Classical music returns to its roots

Something rather attractive and different happened last Thursday at the Athens Concert Hall. The evening began with a Hungarian traditional music ensemble, which took the stage to interpret works from the country’s folk music scene; following this, three classical music soloists performed works by Haydn, Liszt and Bartok. All the great composers’ works had been inspired by the previous, folk, pieces. The idea of great or lesser-known composers being inspired by traditional music is an interesting one, indeed, and it was a rare treat to experience the two versions together. Last Thursday, the opportunity was provided by the Janosi Ensemble from Hungary, followed by violin virtuoso Leonidas Kavakos, pianist Peter Nagy and Jan Vogler on the cello. The occasion marked the first concert of this year’s Chamber Music Festival at the Athens Concert Hall (the second concert took place yesterday). «The festival has completed a decade of continuous presence, covering a large area of the chamber music repertoire,» says Kavakos, who, besides being one of the event’s principal soloists, is also the festival’s artistic director. «In previous years, the festival focused on the works of one composer, or else works in a particular theme; in my opinion, this year’s theme of how elements of traditional music were incorporated in the works of great Central European composers is a spectacular one. Our aim was to show that folk music played a great part in the creation of classical music, by presenting a great spectrum of works by Haydn, Brahms, Bartok and others – the roots of all the works presented during the festival go back to folk music.» Besides Kavakos, Nagy and Vogler, other musicians appearing in the Chamber Music Festival are clarinetist Charles Neidich, viola soloist Nobuko Imai, piano duet Giorgos Petrou and Christos Papageorgiou, Dimitris Desyllas and Michalis Diakogiorgis both on percussion, as well as the Tokyo String Quartet. «The festival’s high level of quality is guaranteed,» says Kavakos. «Nevertheless, what is important in a concert is the chemistry which is created among the musicians. And that is something one cannot foresee – you can only see it once you start working. When the chemistry is good, it’s like magic; when you don’t have it, it can be very disagreeable.» In tonight’s concert – the festival’s third – Imai is joined by Kavakos, Neidich, Vogler, Petrou, Papageorgiou, Desyllas and Diakogiorgis to interpret works by Zoltan Kodaly, Bartok and Brahms. On Thursday, Kavakos and Nagy will interpret piano and violin sonatas by Leos Janacek, Bartok and George Enescu, while the festival ends on Sunday, February 17, with the Tokyo String Quartet interpreting works by Brahms. Would Kavakos consider organizing a similar event in order to explore the influence of Greek folk music in classical works? «The exact same thing happened with our local music,» says Kavakos. «It would be very nice to have a festival with chamber music works based on Greek folk tradition, but I’m not sure how and where to find the material. Things are still pretty scattered and disorganized in this country. I asked the concert hall’s music library to provide me with a list of Greek chamber music works and they delivered, but we only have titles. Most of the works were never published and we don’t even know where they are.» Chamber Music Festival at the Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 010.728.2000.

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