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A Greek composer goes West March 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Classical.
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Composer and writer Haris Vrondos presents his symphony work at the Athens Concert Hall this coming Friday after 20 years

Exactly 20 years to the day since the Athens State Orchestra first performed a composition by Haris Vrondos, the orchestra will interpret the Greek composer and writer’s symphonic “West” at the Athens Concert Hall tomorrow, under the baton of Vassilis Christopoulos. The concert is dedicated to the late tubist Yiannis Zouganelis.

Penned 14 years ago, “West” is a reflection of the composer’s love for the Ionian island of Lefkada where he spent his childhood and teenage years. “It brings memories of a world deeply influenced by the Ionian civilization. Musically, it is not a particularly difficult piece. It is lyrical and expresses the angst of growing up. It reflects the beauty and difficulties of that age,” he says.

Vrondos became known to the wider public in April 2001, when the National Opera staged “The Possessed” based on Dostoyevsky’s novel of the same title and on the libretto by Alexandros Adamopoulos. His cantata “Julian the Apostate” followed a year later, but a commissioned opera, “Alcibiades”, never made it to the stage.

The composer took recourse to justice against the Athens Concert Hall because, he claims, they did not honor their agreement and only remunerated him for one act of the opera. The Concert Hall, on its part, maintains that there was never any written contract, just an agreement regarding a cantata titled “Alcibiades.”

Vrondos claims that the Concert Hall’s artistic director Nikos Tsouchlos asked him to sign a trial order for the cantata for financial and technical reasons, which they could later use as the basis of a contract for the rest of the work. “I received not a word from them for over two years,” says Vrondos. ”They only responded when the issue made it into the press and said they had never commissioned the opera.”

This is not Vrondos’s only work that remains shelved. Two operas still await production: the 2004 “Achmatova” which was suggested to Athens Festival director Giorgos Loukos last year and was turned down, and Kafka’s “Trial” which has just been completed. Things are looking better for a composition for a baritone and a quartet, based on Dionysios Solomos’s “Woman from Zakynthos” which was commissioned by the Takis Sinopoulos Foundation as part of celebrations for the 150-year commemoration of Solomos’s death.

Vrondos says he is not fazed by the negative environment. “I work, I struggle and I try to live. You can only have demands if you work,” he said. Vrondos says he will not compromise with a reality he is only too aware of.

“The National Opera cannot commission work from any new composer because of their regulations. The Athens Concert Hall has not commissioned anything in 10 years and the last time it did so, with Argyris Kounadis, the work was never staged. The Concert Hall believes there is no Greek composer worth the commission of an opera.”

For “The Possessed” he relied on private funding, which included the Costopoulos Foundation and Panos Manias, among others. “It is the only way. The cost of an opera is so enormous that no composer will take on the task without knowing the outcome.”

For Vrondos, the greatest difficulty lies in the works that actually “reach” the audience. “Could it be that Pink Floyd, Sting, Hadjidakis and Savvopoulos said everything and we have nothing left to say? This is my greatest worry. Will we be able to reach out to our audience again?”

At the Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7282333.

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