Meike Mieke, June 1, 2010

In the slipstream of the subject
The Camerata Europaea conducted by Maria Makraki presented exciting works by contemporary European composers. A concept that is as simple as it is convincing brought a breath of fresh air to the concert hall: since November 2008 the Camerata Europaea has been presenting orchestral works by composers from three European countries in its “Trio Europa” series.

Under its artistic director Maria Makraki, the ensemble tapped boldly into the enormous musical cask called ‘Europe’ and on May 17 in the Berlin Concert House it presented composers who—hardly known at all in this country—are highly esteemed in their home countries of Greece, Cyprus and Italy. The ensemble performed works for a string orchestra and soloist by Periklis Koukos (Greece), Silvia Colasanti and Domenico Giannetta (Italy) and Sophia Serghi (Cyprus).

With works by Serghi, Giannetta and Colasanti the first part of the concert contrasted sharply with the second; the audience was drawn into the slipstream of extra-musical images and subjects that had served to inspire the still quite young composers. The piece Remembrance of Things Past, written for the string quartet by the award-winning Cypriot composer Sophia Serghi, generated an atmosphere of suspense that was sustained throughout the concert. A slow violin solo (Ulrike Petersen) carried the audience away to a transcendental world of memories cast in sounds, which were dramatically superimposed in the middle section, before ending on a haunting, oriental note. Serghi took her inspirations from Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, from the poems of Rainer Marcel Rilke and Stéphane Mallarmés, from the Kama Sutra, as well as from the works of a thirteenth century Sufi poet. It was with extreme precision, unusual techniques and delicacy of feeling for the nuances of the composition that the four soloists of the Camerata Europaea generated Serghis’s enraptured soundscape.

The discovery of the evening was the work Chronos (the personification of time in Greek mythology) for a string orchestra by the talented young Italian composer Domenico Gianetta. In what was described as a ‘passionate episode, framed by two mystic parts’ it was precisely this passion, which—following a crisp overture and a ‘miniature cell comprising four notes’—exceeded all expectations. A violin-filled firmament and a sudden, overwhelming harmony in the middle part of the work left the listener in a state of wonder. How is music actually composed these days? Are we seeing a return to harmony? Experimenting in moderation?

The crowning moment was Silvia Colasanti’s work Paths of Blood … listen to Friedensreich Hundertwasser (Sentieri di sangue … ascoltando Friedensreich Hundertwasser). She was able to successfully convey to the audience the deep impression made on her by Hundertwasser’s picture Red Tongue – Paths of Blood – Smoke of Water, the wafting strains of the violins capturing their attentiveness like a vividly coloured painting. A haunting violin solo (Ulrike Petersen) accompanied in radiant accord by the ensemble segued into a humming, as though from a thousand ants. Challenging glissandi were passed from voice to voice. Is it the sound of blood rushing through our veins that we hear, or are we in the middle of a beehive, or is it whistling bombs shortly before impact that we hear from the safety of a bunker, is how an older listener later described the concert? Under the careful leadership of their conductor Maria Makraki the ensemble conveyed the wealth of associations inherent in the composition in the most outstanding way possible. Silvia Colasanti is deemed to be one of Italy’s most successful up and coming young composers. Her works are published by the tradition-rich house Casa Ricordi.

It was with verve that, in the second part of the concert, the artistic director presented Perikli Koukos, who is also from the conductor’s home country of Greece and is currently one of the country’s most successful conductors. Koukos is an avowed eclectic who seeks his compositional approach in a ‘new tonality’. He paraphrases a tonal range around c with fantastic, rhythmic ideas and wonderful melodies. The performance included three works—Adagio for strings, two Tangos and the Chorika for piano, violin and strings—by the composer, who teaches composition and organises festivals in Athens. On the piano, the composer’s son Dimitris Koukos. Solo violin was the enthusiastic Ulrike Petersen.

It is due to the amazing dedication of Maria Makraki that young composers such as Serghi, Gianetta and Colasanti, or famous state composers like Periklis Koukos can be regularly heard in the German capital. Every Trio-Europa concert is preceded by regular contact with the cultural representatives of European countries in Berlin, the study of numerous scores and—not least—the acquisition of funds for the project orchestra Camerata Europaea, which is publicly funded.

The ensemble’s brilliance and power of persuasion is the result of the professional attitude of its members and their delight in new compositions. The members of the Camerata Europaea have the potential required to form a European orchestra, which is still seeking its institutional domicile, in Berlin.

The fourth Trio-Europa concert Antiquity and Postmodernism was only possible with the generous support of the Greek Embassy in Berlin, the Fondazione Spinola Banna in Rome and the Berlin Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus.

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