Young Greek composer gets top award in Moscow

Lena Tonia, aged 22 and still studying music at university, was awarded the top prize at the Jurgenson International Competition for Young Composers in Moscow. A fourth-year student at Aristotle University’s music faculty in Thessaloniki, the young Greek composer won the first prize in the string quartet category. She was the youngest entry among 145 contestants from 39 countries who took part in the competition, which is co-organized by the Russian Culture Ministry, the association of Russian composers and Moscow’s State Conservatory. The event is open to composers up to 40 years old. Tonia’s prize-winning piece, «Mnimonio,» a composition which she described as being about «those things that arrive to awaken our memory,» is an eight-minute piece for two violins, viola and cello. Tonia began her music studies at the age of 6 in her hometown of Alexandria, in northern Greece, and eventually gained entry into the music faculty at Aristotle University. «Composition is a life’s dream for me. Without realizing, I was led to this by my adoration for poetry and love for music,» said Tonia. «At the age of 15, I began writing music for lyrics I’d written, and turned to contemporary music in 2004 when, during my studies, I opted to focus on composition.» Tonia described the process of composition as a demanding, soul-searching experience. «It’s not easy. It requires a tremendous amount of work. You need to dive deep into yourself and convert your inner world into musical richness. The music exists inside me. It’s all emotion.» Her award at the Moscow music competition follows several domestic distinctions over the past couple of years. The young composer has secured early graduation a year ahead of her course’s regular five-year duration, as a result of her overall progress and distinctions. She already knows what lies next once she gains her degree in Thessaloniki. «The road for Greek musicians unfortunately leads abroad,» said Tonia. «I’m interested in taking a look at music beyond the frontiers of Greek reality, pursuing a new course of studies, and becoming acquainted with the way of thinking of foreign composers and how they perceive contemporary music.»

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