Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A hundred of guitars in Athens Concert Hall and the vision of music during the weak greek years

Just a few days ago, on December 9th in the evening the famous Greek guitarist Evangelos Boudounis (http://www.boudounis.gr/), performed in Athens Concert Hall with his "100 classical guitars", an ensemble which is consisted of people aged frοm 10 up to 73, all of them old and new students of Mr. Boudounis.
The ensemble hadn´t performed again since July of 2004, during the Olympic Games in Athens at Herodeion (http://www.herodeion-events.gr/), when "Greece was at its best", as he said. While now he wanted to repeat the artistic event, as a way of expressing his resistance on the bad situation that the country reached so far. He disagreed with the expensive prices of this concert, but, on the other hand, it was important for him, having a big bunch of young people who want to shout that they are here and feel strong to manage the country's situation. Moreover, the greek guitar school is the third best in the world, as he claims.

Actually, we read, the performers now became 210, and this is one of the basic concerns of him "how they will manage to reach the stage in a proper order?"
The ensemble has a long history, started already back in 80´s during a workshop in Rethymnon, Crete, where in the presence of Manos Hatjidakis, he accepted to conduct it in the closing concert. This time the repertoire was still wide and demanding: Renaissance dances, "Spring" of Vivaldi, Shostakovitch's "Waltz", and even "The Dance of the Lost Dreams" of Manos Hatjidakis, Piazzolla's "Libertango", and a composition of Mr Boudounis under the title "Waltz of Herodeion".
And as a creator of this ensemble he knows very well its needs, its difficulties, the specialties of  guitar as an instrument, and its attitude inside such a populous ensemble. But this is the challenge for him, believing that an instrument like guitar, which does not have any long history, has the opportunity to adapt new concepts, supporting its 20th century repertoire, without attempting to lose its character as a quiet and peaceful instrument.

What comes even more interesting, looking  a little bit on the backstage of this ingenious and charming concert, is the fact that part of the ensemble are now students (or x- students) of the Musical Workshops of the Greek association "Friends of the Island and the Sea" (http://www.filoitounisiou.gr/). This is an interesting concept of a group of sensitive greek citizens, who try to fill the gap of non existent music education in some of the remote small greek islands by sending teachers who visit the islands twice a month, the last 16 years, even for teaching only at a few small students ). Υes, the islands we usually visit for holidays during the summer easily, do not have frequent connection with the inland during the winter.
The islands where so far Musical Workshops are held are: Sifnos, Serifos, Andros, Tinos, Kea, Santorini, Ikaria, and Limnos. The concept is imaginative but difficult in performance, although, there have been some interesting result, fruits of a constant tenacity of all the participants.We can dedicate another blog article to the wonderful projects of the Friends of the Greek Island and The Sea.

Back to the "Hundred Guitar Ensemble" now, we can listen some music of the work, using the Youtube player:
Waltz of the lost dreams (Manos Hatjidakis)
Andante (Antonio Vivaldi)
while our favourite is...
Libertango (Astor Piazzolla)

With the help of professional lightening the ensemble resembles to a beautiful rose, whose perfume is at the same time its sound! And Vangelis Boudounis adds "when everything is synchronized on stage, the sound is like you have a candie in your mouth"!...

And i can reassure you, Greeks need nothing than a sense of candie in their mouth, this period!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Maria Kallas: She lived for her art, she made her life like an art

Some days ago, on 2nd December, 89 years since Maria Kallas' birth were completed.
This exposition "Una donna, una voce, un mito", after have visited New York, Rome, Mexico, Tokyo, and Athens,  has been remaining in Valencia for over a month now. Always postponed my visit, always something else was happening.This week finally the time had come.

The museum of Carmen, "Centre del Carmen", (please, follow this link if you want to know more on the museum) is located in the old city of Valencia, and in fact is an impressing old church, a huge one, if i just make a comparison with the traditional Greek images of the tiny camp churches. I would still never had noticed, i think, if this exhibition was never released there. Although it's qute an adventure to experience it. After passing the entrance, one cloister, some corridors, a second cloister, you find a new building second where you enter the exposition rooms and you hear some first notes of the sorpano's voice, the absolute signal that you are here, at the right point!
The whole exposition is divided in five sections, each one referring to an other option of her personal life.
a. Clothes. What you see here is more her choices on dresses for her performances, the original ones, almost all of them signed with famous signatures, like the Christian Dior dress who magnetized Onasssis, or the Tosca dress for the Covent Graden's 1964 opera performance.
b. Jewelry. Accompanying her public artistic appearances, the jewelry is even more impressing, especially if you think that those are the smallest remaining objects of Kallas' earth presence.
c. Concertos programmes. This section satisfies the fetish history lovers, musicologists, opera passionates, collectors, because those documents function as a glance to the opera´s world through the diva's viewpoint.
d. Personal life. Small furniture  and other material objects of everyday life complete the image of an era, and bring us closer to the cultural context of her life in a material sense.
e. But even more that all the above, what emotionally worth is those personal belongings like letters, notes, telegraphs, photos, etc. Here one has the opportunity to be engaged a little bit more with the case.What the eye captures first, is a handwritten love letter to Aristoteles Onassis, after 9 years of an affair, and one week before he gets married with Jacky Kennedy. Tragic and comedy together: next to it a short morning message to her housekeeper on the day necessary stuff (butter and sugar were the only things i got, because of her impressing graphic character.)

