One more week free; I couldn't miss the opportunity to listen to two more orchestras of Athens. On Friday, Athens State Orchestra presented a program dedicated to the national holiday of October 28th, while on Saturday, the municipal orchestra of Athens had a concert in the same venue, the Athens concert hall.
During the first concert we heard Beethoven's Leonora, the 3rd of them, and Symphony no. 9. Between these, two miniatures -indeed very charming- by the Greek composer Manolis Kalomiris. The main idea of the concept was freedom and its connection with war, or better, the fight for freedom, in accordance with the national holiday.
Two Greek choirs and four Greek soloist appeared next to the orchestra, under the direction of the orchestra's artistic director. In all a decent rendering of the works, with some highlights, e.g. the two miniatures by Kalomiris, and the third movement of the Symphony. Weak moments the first movement of the symphony, and the articulation of the choir in the last movement. Half of the choirs' members were youngsters however, pupils of a French-Greek school. I couldn't have any demand for a more clear articulation.
The municipal orchestra of Athens presented a less connected program, with three of Skalkottas' Greek dances (out of the 36), Beethoven's 5th piano concerto, and Tchaikovsky's fourth. It was however well chosen, since it covers some of the orchestra's weak sides. I was nevertheless, surprised by the quality they presented. Much better than before, more coherent playing, and with good woodwind and brass sections. Greek soloist on the piano, and Greek conductor (according to the program, of international stature) in their second collaboration within a year with this orchestra. I enjoyed much the dances and the symphony.
Now, one, or two disturbing things: this orchestra, since its foundation, gives concerts without entrance fee. That means, anyone going to the venue can listen to their concerts. They have their own audience, something very positive in my opinion, since they manage to perform always in full house when in their regular hall. Yesterday however, they played in the Athens concert hall, and for some reasons one could get beforehand the invitation from Athens' central CD shops. These invitation were given all out on the morning of the concert. The hall however, was not full, and I manage to get one invitation at the doors of the hall from the staff of the municipality... I guess they lost a couple of listeners this way.
By having a non-conventional audience, you get Saturday's result. An audience that has not much, if any at all, to do with classical music. Meaning, clapping between each movement, or each dance in the case of Skalkottas. And this doesn't disturb me at all; if people want to clap who am I to forbid it... (it means they like it!). But the last movement of Tchaikovsky fourth ends in a strange way, so we had clapping before the end too. Not to mention, the coughing, the mobile phones ringing, the talks, and the komboloi playing... (komboloi: an amulet like in the pictures here.) I tried hard to concentrate to the concert and exclude the noises from my spectrum. It wasn't very easy. I guess, it's just a matter of habit.