When it was clear Yevgeny Kutik’s family had to leave, they packed quickly, making room for only the essentials. Most of their belongings were left behind in Belarus.
For Kutik’s mother, violinist Alla Zernitskaya, those essentials included a stack of sheet music, short compositions written by Russian composers. Kutik was 5 when his family left their hometown of Minsk in 1990.
“The music was always there on a shelf when I was growing up here, but it wasn’t until college when I opened it to see what it was,” said Kutik, 28. “It was different, and what struck me about it was how these were specifically short works by these Russian composers.”
He won’t play his mother’s music during his time in Baton Rouge, though the miniatures are available on his last release by Marquis Classics. Each of the songs from the suitcase lasts no more than five minutes, and is played on a 1915 violin made in Italy by Stefano Scarampella.
“These are pieces that you would play in a recital,” Kutik says. “They’re short stories — they’re not exactly fairy tales, but they have that imagery. Some are better than others, but they’re all inspiring.”
Kutik will use the vintage violin on Thursday, Oct. 16, when he plays Max Bruch’s “Violin Concerto No. 1, op 26, G minor” in the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra’s first Investar Bank Masterworks concert of the season.
It will be Kutik’s first performance in Louisiana, and he is also slated to lead a master class at the LSU School of Music on Friday.
“I’ve heard some great things about Baton Rouge,” he says, speaking from his home in Boston. “I’ve heard the food there is great, and I’ve heard and read a lot about everybody raving about Baton Rouge, Louisiana.”
Yet everyone’s talking about the family’s time as refugees and the miniatures, even music director and conductor Timothy Muffitt, who told the suitcase story at the Baton Rouge Symphony’s season kickoff luncheon in August.
The Kutiks are Jewish, and anti-Semitism was rampant throughout Belarus.
“We had to get the family out, which included myself, my brother and my grandparents,” Kutik says. “We were refugees, and we had to leave almost everything behind. I think it was a different experience for me as a 5-year-old, like some sort of special journey. I didn’t understand that I was a refugee.”
It wasn’t long before Zernitskaya began teaching her son to play the violin. Kutik continued his music education with noted violinist and teacher Zinaida Gilels.
He made his debut in 2003 at age 17 with Keith Lockhart and The Boston Pops as the first-prize recipient of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Competition. He has performed throughout the world, and in 2012 released his critically acclaimed CD, “Sounds of Defiance.”