A rich crop of events – including ballet, classical music, cinema, as well as a continuing exhibition on Syria and Byzantium – await the Athens Concert Hall’s public these days as the Megaron prepares for the festive season. A number of these events also have an educational role, according to Christos Lambrakis, president of the concert hall, who unveiled the schedule for the last two weeks of the current year at a recent press conference. This week’s events start tonight with the Russian State Orchestra, which, under the baton of Michail Pletnev, will perform works by Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Scriabin and Taneyev. Pianist Nikolai Lugansky will appear with the orchestra tonight, while the ERT choir will be performing tomorrow. Though one of the younger ensembles, the Russian State Orchestra draws its performers from the country’s rich musical background, said Nikos Tsouchlos, the hall’s artistic director, at the press conference. On Wednesday, the Athens Concert Hall is putting on music by Aram Khachaturian – including three movements from Maskarata – with a concert titled 1,700 Years of Christianity in Armenia, conducted by Ilarion Ionescu-Galati and with Tatsis Apostolidis playing the violin. To follow on Friday are the Byzantine church services of Aghia Sophia, including Trithekti and the Christmas Kontakion by Romanus the Melodist, with ritual arrangement and music by Gregorios Stathis. The performers are the Maestros of Psaltic Art, under the guidance of Stathis. Classical ballet returns to the Athens Concert Hall on December 25 (with additional performances on December 26, 28, 29, and 30) with the appearance of the young troops of the legendary Bolshoi Ballet Academy of Moscow. Training the Future Stars, is an event aiming at attracting new blood as a group of young dancers aged 11 to 16 (all members of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy) will take the stage to interpret classic pieces, such as La Fille Mal Gardee, among others. The Orchestra of Colors will be conducted by George Zhemchuzhin. The Christmas season cycle continues with a tribute to Buster Keaton on December 26, 28, 29, and 30. A number of Keaton’s silent classics – including The Paleface, Our Hospitality, The Frozen North, Sherlock Jr., My Wife’s Relations and Seven Chances will be accompanied by Stuart Oderman on the piano. In the meantime, cultural institutions – many of them arising out of international initiatives – have emerged in certain parts of southeastern Europe. Examples include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sarajevo and the Soros Centers of Contemporary Art, a network which was set by the Hungarian emigre financier and was active until 1999.