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Athens State Orchestra forging ahead, despite problems November 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Museums, Music Life Classical.
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The Athens State Orchestra’s artistic director, Vyron Fidetzis, discusses his plans for the season

The ASO performs almost every Friday night in the Athens Concert Hall’s Friends of Music Hall, in front of a dedicated audience. This year, the orchestra will also perform at the Benaki Museum and the National Gallery. In January, it is scheduled to travel abroad, first to China and then to Istanbul.

The Athens State Orchestra is something we feel very close to but don’t know much about. This time every year, it holds a press conference to announce its program but the news isn’t always good. For the past six years, ever since the Pallas Theater, where the orchestra held its concerts and rehearsals, closed down, things have been hard. The rehearsals hall at the Athens Conservatory, the orchestra’s official home, proved entirely unsuitable and the halls ceded by the Athens Concert Hall for rehearsals are not always available or suitable.

Despite all that, the new season is full of expectations and plans. The orchestra, which is about to recruit high-caliber musicians, performs almost every Friday night in the Athens Concert Hall’s Friends of Music Hall, in front of its dedicated audience. The program is striking and features a tour to China, concerts at the concert hall and much more, including the release of a double CD by the label Legend as well a a new website. Vyron Fidetzis, the Athens State Orchestra’s artistic director, spoke to the local  press about future plans and problems.

What are the highlights of the new season? > This year, the Athens State Orchestra will be spread across the entire city, beyond the Athens Concert Hall, as far as the Benaki Museum and the National Gallery. Our two trips abroad are also important. From December 29 to January 8, we will be in China, as part of the Year of Greece exchanges, and on January 24 we will perform in Istanbul.

What are your concerns as the orchestra’s artistic director? > As you know, the venue provided by the orchestra’s official home, the Athens Conservatory, is entirely unsuitable. We retain it, despite the huge costs, so as not to lose a permanent base. The Athens Concert Hall provides some halls, but that is only when their own obligations have been seen to, so from one week to the next we do not know where we will be able to rehearse.

It would be ideal for us to have our own space in which to to perform and rehearse. We also have the problem of acoustics where we rehearse. How can you shape your sound in an unsuitable venue? We were happy to learn that the new minister of culture has shown interest in the orchestra’s housing problem and we are waiting.

You have done a lot to promote the work of Greek composers. Why do you believe it is important? > As was also the case in the past, this year we have a lot of premieres by Greek composers. An orchestra has to strike a balance between classic and contemporary and to present a panorama of composers. But we also have a special, cultural role to promote Greek art, not out of patriotism but because it is of international interest and can contribute to art and society in general. We have a 200-year musical history in Greece which most people are unaware of. We have to fill that gap.

Who attends the orchestra’s concerts? Are there any young people? > We have a dedicated fan base and we want to enlarge it. It is not easy and we don’t want to take hasty steps, but we have a long-term, school-related educational policy. We have already given some educational concerts and we hope to target more people with our tours around Greece as well. Our hopes lie with the young people and it is our duty to give them the best we can. That is the point of music education, but it is no easy thing to create music education.

What would you change in Greece’s cultural life if you could? > I would focus more on education. It is very important to have educated people who are aware of their Greekness, not in a narrow-minded sense but open to the global reality. I would also stress the need to cultivate people’s intellect.

Program highlights > At the Athens Concert Hall, the Athens State Orchestra’s program for this season includes concerts for the Year of Dionysios Solomos, a concert by pianist Nelli Semitekolo in February, Rossini’s opera “The Italian Girl in Algiers” with mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa, the Greek Music Celebrations starting at the end of March and more.

Concerts at the Benaki Museum include contemporary Greek music in January, a performance by the Orchestra of Ancient Greek Instruments in February and an evening in May dedicated to Constantinos Kydoniatis on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, among others.

At the National Gallery, the orchestra will perform with pianists Alexandra Papastefanou and Jenia Manousaki in January, a concert by the Athens State Orchestra Winds Quintet also in January, a tribute to Benjamin Britten in February and more.

Related Links > http://www.koa.gr

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