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[Herald Interview] Music is life, life is music: Kavakos

April 7, 2023 - 19:05 By Park Ga-young
Violinst Leonidas Kavako, an artist-in-residence at the Tongyeong International Music Festival, performs during a concert on March 31 at the Tongyeong Concert Hall. (TIMF)

Leonidas Kavako, an artist-in-residence along with Korean pianist Kim Sun-wook at this year’s Tongyeong International Music Festival, is a Greek violinist with a special musical connection with Chin Un-suk, the artistic director of the festival.

Chin, a multiple award-winning composer, who had vowed to write only one concerto per instrument, decided to make an exception after listening to a performance by Kavakos, a violin virtuoso.

Kavakos, 56, has performed Chin’s second violin concerto nine times since its premiere in March last year and is set to perform it for the 10th time at the closing concert of the festival on April 7, which will mark the Asian premiere.

“This is an absolute masterpiece in every sense. … I feel privileged and fortunate,” Kavakos told reporters during an interview after his performance on March 30. “It’s an extremely difficult piece -- one of the most difficult ones I've ever played, but I don’t think I’m the only one who is able to play this music,” he added.

During the 10-day festival, Kavakos was set to perform four times. On April 2, Kavakos shared the stage with acclaimed young Korean musicians -- pianist Kim Sun-wook, violinist Yang In-mo, violist Park Ha-yang and cellist Han Jae-min, a combination that Chin had wished for.

“Korea has an amazing level of young people and love for classical music has led to an incredible amount of really fantastic players in the last (several) years and I’m very happy to work with the younger generation,” Kavakos said, adding that working with fantastic young players inspires him and reminds him of his interaction with masters when he was younger and how it influenced him as a musician.

When asked about what motivated him during the short standing interview, he gave a five-minute-long answer despite being in a rush.

“It’s easy to say that music is motivating but it’s only a small part. Through the years, I have learned that music is life and life is music,” he said.

Kavakos realized that he is a messenger in music, not the message.

“When we’re young, we think playing the violin or cello or piano is what we do. But it’s not what we do. It’s through that we are doing something else. The role of music is not just to entertain people but the role of music is to really help people understand what life is,” Kavakos noted.


By going to concert, he said that “it changes you every time you hear a good concert or a bad concert or good music. It changes you, your psychology, your personality and that is something that gives to music a very important value in the contemporary way of life.”