Beethoven cycle: The nine symphonies with Kurt Masur

The Beethoven cycle, with the world-famous Kurt Masur conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra in all nine symphonies at three concerts this last week, was the major musical event of the new year. It was a great success for the Athens Concert Hall, thanks to the sponsorship of Alpha Bank, which, according to the program, felt it «an honor and a satisfaction to be able to contribute to art and culture.» Tickets were sold out immediately, particularly for tonight’s performance of the Ninth Symphony, with Schiller’s «Ode to Joy» in the fourth movement sung by the London Philharmonic Orchestra Choir and the Manolis Kalomiris Children’s Choir conducted by Nikos Malliaras. Soprano Christine Brewer, the mezzo-soprano Caroline Masur (the conductor’s daughter), tenor Thomas Studebaker and bass Alastair Mile are the soloists. The final performance will be a piano solo by Professor Aris Garoufalis playing three last sonatas by Beethoven, op. 109, op. 110 and op. 111. It was «the realization of my life’s dream,» as Garoufalis told a press conference, where Kurt Masur spoke of a London that has not only millionaires but true friends of music that fill the concert halls whenever the historic LPO plays. When the orchestra was founded in 1932, Masur was 5 years old (he was born in Silesia in 1927). «Having worked as a conductor with the New York Philharmonic, I thought I had served with the best, but I changed my mind after I joined the London Philharmonic,» he said, speaking warmly of all the musicians, who are only paid for actual performances, have no social security and are truly «musical idealists.» As for London, he said it has now taken the place of Vienna as the musical capital of the world. Asked about the new acoustics at Milan’s La Scala, where he recently played, he said that while good, they were not as good as those at the Athens Concert Hall. Now 77 years old, still with a youthful bearing in his tuxedo up on the podium, firmly rooted to the ground yet in continuous motion, he seemed like a giant and was applauded accordingly. «Every time I conduct a Beethoven symphony, I find something new, a new challenge,» he said, with justification.