LARISSA, GREECE – The 2nd annual Thessaly Chamber Music Festival was launched with a thrilling concert at the Conservatory of Larissa on June 16 after a warm welcome and introduction by Vasos Papagapitos, the Founding President of its organizer, Chamber Music Hellas.
The mission of Chamber Music Hellas, a non-profit founded in New York with Marina Christina Baklava as its representative in Athens, is: “to introduce high quality classical chamber music,” especially to youth, with “accomplished artists who have performed at the world’s great stages” through a festival in “parts of Greece where people do not have the opportunity to enjoy this music artform.”
Vasos Papagapitos, who with his brother George pioneered high-end cruises to Greece and other parts of the world though Travel Dynamics International, believes the festival will also deepen and broaden Greece’s appeal around the world by putting it on the classical music map. About 20 people, including members of the Junior League travelled from America.
The Festival’s introductory piece was a pleasant surprise, Sextet for Flute, String Quartet, and Piano composed in 1947 by Mikis Theodorakis. The music was lyrical, but with somber moods, perhaps reflecting the pain of the people of Greece whose 20th century began with catastrophes and continued with a brutal World War II occupation and a cruel civil war.
Theodorakis and the Greek spirit, equally irrepressible, ensured the piece would not remain in darkness indefinitely, so tender passages were interspersed with evocations of the eternal playfulness and hope of children and the coming of spring with its bursts of new life. The final movement offers not a resolution – the civil war was still raging in 1947 – but a hint of resignation.
Papagapitos noted he wanted to present this different Theodorakis, one unknown to millions of Greeks who have been singing his popular music all their lives.
The Suite for Two Violins and Piano of Moritz Moszkowski was another testament to the care taken by the organizers in their choices both of pieces and musicians.
After the intermission, the guests were delighted by the Sonata for Flute and Piano by composer Lowell Lieberman, the Festival’s curator and the Artistic Director of Chamber Music Hellas.
The opening night closed with Robert Schuman’s Piano Quintet in E-flat Major. For the Schuman itself and the performance by the musicians, a single word suffices: Exquisite.
TAMING ALL THE NOTES – WITHOUT A SCRIPT
The second evening’s concert, a solo performance by pianist William Hobbs at the fine Folklore Museum of Larisa, was a tour de force. Beginning with Chopin and delighting with the lyrical and lively Ionian Suite by Manos Hadjidakis, Hobbs displayed his passion and virtuosity on a number of pieces, but the evening’s highlight – a dual one because the composer was in the audience – was his shattering performance of Christos Hatzis’ Through a Glass Darkly. By popular demand, the organizers added the piece to a later concert – the respected Greek-born composer who lives in Toronto was also thrilled by Hobbs’ playing.
The evening closed with a scintillating presentation of Robert Schuman’s Fantasy in C Major. The large crowd clamored for an encore and gratefully received another wonderful Schuman.
There was no doubt that the concerts were attracting serious classical music lovers – there was only one time when the audience mistakenly applauded Hobbs between movements. He later noticed the guests being more careful, so the gifted and friendly pianist winked, signaling it was time and delighting the crowd.
The Festival, definitely a moveable feast for music, food, and fellowship, moved to the Kursum Mosque in nearby Trikala for luscious servings of Theodorakis, Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach on June 18.
“La Veranda” at the Hotel Xenia in Portaria, with dazzling views of Volos and the Aegean, was the setting on Wednesday with Hobbs and Keith Robinson delighting with another piece by Liebermann in addition to a Chopin, and Arnold Bax’s Sonata for Viola and Piano.
The music of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries was represented when the tour reached Kissos-Pelion, beginning, apropos of the venue, the Church of Agia Marina, with Joseph Hayden’s The Seven Last Words of the Savior on the Cross.
Papagapitos also expressed his appreciation to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation as well as Consul General of Greece in New York, Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, for their support, and to the various municipalities for their assistance. The National Herald is among the Festival’s Media Sponsors.
While a future tour with a philosophical theme might explore why “all good things must come to an end,” musicians and guests alike are looking forward to being moved by another evening of divine music at an ecclesial setting as the Festival will draw to a close on June 23rd at the Church of Agios Nikolaos in Portaria. There will be pieces by Charles-Marie Widor, J.S. Bach, and Camille Saint-Saens and the Festival concludes with the latter’s delightful Carnival of Animals. The guests will no doubt be chanting “encore” – but they might have to wait ‘till next year.