New York.- By Vicki J. Yiannias
The Onassis Cultural Center, continuing its season of not only enlightening but also entertaining the public with high-level events by and about Hellenes and Hellenic civilization hosted a performance of classical selections interpreted for brass, in a generous presentation by the Melos Brass Quintet and accompanying soprano Maria Milodaki, at Carnegie Hallʼs Zankel Hall in New York, on Friday evening, November 16. The concert, by invitation only, was fully booked.
Although Ms. Milodakiʼs performance which included Gluckʼs “Iphigénie en Tauride”, Massenetʼs “Manon”, Mozartʼs “Idomeneo”, and Verdiʼs “La Traviata” and others, was frequently moving, the mood of the concert was festive and the mood bright with the genial members of the quintet highlighted by Ms. Milodakiʼs charming and delicate stage presence, her years of training in acting, improvisation and the art of performance, serving her well.
The Melos Brass Ensemble, which takes its name from the ancient Greek word for melody, has as its goal to promote brass chamber music by interpreting works from the international repertoire and to encourage Greek composers to write for brass instruments.
The members of the ensemble are Sokratis Anthis, trumpet, Panagiotis Kessaris, trumpet, Antonis Lagos, horn, Spyros Farounghias, trombone, Pavlos Georgiadis, tuba.
The quintet played selections by Bach, Mozart, and Bizet, among others, several traditional dance arrangements, and “Four Greek Dances” by the Greek composer Nikolaos Skalkotas, providing a rare opportunity to hear the intriguing work of one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century and, it can be said, the greatest Greek composer of his time.
Athens-born Ms. Milodaki, who is a scholar of the Onassis Foundation, studied piano and classical singing at the Athens Conservatory with the bass F. Voutsinos, the countertenor A. Christofellis, and the baritone K. Paschalis, studied at the Amsterdam Conservatory and the MusikhochschuJe, in Frankfurt, and participated in the Aegean Opera.
Ms. Milodaki (also a graduate of the Law School of the University of Athens and working on her doctorate in musicology at the Sorbonne), pursued her vocal studies for two years in Milan, winning the 2003 Enrico Caruso, the national competition to represent Greece in the 1999 Biennale for young artists in Rome, and the 2003 Francesco Martini bel canto competition. She is currently studying with Renata Scotto as a member of the Opera Studio of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome.
She has performed for the most prestigious venues in Greece: the National Theatre of Greece, the Opera House of Athens, The Chamber Opera of Athens, the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, the Athens Concert Hall, and with many national ensembles, including the National Orchestra of Cyprus.
The Melos Brass Ensemble, for whom a number of contemporary Greek composers have created outstanding works, have established themselves as a formidable presence in brass chamber music, performing in Greece and elsewhere in Europe.
Created in 1989 within the framework of the Philippos Nakas Conservatory in Athens, the ensemble founded the annual Melos Brass Summer Academy in Corfu in partnership with the Department of Music of the Ionian University and the Municipality of Corfu.
Both of the trumpet artists in the ensemble, Socratis Anthis and Panagiotis Kessaris, as well as trombone artist Spyros Farounghias, were born on Corfu. All five members of the ensemble belong to the National Symphony Orchestra of Greece and all have studied with important musicians and performed with many national and international orchestras internationally.
Sokratis Anthis, who was born on Corfu (as were trumpet artist Panagiotis Kessaris and trombone artist Spyros Farounghias), was a founding member of the Melos Brass quintet as well as the Mantzaros Chamber Music Orchestra; Mr. Anthis worked closely with Manos Hadjidakis for twenty years, playing at all his concerts and on all his recordings. Panagiotis Kessaris, a student of Mr. Anthis at the Philippos Nakas Conservatory, also studied at the Mantzaros Philharmonic Society. He is principal musician in the Athens State Orchestra — a position previously held by Mr. Anthis.
Spyros Farounghias began studying at the Mantzaros Philharmonic Society and received his diploma at the Raimondis Conservatory. He is principal musician in the orchestra of the Greek National Opera — a position previously held by Socratis Anthis.
Athens-born horn-player Antonis Lagos, who began his distinguished career very early in life — he received his first music lessons from his father at the age of six — received his diploma with distinction at the Athens Conservatory and his post-graduate diploma at the Trossigen State Academy of Music.
Thessaloniki-born Tuba artist Pavlos Georgiades graduated with distinction from the New Conservatory of Thessaloniki then continued his studies at the University of Music and Theater in Hanover.
All five musicians also teach their art: Socratis Anthis teaches at the National Conservatory and the Philippos Nakas Conservatory, where he is head of the brass department; Mr. Kessaris teaches at the Athens Conservatory and the Philippos Nakas Conservatory; Antonis Lagos teaches at the Ionian University, the Phillipos Nakas Conservatory. the Raimondis Conservatory, and the Municipal Conservatory of Agia Paraskevi; Spyros Farounghias teaches at the Municipal Conservatory of Kalamata and the Municipal Conservatory of Agia Paraskevi; and Pavlos Georgiades teaches at the Thessaloniki State Conservatory.