Last but not least, the exposition also provides an extended documentary on her. one should have his\her time to sit comfortable, and really enjoy the rich provided material. Here many of her colleagues, partners and other important people of her circle, talk a lot about her, offering bits of her world. "Do we really know the woman, the real person?", one of her colleagues is wondering. "Ï don´t think so", he answers by himself. Many unanswered questions have been left, having to do with her personal choices, her life as a human being.
Many people claim that her life was like a romantic opera. Being there at the exhibition, one can really remain for many hours, and after the end, he would feel like being in one of her performances. The documentary is a very long one, containing rare material, like interviews with her, talks on the uniqueness of her voice, unknown details of her artistic work. A rich experience who does not let you unaffected.

For some more impressions on Maria Callas here is an announcement for the opening of the exposition at El Pais Spanish newspaper, and, also, a different kind of knowledge about the soprano, from an other blog of an opera passionate, a more specialized one!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

One day in Casa de Música of Porto, Portugal

The day was great! Sunny, relaxed, with the sound of seagulls over our heads.
"Where does music go when we don´t listen anymore"?... I was thinking.
This sort message by a child voice was adapted by the Third Program of Greek National Radio. The classical lovers were listened to it for years, between the broadcasts.

Having visited the Casa de Música in Porto, i experienced again that music slides to the memory and if it's interesting, lovely, lively, the conscious searches for it again and again. Music has the strength to create new needs, emotions, connections.
I felt highly motivated for several reasons. The concert i had booked was consisted of four different works of four composers of our times. Then, it was a new concert hall and i knew it represents many trends of music, with references from Early Music to digital creations, remixes and so on  So it was not a Symphonic or Philarmonic Orchestra, but the "Banda Sinfónica Portuguesa". Moreover, it was the participation of a child chorus. My friends were highly recommending it. Last, but not least, the monthly programme of the Casa de Música was presenting "Theseus Journey" as the principle work of this concert.
Let´s see the program, as it was written at the sheet of paper available for free:

Alfred Reed
Puncinello [1973, 7 min.]

Luis Cardoso
Cançóes de Pessoa- 4 cançiones sobre poemas de Fernando Pessoa, para coro juvenil e banda de concerto [2012, 15 min.]
    1. Havia un menino
    2. Intervalo
    3. Sou em guardador de rebanhos
    4. Bendito eja o mesmo sol de outras terras

Kris Roemers
Theseus' Journey, poema sinfónico em trés partes [2012, 20 min.]
    1. A Profecia e Viagem para Atenas
    2. Navegando para Creta, encontrando o Rei Minos
    3. Ariadne e a Batalha com o Minotauro

Bert Appermont
Egmont, Poema Sunfónico [2004, 17 min.]
   1. O Casamento
   2. Filipe e Egmont
   3. Fatio Prudentia Minor
   4. Unidos contra Espanha
       First Part of the work
       Second Part of the work

The musical director was wearing a crazy shirt with cube motives in black, white and grey, the children behind the band, both boys and girls, were wearing light blue jeans, white shirt, and red tie! All together, with the gold shining of the instruments, and the minimal black net curtain background of the auditorium, made a nice Sunday morning atmosphere  Light was entering from the big windows´surfaces.
And the music started!
        The first piece, small, spirituous and happy, said "Bom Dia" to the audience and raised the curiosity for the next ones. It was written from this American composer, for the "Symphonic Wind Ensemble" of the University of Western Illinois. The composer is also well known for his "Greensleeves" adaptation, i recalled later, a favorite old song connected with Christmas.
        And then Fernando Pessoa. What a honor. With children voices. I was struggling to get somehow the lyrics, as they were not (unusually) available, but i could not. There was a nice purpose behind the participation of the young choir: They should start getting to know the big poet. Very well functioning melodies, the one that are kept in mind long after the end of a concert, those serious poems were telling important stories, but through the children' voices with delightful touch.
       A Belgian composer with a Greek theme was coming next. Being a Greek, this was more like a surprise that Portugal had kept for me. This symphonic poem through its programmatic character, managed to shape the journey of the Greek mythology legend, and his fight with the life-threatening monster Minotaurus. Sharp dynamic changes, strong sound, gave the impression of an adventure, as it was. The composer, harmonized for this purpose, the most ancient surviving notated music of 138BC.
      After the end of Theseus' adventures in Crete, emotions of nostalgia (saudade for the Portuguese culture) fulfilled the space. With the orchestra colored even by small orchestrating details like "rhythm clapping", or a "glockenspiel", and the "solo of the guitar", also, anticipating the tutti arrangements, an intimate piece had started already with a march character due to brass family introduction. Egmont is a favorite work, like we know from Beethoven´s synonymous, a tragic history in four levels as the milestones of the work.

A small boy with his mother was sitting next to me. Also many other children around. And the chorus never escaped the scene. I was wondering if it was for educational purposes, as they only were singing one piece. Was this a good way to listen, also, without making any noise, in front of us? Maybe. But they were moving. And were making noises. As all the children of the world do, and as they should.
This was a nice experience. Like conquering one more music hall of this world. In one of the most magnetic mediterranean cities i have been so far!...

Just discovered a link for some architectural information .
You can also visit the official webpage.