CULTURE

Classical food for modern souls

“Music aims at helping people think with the heart and not with the mind…» Christopher Warren-Green’s words, which reflect his love for music, art and humanity, caught my attention. Warren-Green is the new permanent principal conductor of the Camerata Orchestra, which he will conduct alternating with Alexandre Myrat and Sir Neville Marriner. A top conductor who has collaborated with some of the world’s greatest orchestras, he is also the music director and permanent principal conductor of the London Chamber Orchestra. People claim that music, like other forms of art, helps us feel. Could you elaborate on that? The distance between a person’s mind and heart is the hardest to cover and I hope music can somehow reduce it… When Handel first presented «Messiah,» a famous lord went up to him and said, «What a noble form of entertainment, Sir.» Handel replied: «Entertainment, my lord? I am sorry if it was only that. My desire was to make it better.» That is what art is about and my beliefs do not change wherever I am. If you asked me to describe what music is, I would reply it is whatever makes us feel. No matter what kind of music it is, if it inspires certain feelings, then it is great music, wherever it may come from. Music must speak directly to the public, because if it doesn’t, we have failed to do our job. During the 1980s you decided to play with the London Chamber Orchestra at a rock festival. Would you attempt that again? I was much younger then, we were all younger, and it was easier to approach a young audience. The question is why we need that kind of music. It is very simple: The music of the great classical composers – and all kinds of music – is highly spiritual, it’s food for the soul. When I am accused of belittling music, I say that music can help people. It is important to take the music to a venue that people like, instead of trying to drag the audience to our venues. Let us go to their location and see what their reaction will be to our music – and the reaction was very powerful. They were a very demanding audience; when they didn’t like something they threw bottles. It was a big risk. There were many colleagues who reacted against our initiative and others, including famous maestros, music teachers and professors, who believed in us. I believe there are no rules as to how classical music should be presented, apart from doing the best you can and giving a solid interpretation. What type of classical music appeals to young people? It is strange. I was worried when I played works by Alfred Schnitke in front of young people (the program included Beethoven and Schnitke). But then they told me they weren’t particularly keen on Beethoven, but they loved Schnitke. Young people are much more open to «new» music when it is presented to them in the right way. We should play Schnitke at rock festivals. Young people will later start to appreciate and want to listen more to Beethoven, Haydn and Handel. Music is about personal taste; it’s what you like. There is only good and bad music. How should music be taught today? We have started an educational program with the London Chamber Orchestra, which includes violin lessons at primary schools. It is a well-known fact that studying art improves students’ performance in the sciences. Every country I have visited has taken music out of the school curriculum. In London, I am situated right next to the Parliament, so every time an MP attends a concert I seize the opportunity to say something about it. There is a keen audience at the Athens Concert Hall’s Sunday morning series of concerts, aimed mostly at young people. In all my life, I have never before played in front of young people so serious and attentive. I assure you that they have a lot to gain from the work of the great classical composers. What do you aim to achieve with the the Camerata? I want to make the orchestra well-known on an international level. The Athens Concert Hall is already well-known in the realm of classical music, which is quite a close-knit community. The main thing is for the orchestra is to begin recording and touring abroad. Do you think there is a future for classical music? It was not such a long time ago that Bach was not in fashion… Until the 1950s, when, on Sir Neville Marriner’s initiative, there was a revival of Baroque music. The true future of classical music can be seen in the children and young people interpreting it. There is a future, if governments realize music is important and it is then taught properly in schools. There is a kind of fear and prejudice against art and artists, I don’t know why. I understand those who claim we must build more hospitals. But if we invest in art and culture on an international level, we may need fewer hospitals as there will be less violence…