APRIL 29 - MAY 5, 2011 By Saskia Constantinou SASKIA’S CHOICE 73 AROUND THE WORLD Philadelphia Philarmonic Orchestra Amazing Alex Alex Chaushian, the Artistic Director of the Pharos Chamber Festival, always plays the cello with a rare passion love the rich, warm sound of a well played cello, but in bad hands it can give one a headache. Alex Chaushian is definitely in the former category. When watching and listening to him, one is aware that his cello is literally an extension of his body and soul. He is mesmerising and a very exciting artist, full of emotional depth. Fortunately, he comes fairly often to Cyprus, and is the Artistic Director of the Pharos Chamber Festival, currently in its 11th year. Ahead of the festival, we had an opportunity to talk. “I studied with my grandfather from the age of seven till fourteen, and it’s sure that without him, I would not be playing the cello today. I was very lucky with subsequent teachers too – Pergamenschikov, Geringas, and Ferenc Rados whom I regard as the greatest musician I have ever met. I’ve also had lessons with Steven Isserlis”, and with a hint of a smile, “in my younger days. But now I would say that I am more influenced by the musicians with whom I work including Diemut Poppen, Ashley Wass, Evgeny Sudbin, Julia Fischer – all great artists.” Alex is a serious man, extremely dedicated and disciplined and yet when the curtain comes down, during a post-concert drink, he is relaxed, jovial and fun. “Of course I would rather take a beautiful woman with me on a desert island than CDs,” he says, laughing. Alex is an extremely confident performer and looks very relaxed on stage. “Cello playing is not that difficult, the most important is to be free, to know when and how to relax – both your hands and mind and, of course, a little practice helps!” “The interpretation is a very personal matter, every artist is unique in what they see and feel; but for me, the key is being faithful to the score and the composer. Whatever one is searching for, can be found there. Maybe if I was a composer, I could reply more precisely, but being convincing is of paramount I Alex Chaushian importance.” The adage practice makes perfect is one which Alex espouses. “To achieve a high level of performance, one has to practise in such a way. Scales, exercises and studies help, but another good approach is to think of oneself as a sportsman, who must build and tune the muscles. Most of the important work though, comes from the brain.” Alex’s repertoire is extensive so asking him to select a favourite work is tricky. “Well, usually the concerto I am currently performing, but the Schumann has a special place for me as it is the most difficult and yet most sensitive piece of music written for the cello.” Chamber music forms an integral part of Alex’s life which he feels is an amazing form of communication. “I love playing with friends – it’s re- warding and fulfilling. What is wonderful about the Pharos Festival is especially the opportunity to make music with new musicians and the subsequent friendships. And this is surely one of the most beautiful parts of Cyprus. I don’t know if your readers know, but this festival is one of the most sought after in the world, and despite the economic crisis hitting everyone, the reputation and standards have remained high. Quality has always prevailed here and it’s terribly important for the image, locally and abroad.” Literally bubbling with enthusiasm, Alex encourages newcomers to chamber music to come. “Buy tickets for every night – each concert is unique, has something special. You will only go away from each experience and evening a richer person.” LOCAL EVENTS visionary spirit and dedicated to artistic excellence • The International Pharos Chamber Music vision DON’ T and iinnovation, the festival makes the high art of Festival will begin with a piano recital M I SS chamber of Beethoven Piano Sonatas by Paavali IT cham music accessible with performances of Jumppanen on May 6 at the Shoe Factory, the hi highest standards. Nicosia. Tickets are available from www.pharostickets.org or telephone 7000 9304. The festival, now in its 11th year, will then move ve by teleph to the Royal Manor House, Kouklia on May 24 for • Although seemingly far away, it is a good idea to five consecutive nights of fine chamber music led by highly spirited and talented Daishin Kashimoto, diarise mark June 2 in your diary. The legendary concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic. jazz pianist Bruce Barth will join forces with bassist Flo Moore and drummer Stephen Keogh at the Shoe The varied and balanced programme will include Mozart, Arensky and a fantastic arrangement for Factory, Nicosia for an unforgettable programme string trio of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. of authentic jazz tunes. Book online now – www. Be part of this internationally renowned festival which pharostickets.org or call 7000 9303. Booking is essential as seats are extremely limited. attracts over 2,000 visitors annually. Guided by a • Bad news has descended on Philadelphia with the orchestra’s decision to declare bankruptcy. In America, one can file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy which is a voluntary declaration and allows the orchestra, under court jurisdiction to have the opportunity to re-organise themselves, while being given a breather from certain debts and obligations. While famous London author Norman Lebrecht said that “it’s the worst outcome”, former Governor Rendell said: “It doesn’t matter if the orchestra continues performing. If they stopped, that would be something different.” This is the first major US orchestra to declare bankruptcy, making the move more shocking when taking into account the ensemble’s prestige and history. Director of the Symphonic Services of the American Federation of Musicians Christopher Durham said: “There are wonderful examples of orchestras who have not just survived the recent economic turbulence but have grown - including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.” Musicians have already given concessions and have proposed more, which, if adopted would save millions in operating costs. Players committee chairman and cellist John Koen said: “From 2008 until the present, we made concessions in free overtime and extra services, as well as a salary freeze valued at $12 m by the association. Our most recent proposal would save $25 m over the next three and a half years in pension and wage concessions.” The players have vowed not to strike as long as the association does not seek to impose a new contract with terms they consider untenable. Koen added: “The musicians are going to play concerts with the utmost of our ability and the association will sell subscriptions and raise money to meet the financial challenges, so we can all wend our way through the bankruptcy process together.” COMPETI T ION Win tickets to the Pha Festival ros send an e ma saskia@cy tanet.com il to .cy with the answe r to this q uestion: How man y conc there be in erts will Kouklia for the Ph aros Cham ber Festival?