It is proven that God loves music. It’s also obvious that whatever happens in the world, he just doesn’t care; he creates little Gods and sends them to the earth. Probably in October of '67, God listened to some of Bach's violin works and that’s how the idea to create Leonidas Kavakos was born; we are talking about one of the greatest musicians in the world.
By Mia Kollia
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
Five Christmases after that Monday, Leonidas Kavakos, who grew up in a family of musicians, discovered a violin under the Christmas tree that adorned the living room of the house. That discovery was the beginning of a great journey.
His first teacher was his father, an excellent violinist of the Athens State Orchestra and later Stelios Kafantaris, his professor at the Hellenic Conservatory. The first time he appeared on the stage of Odeon of Herodes Atticus, facing an audience, was during the Athens Festival in 1984, with the ERT Symphony Orchestra.
A year later, in 1985, he won the Sibelius competition in Helsinki, as well as the Paganini and Naumburg awards in 1988. In 1992, he took over as artistic director of the chamber music circle at the Athens Concert Hall. Tours around the world had just begun.
In 2009 he was awarded the German Grammy (Echo Klassik). In 2017 he received the Léonie Sonning Award in Copenhagen, as the best musician in the world. This award has been given annually - since 1959 - to an internationally recognised composer, performer, conductor or singer. He was now a leading and world-renowned soloist and conductor, from the early years of the new millennium.
He has collaborated with and conducted the largest orchestras in the world. From Chicago, New York, Berlin and Vienna Symphony Orchestras, to Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and the Japan Philharmonic, London, Montreal, Houston, Dallas, Boston and Budapest Symphony Orchestras, the Salzburg Camerata and many more. He has performed as a soloist at the Singapore Symphony and the Seoul Philharmonic.
He has repeatedly collaborated with two of the most important musicians in the world, the cellist YoYo Ma and the pianist Emmanuel Ax, at Carnegie Hall. According to the British string classical music magazine, “The Strad”, Leonidas Kavakos is "the greatest violinist".
Let’s get to know him through his own words in interviews:
"The modern Greek man is uncivilised. In the 17 years I went to public school I did music for just a year. Although the ancient Greeks to whom we like to refer considered music as their main occupation, modern leaders consider culture a luxury".
“You do not acquire talent. You cultivate it. That's why it's a gift", (Interviewed by Maria Katsounaki for "Kathimerini" newspaper, 2010).
"I had the opportunity to play alone among the statues of the Acropolis Museum. It was literally a thrilling experience that I will never forget; a mystical experience, one of the most precious of my life. My visit there was for the needs of a German television shooting.
The Berlin Philharmonic had come to Athens Concert Hall for the usual May Day concert, in 2015, in which I would collaborate as a soloist. As soon as I entered and found myself in the place where the sculptures are, I felt awe. I couldn’t even catch my violin, I was feeling that intensity. I had to leave, I spent several hours concentrating and then I was able to play alone in front of the cameras.
My reward was huge. These statues are -for me- music, they are movements. Not just a creation of mankind, but a kind of communication within a divine dimension. And if the Anglo-Saxons call the sculptures ‘statues’, with an etymology that refers to something static, the Greeks gave them movement, grace and vividness. After all, in our language the statue is connected with the ancient Greek verb of the same meaning.
When I finished my performance, I apologised to the sculptures for disturbing their long silence”, (Interviewed by Margarita Pournara for "Kathimerini", 2018).
"I can tell you that Greece doesn’t need Kavakos or any other at the moment. Because what needs to be done first is the basics, that’s the right word. What is needed is an education system that won’t change so regularly and will give value to the arts as part of the educational process", (Interviewed by George Mylonas for Liberal, 2020).
Interviews, portraits, applause, international recognition: An exciting life journey with hard work on an art that offers only euphoria, exaltation of soul and emotion.
Leonidas Kavakos is an intellectual musician who knows how to think and philosophise life, puts talent where it belongs, follows events and the general zeitgeist, having repeatedly offered his knowledge and music to charity. An artist who wonders about the limits of man, admires the Greek light, the value of culture, the great importance of study, the world composers, considers evolution necessary, respects the past and reality and bows to perfection.
Fifty three years after the birth of Leonidas Kavakos, the internationally renowned Greek musician has left Greece. He doesn’t know if he will return. He has two adult daughters, a pianist husband and a “Willemotte” Stradivarius violin of 1734 as a permanent partner for 10 years now.