Spotlight on... Karina Cannelakis
by Kayla Moore
How did you get your start, first playing violin, then conducting?
My parents are both musicians—my mom is a pianist and my dad was also a pianist and conductor. Music was very much a part of everyday life in our household. I grew up in a small apartment in NYC and my parents were always playing music and setting scores, and my brother also plays cello, so it was really natural.
You’re both a conductor and a violinist. How does this benefit you in your role as a conductor?
I could never get up in front of the orchestra if I weren’t a violinist, if I didn’t have experience playing in the orchestra…. It gave me a really realistic idea of what it feels like to be playing the notes, as compared to being the conductor and not making any sound. To me, playing an orchestral instrument on a high level is a prerequisite for being a conductor.
In January’s concert you will be conducting a “Romantic Rachmaninoff” performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, and Elgar’s In the South “Alassio.” What was the inspiration for this grouping of pieces? Is there a common thread?
This program did not come about with any kind of theme or common thread—the Britten and the Elgar complement each other and relate to each other. It’s interesting to compare the style and tonality of the music of these British composers because they are so different. Britten’s music is a lot more edgy, and there’s a lot more dissonance and friction there. Elgar is about as romantic as you get, as is Rachmaninoff. The Britten inserts a bit of a different “sound-world” between the romantic styles of Rachmaninoff and Elgar.
What do you want audiences to feel during this concert? Anything to listen for specifically in the pieces?
I think the audience reaction to the Rachmaninoff is pretty self-explanatory: an eruptive elation. It’s extremely satisfying and lush music. The Britten is special because he’s an unusual genius of a composer with his own language. I think there’s a lot more darkness to his music, and the fact that this work comes from Peter Grimes presents a pretty disturbed and brutal character—you hear a longing to repair his life and for things to be different than they are. It’ll be especially wonderful for those who love the opera or read about the opera beforehand.
Even as four abstract little pieces of music, the Sea Interludes stand on their own, yet they all contrast the others hugely. The first one is incredibly majestic, mysterious and atmospheric. The second is uplifting and totally shocking—the idea of dissonance comes in with church bells in a different key. The third one is incredibly beautiful, aching. And the final one is hugely exciting, riveting to listen to—heart-pounding music. These are the reactions I hope everyone would feel, and also an extreme desire to hear the opera after that.
The Elgar is very much joyful music—it has sweeping, expansive lines of almost Hollywood-ish romanticism. It always makes every orchestra sound so great. I would hope the audience would feel uplifted and elated at the end of this program.
What are some fun facts you think that fans might not know about you?
Oh gosh…well, I absolutely love Korean food, and I love to eat. I also love nature and the outdoors, which may not be totally obvious since I’m a musician and spend a lot of time inside playing and rehearsing. Whenever possible I want to run, hike and get fresh air—it’s incredibly important to me. I also played baseball and tennis growing up. I was really into tennis, and at one point I wanted to be a tennis player. Anna Kournikova was my inspiration at that point in time!