she began violin lessons at six, studied in Vienna and Bern (Switzerland), and began a solo career that has extended from appearances with major European orchestras to engagements in Japan, China, Australia, South America, Russia, and the U.S. For her Seattle debut, she has chosen the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2, a colorful 1935 work that presents several folkloric elements in a symphonic context – from a traditional Russian folk tune to a Spanish theme in which the orchestral accompaniment includes castanets.

Kopatchinskaja was once described as “the wild child of the violin” (London Telegraph, 2014), whose interviewer continued, “Whether it’s a Corelli sonata or a concerto by Ligeti, she plays with an astonishing, folk-like passion, throwing speaking looks at the other players that are just as expressive as the sounds she makes.” Strong-willed and outspoken, she also has confessed to the occasional bout of stage fright: “I still get so nervous, sometimes I have to be dragged from the toilet to the stage,” she told the Telegraph.

The second soloist (April 14/16), cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan (born in 1988), catapulted to fame when he won the 2011 Tchaikovsky International Competition. Earlier mentored by the great Mstislav Rostropovich, the young Armenian-born artist has gone on to win wildly favorable critical accolades (the Washington Post noted the “insolent ease” of his playing; the New York Times praised his “intense focus and expressive artistry,” and the Los Angeles Times observed that “his tone is as gorgeously sure as it is huge”). Seattle audiences will find out what he can do with the challenges and opportunities posed by the Dvorak Concerto. One thing seems certain: it won’t be “business as usual” this month in Benaroya Hall.

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