He is Principal B’ in the cellos of the State Orchestra of Athens, but also an active musician in a multitude of musical forms. THE Asterios Puftisis a soloist in her concert State Orchestra of Athens, Music – Poetry I, on November 10 and performs the new work of the chief musician and composer Alkis Baltas, “Loss” for cello and orchestra.
Shortly before appearing on the stage of the Megaros Musikis, he talks to NEWS 24/7 about the new composition he will present and analyzes moments from his personal journey.
You are going to perform the first performance of Alki Balta’s new work, “Loss” for solo cello and string orchestra. How does the cello converse with the orchestra in this composition?
“This particular work captures the deep sadness over the loss of his distinguished colleague Reno Balta, the composer’s brother. Except for a small passage, which is in the middle of the piece and moves at a fast and agitated pace, the rest of the movement consists of a complex of melodies that suggest religious fervor. Consequently, the slow and sweeping cello phrases dominate, moving alongside the evocative orchestral accompaniment. This combination leads the listener to witness a narrative of overwhelm and introspection..”
What would you say are the influences of the work?
“”Loss” was written in 2022. It is a lament, according to the standards of old masters (e.g. JSBach) There are hidden musical symbols in the work such as the note D that dominates at the beginning and at the end of the work as a distant symbolism in the name “Renos”. In the solo part of the cello, the held broad notes of the orchestra are frequent. The symbolic use of pauses is also common in the work. About the middle of the composition a fast agitated section is inserted. Just before the end, the solo cello stops playing and remains silent. The very short theme from “mourning for the departure of the beloved brother” from the project “Capriccio” by JS Bach and then the orchestra continues with a prayer-like epilogue.”
How would you describe the compositional idiom of Alki Balta?
“According to the composer, the writing idiom is a mixture of tonal elements and elements of extended tonality. For me, his music brings out elements of classical composition, with influences from JS Bach, D. Shostakovichemerging, at the same time, an aura of poetic dimension.”
State Orchestra of Athens
The composition is dedicated to the memory of the cellist Reno Baltas, who was for many years Principal Second Cello of the State Orchestra of Thessaloniki. Did you have the chance to meet him?
“I had the honor of meeting him personally and we were given the limited opportunity to exchange views, mainly on cello technique. Renos Baltas had a special approach to the use of the bow, as well placed his right hand, which operated the bow, higher than any other cellist I have observed. He had told me that this specific movement produced a special sound, brighter and more direct, as it offered more freedom, as well as the feeling of “breathing” in the sound effect. I can emphasize that I embrace this particular point of view, albeit to a lesser extent.”
Does the fact that Renos Baltas has been your counterpart make you more aware?
In a symphony orchestra, especially in the string groups, the role of the Second Principal is pivotal, as he is called upon to act as a link between the First Principal and the other fellow musicians,
I am sure that the deceased was aware of his role in the orchestra and performed his duty conscientiously. So, undeniably, there is a feeling of solidarity.”
How is the title “Loss” reflected musically?
“Within the slow tempo that dominates the work, alongside the narrative march of the cello, the orchestration captures sadness, with intense harmonies, as well as sudden changes of dynamics. As far as the visual of the interpretation is concerned, the performer is asked to render the loss approaching, to some extent, the art of acting. The rest, on stage…”
You did your tertiary education in London. How was the transition from Greek to English data?
“My transition from the Contemporary Conservatory of Thessaloniki to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama was a great challenge, as I had to adapt to very different circumstances. The multitude of excellent musicians from all over the world, the highest demands, alongside the high financial figures, were a huge challenge, which I had to overcome. Nevertheless, my six years studying in the UK defined my subsequent development, as it offered me a comprehensive program to organize and improve my study, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with many colleagues from different cultures. At the same time, my involvement with Greek music, as member of a rebetical companyhelped me to keep my connection with the homeland alive.”
Was there a professor who particularly influenced you, by example – perhaps – and by his advice?
“To render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, my first teacher Russi Dragnev it gave me the inspiration to follow the path of music. THE Stefan Popov taught me to believe in myself when everyone doubts you. THE Oleg Kogan helped me improve my sound by identifying energy in performance as a necessary component of development.”
What advice do you give to your students?
“Besides the daily practice of the cello, have broad interests and draw inspiration from all kinds of music.”
How do you deal with those who love the cello but have no talent?
“With hard work, patience and the will to progress. I focus on their qualities and try to develop them.”
State Orchestra of Athens
In addition to being Principal B’ in the cellos of the State Orchestra of Athens, you also often perform chamber music concerts with your prominent colleagues. Do you have favorite instrument combinations? Preference for composers?
“I had the pleasure and honor of working with outstanding colleagues. I was a member of the famous trio “Opus I“, which developed intense artistic and educational activity, with the violinist and conductor Dimitris Semsis and the pianist Yannis Tsanakaliotis.
Today, I work with the pianist Thalia Athanitis in the “Duo Piacere“, with the guitarist Nikos Balogiannis in the “Duo is Orchestra”, with the violinists C. Scarf, B. Suka and the violinist A. Trano in the string quartet “AENAON” and with a host of fine musicians in “Athens Classical Players“.
Although I feel quite complete, I would happily embrace the piano trio repertoire again, with a clear preference for the Russian composers (Arensky, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky). Regarding my participation in the alternative rock band “Sasha Gapeau“We’ll need a separate interview!”
Which composer do you think brought out the soloist role of the cello for you?
“JS Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, J. Haydn, Robert Schumann and, in part, Johannes Brahms, are some of the important composers who realized the soloist potential of the cello. Mainly, however, the Dvorak concerto is the milestone work, which places the cello emphatically on the map of solo instruments.
In the 20th century, the presence of the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and his insistence on creating new repertoire has given us 263 new works, with leading contributions from D. Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev and B. Britten.”
What are the most moving moments you have experienced as a member of the Orchestra?
“The pianist Nikolay Petroff in the 1st concerto of F. Liszt, the violinist Vadim Repin in Beethoven’s concerto, the violinist Gideon Kremer in Shostakovich’s 2nd concerto, the pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja in the 2nd concerto of J. Brahms and the 1st symphony of the same composer under the direction of Leonidas Kavakos, are some of the unique moments in my career in the orchestra.”
As a teacher, do you encourage your students to pursue a career in music?
“In the field of music, specific characteristics are required that lead to success. Talent, the will for hard work and development, as well as the cultivation of professional relationships form the trilogy of prerequisites. I try to encourage them to show off their talent and at the same time correct their imperfections. Those of my students who make the important decision of their professional involvement in music, I now admonish them as a colleague.”
What made you choose the cello?
“When I presented myself at the New Conservatory of Thessaloniki, in 1988, I met with the founder and Artistic Director of the institution, chief musician Karolos Trikolidis, who was a prominent musical personality for Greece, but mainly for the city. As a conductor, he was determined to channel the student potential of the conservatory to all the instruments of the symphony orchestra. As soon as he saw me, he declared that I would start the cello, maybe because of my physique! I confess that the love and acceptance between me and the instrument was delayed for some time, but our many years of coexistence led me to unexplored, adventurous paths, which otherwise I would not have discovered. I will always be grateful to the cello for all it has given me and I will continue to serve it with humility and respect.”
Music – Poetry I
Friday November 10, 20:30
Athens Concert Hall
Buy online here