14 Nov 2018

Five Faves with NZSO Concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 14 November 2018
NZSO Concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen

NZSO Concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen Photo: Stephen A'Court

Audiences in Dunedin and Christchurch will have the chance to hear NZSO concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen perform Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No 2 on his new violin this weekend.

"It’s actually a very old violin," he says. "It was made in the late 1600's and due to the generosity of some very lovely people, I get the experience of playing the Prokofiev on something like this!" 

Born and raised in Turku, Finland, Vesa-Matti Leppänen moved to New Zealand in 2000, when he took over the position of Assistant Concertmaster at the NZSO. He became Concertmaster in 2003 and has built an international reputation for his musicianship as a chamber musician, teacher, jurist, and soloist. 

Leppänen describes the Prokofiev concerto as "the more famous one".

"It's very much like we all know Prokofiev. Tiny bits of Romeo and Juliet and beautiful folk music and then schizophrenic and angry moments – it’s very, very clever and a sometimes difficult work, but very much a joy to play."

Vessa-Matti Leppänen discussed five of his favourite pieces of music with David Morriss on Upbeat:

Strauss - Der RosenkavalierAct 3: ‘Marie Theres!’

Leppänen doesn't often get to play music from the operatic repertoire. His sister is a violinist with the National Opera in Finland. "I asked her once 'What inspires you still?' and she said one of the operas was this: Der Rosenkavalier."


Wagner - Tristan und Isolde 'Prelude'

Leppänen chose this Leonard Bernstein performance of Wagner's prelude bcause he likes the way Bernstein stretches it out and takes it so differently.

Playing under different conductors is vital for keeping the music fresh according to Leppanen. "I think the whole idea is to get inspired by a different viewpoint," he says. "That keeps you going, that’s why repeating repertoire again and again is still rewarding. It’s educational also.”


Sibelius - Symphony No 7 

Leppänen also chose  music by his compatriot Sibelius as one of his favourites. "There is nothing more Finnish than Sibelius," he says. "Whenever I play it, it doesn’t make me miss home, but it does bring back lovely memories of it. It feels wonderful."


Ernst Mielck - Symphony in F Minor, Op. 4 

 Another Finnish composer is Ernst Mielck, who died at just 22. "An extremely talented young composer," says Leppänen . "He didn’t write a lot of music because he died so young, but a huge talent. I recorded this symphony a long time ago in Finland and it has stayed with me."

 Strauss - An Alpine Symphony ‘Auf dem Gipfel 

"When you play this in an orchestra - that moment, the summit - it’s one of the moments I do this for, it’s so enjoyable. I still remember the buzz when we played it with Zinman and I think we played it with Edo. Personally it is one of the most exciting things that one can play in an orchestra."