Who is Patricia Kopatchinskaja?

This marmite violinist, who prioritises authenticity over surface polish, is renowned for doing things her own way. Here is all you need to know about Patricia Kopatchinskaja

Published: July 5, 2022 at 12:29 pm

Who is Patricia Kopatchinskaja?

Patricia Kopatchinskaja is an Austrian-Moldovian-Swiss violinist who, in another existence, could have been a comedian or a heavy metal star. A marmite musician - you either love or hate her - she plays barefoot and headbangs her way through performances, flouting musical convention with an impish sense of humour. Not everybody is sold on her dynamically extreme, one-of-a-kind interpretations, or her tendency to prioritise spontaneity and emotional authenticity over surface polish. But authentic she certainly is. She sounds like nobody else.


When and where was Patricia Kopatchinskaja born and how old is she?

She was born in March 1977 in Chișinău, in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (now Moldova).

What is her background?

Born in the Soviet era, she spent a lot of her childhood in the Moldovan countryside with her Romanian-speaking grandparents, while her folk musicians parents - her mother was a violinist and her father a cimbalom player - toured with the State Folk Ensemble of Moldova. Music, she says, forms a huge part of her earliest memories; even as a toddler she was encouraged to make music for guests.

When did she start playing the

Patricia Kopatchinskaja?

When she was six years old.

Where did she train?

Initially at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, where her family settled when she was 13. At 21 she won a scholarship to study in Bern, Switzerland, where she still lives.

Does she have a family?

Yes, her husband is the retired neurologist, former Swiss politician and amateur cellist Lukas Fierz. They have a 16-year-old daughter.

What kind of music does Patricia Kopatchinskaja tend to play?

Although she does play plenty of music by Mozart, Beethoven and other greats, often with fairly radical interpretations, she has a particular passion for lesser-known and contemporary music. Over the years she has championed composers including Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Ustvolskaya, Ligeti, Kurtág, Michael Hersch, Heinz Holliger, Francisco Coll, Mauricio Sotelo and Martón Illés, to name a few. And she has even ventured beyond playing the violin in service of the works she loves. Since 2017, she has performed the voice part of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire several times, and in 2018 she teamed up with some friends to make a film based on Kurt Schwitters's Dadaistic nonsense poem 'Ursonate' written in 1932. The film has been shown at several festivals.


Where can I next hear her?

At the BBC Proms on Tuesday 2 August, when she performs Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor.


Hannah Nepilova is a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine. She has also written for The Financial Times, The Times, The Strad, Gramophone, Opera Now, Opera, the BBC Proms and the Philharmonia, and runs The Cusp, an online magazine exploring the boundaries between art forms. Born to Czech parents, she has a strong interest in Czech music and culture.

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