‘Year of Skalkottas’ to run 2004-2005

Many people consider Nikos Skalkottas to be the greatest Greek composer of the 20th century, and he is regarded as one of the most important contemporary composers internationally. Despite that, neither the Ministry of Culture nor any other relevant institution has made any moves to fund any celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth in 1904. Fortunately, the Benaki Museum took the initiative and decided to organize a «Year of Skalkottas.» The tribute will include performances of his musical compositions and ballets, a large exhibition about his life and work and a special edition featuring articles by Skalkottas experts. The Benaki Museum made the decision following a suggestion by composer Haris Vrontos, who has now undertaken the responsibility of organizing the tribute. Organizers are also hoping to secure Germany and Sweden’s participation: Germany because that is where Skalkottas resided between 1921 and 1933, got married and had a daughter, before returning to Athens. He died in Athens in 1949, at the age of 45, leaving behind two sons from his second marriage. His first wife had already moved to Sweden, where their daughter Artemis and her own three daughters, all of them musicians, still live today. The BIS record company, which releases Skalkottas’s works, is also based in Sweden. Talks with both the German and Swedish embassies and with the Goethe Institute have already started, concerning their countries’ participation in the Year of Skalkottas. The Athens Concert Hall has agreed to provide its halls and the Camerata Orchestra for the performances, while the newly founded music ensembles of Athens Municipality also agreed to participate after productive meetings with Athens Concert Hall artistic director and conductor Nikos Tsouchlos and Athens Deputy Mayor in charge of culture Panos Loukakos. Vrontos announced that both Tsouchlos and Loukakos have warmly embraced the effort. Events will start toward the end of 2004, after the buzz of the elections and the Olympic Games has died down, and will run well into 2005. Apart from the concerts, the plan is to include Skalkottas’s ballets «The Sea,» «Death and the Maiden,» and a smaller one, if talks with the National Opera go through. The special edition on Skalkottas is due to be published toward the end of 2004. The first part will consist of articles by both Greek and foreign experts, including Costas Demertzis, Andreas Rikakis, Giorgos Zervos, Evangelia Matzourani, Vyron Fidetzis, John Thornley, Nikos Christodoulou and others. The exhibition on the composer’s life and work will be on display at the New Wing of the Benaki Museum and might also travel abroad. It will include personal items, his music scores and even paintings and other cultural documents of his era. Organizers are also hoping to run other events parallel to the tribute and to obtain funding for the sculpting of Skalkottas’s bust. «I hope people will be willing to participate,» said Vrontos. «Otherwise it makes no sense that the National Orchestra of Athens should celebrate 100 years since the birth of Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian but forget about Skalkottas, who was a member of the orchestra for 16 years until his death.»