Ellie Tsachtani Speaks about Her Flute Recital at Queens College

Musician Ellie Tsachtani spoke with The National Herald about her flute recital at Queens College and her upcoming projects. Photo by Avram Vrachionidis / Courtesy of Ellie Tsachtani

NEW YORK – Thessaloniki-native Ellie Tsachtani performed a flute recital at Queens College on May 3. The talented musician spoke with The National Herald about the recital, her connection to the Greek community of New York, and her upcoming projects.

When asked what was the most challenging aspect of putting together the recital, Tsachtani told TNH, “The pieces belong to the advanced flute repertoire and are challenging in terms of technique and interpretation. The biggest challenge in this occasion was stamina. The demand for a constant flow of attention and an inclusive awareness from one piece to another took a lot of physical, mental, and emotional energy but was totally worth it.”

Of the most rewarding aspect, she said, “I find the creative process equally satisfying and important as the final product. The rehearsals that took place under the supervision of my teacher and mentor Judy Mendenhall were truly inspiring and nourishing in preparation for the recital.”

She said that experience has taught her “that a musician that truly understands the nature of the job is someone who loves the preparation stage or in other words the rehearsals. The time spent in a practice room as well as in rehearsal with other collaborators is far greater than the time one spends on stage. I personally love the transformation that takes place during rehearsals. That is when you feel your understanding of the piece deepening and the chemistry between collaborators growing. Honestly it is such a magical process.”

Ellie Tsachtani performed in a flute recital with Haodong Wu on piano at the Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College on May 3. Photo: Courtesy of Ellie Tsachtani

When asked how she selected the pieces for the recital, Tsachtani told TNH, “I am very passionate about this specific program. I choose carefully music pieces that are compelling in that they reflect the uniqueness of different eras of classical music as well as a variety of themes. The program consists of pieces that are inspired by novels, theater, nature, and opera, and I strongly feel that this content is highly relatable and capable of deeply engaging audiences.”

She continued, “The CPE (Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach) flute sonata in a-minor is the opening piece of the concert and was composed in 1747. It is a piece written for solo flute and has three movements, a slow one and two fast, dance-like ones. In its entirety the piece gives the sense of a theatrical monologue that is contemplating moments of lyrical beauty as well as moments of dynamic and rhythmical concreteness. Moving on, Carl Reinecke’s Undine is a piece that is inspired by a romantic German novel, composed in 1882. This piece has a noticeable sense of flow in it as it is telling the story of a water spirit who seeks an immortal soul which can only be obtained through true love with a mortal man. Luscious melodies as well as nuanced and articulated musical passages tell the story in a sequence of four movements. Image, by Eugène Bozza, is another solo flute piece, which was written in 1939. The entire work comes across as an improvisation giving the listener a sense of mystery and liveliness that make the piece memorable. This piece has a remarkable power to lead audiences to believe that they themselves have entered a mystical forest full of musical bliss. Carmen Fantasy by François Borne was composed in 1900. This is a dramatic work inspired by the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet – one of my favorite operas – in which the composer explores variations on three principal musical themes very popular to the public. Finally, a set of five well-known Greek songs arranged for flute and piano by composers like Manos Hatzidakis and Michael Sougioul gave a warm close to the recital.”

Of working with pianist Haodong Wu, Tsachtani said, “This recital became a wonderful opportunity to meet Haodong Wu through my teacher Judy Mendenhall and begin rehearsing with her the program that I put together. Haogong is a wonderful artist and collaborator. Her talent, dedication, and professionalism made it a true pleasure to work with her.”

Of her upcoming projects, Tsachtani said, “It is my goal to create the Hellenic Ensemble which will consist of collaborating musicians performing music composed by Greek and Greek-American composers like Dinos Constantinides, George Tsontakis, Stylianos Dimou, Aris Antoniades, and others. As you may have noticed my goal is to engage repertoire from two generations – by established composers as well as upcoming ones –who pursued their education and career in the United States. That in and of itself organizes and reveals a cultural thread binding together the past and present activity of Greek and Cypriot composers which I find a powerful way to experience the history of our cultural roots.”

She continued, “My goal is to raise even more awareness of these outstanding artists and their work within the Greek and Cypriot community of New York. I have performed pieces by some of the composers mentioned and closely researched others. In that process, I discovered a vast richness of musical material that I want to bring forth. The rhythmical patterns and melodies of these works often reflect a true Greek DNA as we can find similarities between these contemporary pieces and Greek folk tunes that we are all familiar with. The genre may not be familiar to our community members yet, in that all of these composers write music in a contemporary style, but the content will definitely speak to every Greek heart. My goal is to organize and perform captivating concerts that will culturally enhance and entertain the Greek and Cypriot members of our community by bridging the familiar with the unknown.”

When asked about her experience as a freelance musician and her relationship to the Greek community, Tsachtani told TNH that “being a freelance musician in New York comes with challenges of every kind. Having no family in New York, I found myself confronted with difficulties. My life changed when I was introduced to the Kavourias family, Elita Weintraub, Chris Ioannou, and later on to the Pancyprian Association of NY, who became my family and support network. Emily Kavourias was the first person I met from the Greek community who showed me outstanding generosity and warmth. Her support has been consistent from the day we first met up to now. She sets an example with her inspiring personality, her take-charge spirit, and her kind heart. Elita Weintraub and Chris Ioannou, two incredibly empowered and giving women, sponsored me with housing and support of every kind at a time when financial hardship hit, and due to my student status back then, I was not allowed to earn an income in the United States. I owe them everything I have done since then as it is they who offered me all I needed to keep pursuing my dreams and goals. These three women treated me with kindness, have always been there for me, and introduced me to the Archdiocese of New York as well as the Greek and Cypriot communities where I had the opportunity to meet and work with wonderful individuals like Pancyprian Choir of NY Artistic and Musical Director Phyto Stratis and so many others.”

Tsachtani concluded by saying, “I consider myself incredibly lucky and hope that I am able to pay forward down the road for all the support, respect, and love I have received.”