One man’s passion for classical music

Dimitris Arapis is one of those rare people who exude a disarming, genuine enthusiasm when talking about his work. A self-taught composer of symphonic works, he has always worshipped the so-called classical music genre. Recently, he collaborated with renowned orchestras in a series of concerts which included his own as well as major Russian works, in aid of SOS Children’s Villages Greece. Under the baton of maestro Valery Polyansky and supported by the participation of cellist Denis Shapovalov, the Russian State Symphony Orchestra started the concerts in Thessaloniki last month, followed by Athens and Moscow. The Gala Concerts 2009, held under the aegis of President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, took place with the collaboration and support of the Greek and Russian ministries of Culture, the Greek National Tourism Organization as well as the Cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. «I have given numerous concerts in Russia, as well as in Hungary; one of my works was choreographed by the Bolshoi Ballet and was subsequently performed from the United States to Turkey. Russia, however, is an entirely different story,» Arapis told Kathimerini. «The country’s great tradition is very much alive; they have a great love for symphonic music. That is why I often go to Russia; they love music, they seek it. Having said that, the Thessaloniki audience was up on its feet – they wouldn’t let the orchestra go. Though the Thessaloniki Concert Hall was half full, we had four encores.» The composer lives in the exclusive northern suburb of Aghios Stefanos, where he has also established his studio. Can he live off his works? «This is not feasible in Greece,» he noted. «I carry on though, but at a personal cost: I don’t have a family. You can’t have everything.» How does he compose his music? «I have a number of samplers. I play the music on the piano and then pass it on to the sampler, that is how the orchestration takes place. I also have two powerful programs on the computer which turn the material into a music score. Even computers can make mistakes, however, so I have two collaborators who process the material on paper.» After growing up listening to great German, Austrian and Russian composers, does he feel that classical music is over today? «Not at all, great music is still being composed in this field, it’s simply not highlighted. The funny thing is that people do hear quite a lot of symphonic music, even though they are not aware of it. You know where? At the cinema – and they like it. Lots of soundtracks, which in essence are symphonic works, are highly popular. We are stuck with vapid, light stuff these days, however. People are asking for different things, but they are not given to them, for a variety of reasons. Take a look at the London musicals, for instance. OK, so it’s not Wagner, but it’s not that vapid either. This may sound a bit much, but there is a generalized policy of keeping people sedated and sleepy.» How does the composer feel about classical music? «Symphonic music is the scientific or literal approach to music. It has multiple levels of thought and emotion, there is a specific distance to cover, but one with lots of parallel roads. But I don’t underestimate singing. As Mikis Theodorakis says, ‘a good song demands the same kind of power as a symphony.’ A good song, that is, one that talks to various generations. This is found in the work of Mikis and of Manos Hatzidakis, in Latin American music, jazz and Russian folk music.» Theodorakis holds a special place in Arapis’s artistic career: «I met him in 1996. The Bolshoi company was organizing a Maria Callas tribute and Mikis was conducting one of his works. The next day, one of my ballets, ‘Zeus,’ was going on stage in Moscow. He came to the rehearsals and we started talking. The other night, at the Athens Concert Hall, he came in for quarter of an hour and ended up staying for three hours.» How does Arapis stimulate his passion for classical music? «Through life itself, daily life as much as history,» he said. «One can draw inspiration from the events of last December, for instance. It’s important because music is an international language, it has a universal quality. The hard thing is to capture the importance of each incident. Composers have their antennas extended. Music has the ability to knock on the emotional and then the intellectual side, it is inexplicably uplifting. It sweeps you off your feet.»