When Patricia Kopatchinskaja makes her debut this weekend as an artistic partner with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, she hopes to break new ground.
But the violinist European music critics describe as one of the world's greatest hasn't come to the SPCO with a grand plan.
"When you have an expectation you will be probably always rather disappointed than nicely surprised," she said during a break in rehearsals Tuesday.
That doesn't mean Kopatchinskaja won't try to push the musical envelope with the orchestra. At first, she'll try to gauge what might be possible.
"What can we do? What can be a little crazy, but still doable? Acceptable?" she said. "I still don't know the audience here, so this will also be quite a discovery for me. I want to see, how far can we move?"
A native of Moldova in Eastern Europe, Kopatchinskaja has built a reputation as a champion of chamber music with a mastery of the work of the great composers. But she also is known for her desire to always look for something new in the compositions.
"I would say I am not here for always doing things as they were always done. I would like to refresh the view," she said. "Whether it's wrong or right, I don't know. But I would like to ask some questions."
For someone bent on shaking up the classical music world Kopatchinskaja is disarmingly effervescent. She has a deep respect for the music, but said it has to be about more than notes on paper.
"It's about our emotions, reflections, thoughts, questions," she said.
Kopatchinskaja will play four concerts with the SPCO around the Twin Cities in coming days. The program features works by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Bartok, and Mansurian. She'll also share the stage with her parents, Emilia Kopatchinskaja on violin and viola, and Viktor Kopatchinsky on cimbalom.
"My parents are folk musicians," she said. "They play folk music from Moldova. And I understood it quite late in my life what kind of treasure I have at home."
It was only when Kopatchinskaja was in her late twenties that she recognized the purity of her parents' music. It's direct, she said, and intended to make people dance, sing, or contemplate. She realized it could help her in her own music.
"So folk music actually helped me a lot to de-complicate the classical music somehow," she said, "and to find a language I can use for any kind of styles."
As an artistic partner, Kopatchinskaja will play three weeks a year with the SPCO for at least the next three years.
There's one other thing she is known for: she plays barefoot.
"But I don't talk about it," she said with a laugh.
However Kopatchinskaja is not worried about playing barefoot in the cold Minnesota climate.
"You know, it's never cold on stage; it can only be too hot," she said. "When I play onstage I feel like I am standing on a volcano."
This story originally appeared on the MPR News website.