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Culture

Greek Heritage Olympus Piano Trio Make Local Debut in Reading, PA

READING, PA – The Olympus Piano Trio – named for the home of the ancient Greek gods on Mount Olympus will make their local Reading debut at the WCR Center for the Arts on Friday, April 21 at 7:30 PM. The concert is part of the Friends of Chamber Music series and features violinist Regi Papa, cellist Ben Capps and pianist Konstantine Valianatos who met as students at the renowned Juilliard School. The three musicians discovered they all shared Greek heritage. Papa and Valianatos were born in Greece and Capps is Greek-American. They began playing together and formed the trio in 2010, as reported in the Reading Eagle. The Olympus Piano Trio performs a wide repertoire of classical masterpieces and champions the music of Greek and Diaspora composers.

Valianatos told the Eagle that he is looking forward to returning to Reading for this concert after having performed a solo recital at the Miller Center for the Arts.

Among the works scheduled to be performed are Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Trio elegiaque No. 1 in G minor; Antonin Dvorak’s Trio in E minor (“Dumky”); Beethoven’s Trio in D Major; and Odd World by Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzis who teaches at the University of Toronto.

An excerpt from a longer multimedia music-theater work composed by Hatzis in 2000, Odd World premiered in Toronto. Odd World is the third of eight movements and is named for its odd-numbered meters (e.g., 5/8 and 7/8).

Capps said, as reported in the Eagle, “We’ve been playing that piece for a long time. It’s become one of the staples of our repertoire. It’s one of our favorite pieces, because it’s so obviously Greek – it’s like a virtuosic dance piece. Audiences really respond well to it.”

Odd World is among the works on the trio’s first album which also includes Felix Mendelssohn’s second Piano Trio and Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor.

Born in Athens, like Papa, Valianatos graduated from Juilliard in 2012 and is currently working on his doctorate at the famed music school. Like his fellow trio members, he has a flourishing solo career in Europe and the United States. Among his achievements are 11 competition wins including six international ones.

Valianatos told the Eagle that he met Capps and Papa while he was still an undergraduate, and they were working on their master’s degrees. The trio has been already performed “quite a few concerts this year,” he said and just completed a residency at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. Performances in Greece are also part of their regular performing schedule.

As reported in the Eagle, “Valianatos said they have been working with composer Peter Winkler, on the faculty at Stony Brook University in New York, where Papa is completing his doctorate, who is writing a trio for them. They will be commissioning a friend to write a piece based on a Greek theme as well, as part of their effort to promote contemporary Greek music.”

About to perform his graduate recital on the evolution of the violin solo, Papa said that his career includes teaching, performing as a soloist with orchestras and in recitals, and as a chamber musician. But chamber music, he noted, “is my favorite thing because of the communication that happens when you play with fellow musicians, and then the audience is so close to witness it. It’s definitely the most satisfying aspect of music-making,” as the Eagles reported.

Papa’s parents are both professional violinists. Papa began playing at age 5, with his mother as “practice buddy” and his father as his chief teacher. As a teenager, he studied at the Doukas School in Athens, winning the Greek Eurovision Competition at age 15, which led to the opportunity, to study at Juilliard with a scholarship.

“I moved to New York City at 15. I was supposed to come with my mother, but I didn’t; I came by myself. I grew up in New York for about 15 years on my own,” Papa said, as reported in the Eagle.

He lived early on in Astoria, then moved to a dorm at Juilliard. The immigrant experience was “very scary,” he told the Eagle, being in a strange country and not knowing how to cook or even do laundry. After learning those skills, he was fine.

Papa was selected to participate in the Carnegie Hall Chamber Workshop in 2010 and worked with pianist Leon Fleischer, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and violinist Pamela Frank.

Born in New York to non-professional pianist parents, Capps, began cello lessons at age 4 because “they thought it would be a good instrument for me,” he observed as reported in the Eagle. After attending the Pre-College Division of Juilliard, Capps went on to the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, and then in 2010 received his master’s at Juilliard. During college, he studied under cellist David Soyer, a founding member of the well-known Guarneri String Quartet. Capps teaches at Hunter College while continuing to record and perform internationally.

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