State Orchestra looks forward to busy season

Highly determined despite its problems, the Athens State Orchestra (KOA) welcomes the new season with a rich program of events. Starting off tonight with a concert at the Athens Concert Hall, the rest of 2006 and the first half of 2007 will feature further performances at this venue and others around the capital, as well as lots of other activities. Continuing the Mozart cycle, KOA, under the baton of its director Vyron Fidetzis, will play Mozart’s Concerto for Three Pianos and an Orchestra, K. 242 and his aria «Per Questa Bella Mano,» two works which the orchestra will perform for the first time, as well as two compositions by von Weber and Schumann tonight. The ensemble will be accompanied by pianists Yiannis and Eleni Halleker and Eleni Kikiza, bass-baritone Christophoros Staboglis and double bassist Takis Kapoyiannis. At yesterday’s press conference, Fidetzis presented the entire program for the new season. Highlights include three joint collaborations with the Athens Concert Hall: Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet «Swan Lake» in mid-December, where the orchestra will join forces with the Kiev National Opera Ballet, the staging of Richard Strauss’s opera «Electra» next March and two opera galas at the end of October and in early November. Renowned soprano Anna Tomowa-Sintow will lead the first gala, on October 29. The second one, on November 11, will feature young opera singers who will attend the seminar that Tomowa-Sintow will give following her performance. Further events at the concert hall include the «Faust Cycle,» which will consist of different works inspired by the story of Faust (who sold his soul to the devil) by composers like Wagner, Gounod, Schumann and others. «I was inspired by the theme of Faust, because I find it very up-to-date,» said Fidetzis. The five Faust concerts will kick off at the end of November and will run to early June. Apart from the ongoing tribute to Mozart, the orchestra has also planned commemorative concerts on the occasion of the 100th anniversary from the death of Edvard Grieg and the 150th anniversary from the birth of Sir Edward Elgar, which will coincide in 2007. Equally important is the third cycle of the Greek Music Celebrations. The celebrations will this year honor Greek composer and conductor Dimitris Agrafiotis, who will lead the orchestra in one of his own compositions on April 20. Running to April 27, the event will include a conference on «Tradition and Globalization: Adaptation or Resistance,» in collaboration with the Union of Greek Musicians. The Benaki Museum’s Pireos Street annex will host performances of the Mozart, Shostakovich and Schumann cycles and the Elgar and Grieg tributes, among others. Highlights at the National Gallery and Glyptotheque will include the presentation of all of Mozart’s violin and cello quintets. «Now that we are also equipped with the Glyptotheque, it is easier to provide the Athens State Orchestra with a concert venue,» said Marina Lambraki-Plaka, director of both the National Gallery and the Glyptotheque. Elaborating on the Benaki Museum’s interest in Greek music (its activities include housing the archives of composers Nikolaos Mantzaros and Yiannis Papaioannou and others), museum director Angelos Delivorias said that KOA can consider the museum’s new wing on Pireos its home. The new annex has already hosted concerts by the New Hellenic Quartet and is hoping for a more permanent collaboration with the Orchestra of Colors. The Athens State Orchestra also boasts a brand-new ensemble, titled Ichochroma, which will make its debut at the Arts Center of Halandri on December 7 under Fidetzis. KOA is also planning to continue touring, both around Greece and abroad. «We have visited 20 Greek cities in the past two years, from Kyparissia and Kalamata to Trikala, Samos and Mesolongi,» said Fidetzis. The orchestra was recently in Rhodes and Myconos (where it opened the new Grypareion Cultural Center) and is scheduled to travel to Istanbul in early January. «As of today, KOA has its own website and we are about to launch a small magazine, to be published once every two months,» Fidetzis said. The magazine will feature news of KOA artists, but also aims at establishing a dialogue with the public. Other plans in the works include an educational program for primary schools, in collaboration with musician Ilias Sakalak, which will entail the launching of CDs, posters and books. The orchestra is hoping for the Ministry of Culture’s support in this venture. The orchestra’s first international album release marks another step forward. The CD, with works by Manolis Kalomoiris, will be launched sometime in March or April next year by the Naxos label. Despite all that, KOA continues to face daunting problems, the most pressing one being the lack of a permanent base for concerts and rehearsals. «We are constantly looking for a venue. We cannot organize educational concerts or concerts with other ensembles to the extent that large orchestras do abroad,» said Nikos Haliassas, president of the orchestra’s Musicians’ Association. The Athens Concert Hall has provided halls for rehearsal, but since the institution has to accommodate other orchestras as well, last year KOA had to move around the [Athens Concert Hall] as often as four times in one week to rehearse. «The constant movements are very costly and cause a lot of damage. We have sent letters and made appeals to the ministry, but nothing has been done.»