Monday, October 29, 2007

Friday and Saturday

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.


buzz it!


Anonymous said...

Well, it's not a school choir, it just has the name of the sponsor, and with thirty people on stage, which means that the remaining sixty of the multi-national (!!!) choir of Thessaloniki had a little more to do (I was on the stage, I heard, believe me) with the flawed articulation, – among other things… (professional wannabe choirs and choirs with aspirations, should be more careful on such issues, don’t you think?). Anyway, it was well received that the first part of the 9th was mediocre and of course on the free ticket – audience quality ratio, you were soooo right…Same thing happened at the Megaron that Friday…
What you really should know is that the conductor of the Athens State Orchestra left the choir all alone to solve issues of entrance, dynamics, closures, tempo – with only one rehearsal the day before and one generale the morning of the concert as if it didn’t play an important part in the Symphony (well, as it proved, he had more problems to solve with the orchestra…).
Keep up the good work and lay low in the army, it helps!

Στέφανος Νάσος said...

First off, thank you for the comment and my apologies for a late answer.

I have to disagree on whether a private school can be a just a sponsor of a children choir; they looked very young and since I graduated from the brother school of the one in question, I have strong reasons to believe that it was indeed a school children choir: French-Greek school. About the multi-national choir I have no objections, and I see no reason to be surprised or annoyed by the presence of different nationalities in it...

About the rehearsal issues: I agree that one rehearsal and the dress-rehearsal on the day of the concert are not enough. It is however, the practice of our time. We shouldn't either forget that both choirs have directors -they should have prepare probably better their ensembles- and that their names were mentioned -for certain reasons I guess- in the programs...

private NS