If we accept that the EU is going through the biggest crisis in its history, the EU Youth Orchestra has taken on the role of acting as a symbolic “purgatory” of our mistakes and failures, as a …spell of the ills of the times. Wishing that we would all realize the impact of art on our self-improvement.
We met the members of the EU Youth Orchestra on the occasion of their recent concert in Delos, the emblematic island of the Cyclades, where time stops and sounds acquire magical dimensions, almost unreal… The ALPHA MISSION – ΔELOS concert was a coproduction of the World Human Forum & ARTE in partnership with Europa Nostra, the Hellenic Space Center, the National Research Center for Natural Sciences “Demokritos”, the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, Megaron the Athens Concert Hall – and in collaboration with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades. The EUYO was artistic partner of the event. For the first time in its thousands of years of history, Delos welcomed a classical music orchestra for a broadcast concert of an international scope and great symbolic value. The young people of the Orchestra shared with us their experience on this unique passage through this sacred place, what they felt and what they thought, as well as their general activity as European social beings and cultural actors.
Could the art of music remain imperishable and timeless? As you were playing Vivaldi in the archaeological site of Delos, in a historical context of the 21st century, what vibrations did you feel?
“One of the most fascinating aspects of being a musician is the possibility of actively witnessing the development of music throughout the centuries”, says Davide Dalpiaz, EUYO violinist hailing from another art cradle, Florence. “Timeless is a very interesting definition, because on one side the work of art will always remain the same. However, on the other, it will necessarily have to be connected with the interpretation of the artists, which is in continuous development and deeply changes depending by every individual. The chance of performing various artists from different époques, from the Renaissance to contemporary music, through Baroque and Romanticism, is priceless. I believe that this concept perfectly applies to the sanctuary of Delos, too. The island, despite being a centre of various cultures, is fulfilled by its peculiar and unique aura of mysticism, which will always remain imperishable. Playing an iconic piece such Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in such a mythological venue has been an experience that I am sure I will always bring with me forever”.
Since the concert was dedicated to Vangelis Papathanasiou, what does he represent for you? Is he a great musician of the 20th-21st century? Is he a source of inspiration and thought? What is your association with him? He said, for example, that “music is not the noblest expression of the sound of the Universe. Music is the Universe itself!” and that “music is the intangible materialization of the divine”… Do you agree?
“For sure Vangelis Papathanasiou is a source of inspiration and thought”, comments Ioannis Nikolis, a Greek player who joined the EUYO in 2022. “His ability to create personal sounds by combining, for example, Greek traditional rhythms with electronic music vibrations made him extremely popular worldwide. That explains why his music not only won Oscars awards, but travelled from the bottom of the oceans up to outer space! I agree with one of his statements that music is the universe itself. Since music is the best way to explain how the human brain works, I believe that the human brain is the greatest miracle in the universe. And Vangelis Papathanasiou definitely thought so as well”.
Tell us how you came to join the European Union Youth Orchestra? What one must do to get in?
Membership in the EUYO is open to the most talented young musicians aged 16 to 26 coming from all the 27 EU member states. This is the information that everyone could see – but to understand hot musicians come to join the orchestra, a good example could be that of Lucrezia Costanzo, an Italian violinist from Sicily. “I joined this amazing Orchestra thanks to a friend who did the application for me”, reveals Lucrezia “At the time I was too scared to even think to audition in such a great Orchestra like this, as till that moment I never did something “big” meaning that I was studying in my home town and playing only for small orchestras… but in the end he convinced me to do that, saying that I have nothing to lose and on the contrary that I could only have a positive experience in any case. So, I did it, and I’m really happy of the results! I think that the quality that they are looking for is the same for everyone: technical skills are of course important but not a must. I think that if you really can show the audition panel that performing in an orchestra is your passion and you can’t wait to share that, it is as important as your skills to convince them. If you really and sincerely enjoy what you do, they’ll for sure will notice it”.
What was the stimulus/element that “attracted” you initially to your involvement with music, and subsequently to the kind of such a systematic involvement that the EUYO requires?
“I have been attending music school since I was 7” said Hanna Szczęsna, one of the youngest EUYOmusician who is just 18 years old “so I being surrounded by music was really natural for me – all my schoolmates also played different instruments and studied subjects like ear-training or music theory. I think I decided to focus on music and playing the cello when I went to the secondary music school. The older I was getting the more my love for music grew”. Hanna is an incredibly skilled cellist, laureate of national and international cello and chamber competitions, who won the 2021 auditions to be part of the 2022 Orchestra. “And why I applied for EUYO? This project is an incredible opportunity that many young musicians dream of. We play in an ensemble consisting of extremely talented people from all of the European Union member states. We create new friendships and travel together around the world. The orchestra works with renowned conductors and soloists. Playing as a member of EUYO is for sure this kind of experience you never forget and the things you learned during the project stay with you for your entire life”.
What is your daily life, really, as members of the Orchestra? What advice would you give to a young person wishing to join it?
“My life as a member of the EUYO is exciting” tells us Sofia Bianchi Maestre, EUYO veteran and leader of the Double Bass section “We have annual projects and tours. What makes the tours special is that we get to form a great family between all the musicians of the orchestra. The rehearsals are amazingly conducted by Peter Stark as well as the sectionals with the best tutors at our disposal. This improves the whole experience and makes us grow continuously as musicians and persons. This constant day-to-day rhythm marks a routine that helps us in our professional projection in other orchestras in which we work. All these small moments of the daily routine sum up to create an unforgettable experience, as we are here together sharing our passion: making music together”. She can really tell from her experience: ““I have been in the orchestra for 8 years”, Sofia tells us “I owe everything to the EUYO: my way of playing, of behaving on stage and how to approach professional relationships. The opportunity to meet people from other countries makes the Orchestra feel like a second family. I’ve been seating in every position of the Double Bass section, from the 4th row to the soloist one, a position I have held now for three years. This is why now I’m passionate and willing to take any musical and orchestra challenges. Of course, to get here you have to work hard and strive to improve continuously. I encourage all young musicians who want to live an unforgettable experience and make music their life, to prepare and apply for this wonderful musical and human project!”
Let’s now turn to the relationship between music and the world around us… Taking a cue also from the participation of both Russian and Ukrainian musicians in the concert, do you believe that “music is indeed unifying”, in the sense that, knowing no borders, it can mitigate conflicts, divisions and reproduce the idea of concord and unity? In general, what would you say is the role of your art in bringing people closer together? Could it contribute to weakening intolerant “ideologies”?
“I do believe, as a young musician, that music could be the common ground from which peace between populations can blossom”. Those are the words of Lorenzo Molinetti, another Italian violinist. “If there is one medium, one “code”, that everyone can relate to, is the language of music. When we play in an orchestra we give all of ourselves to an idea of unity, with a unique goal that everyone shares: be the best we can to support each other. And this could be such a strong example of how tolerance, support, concord and friendship can form an ideal society where the joy to be together is the founding value that guides us”.
How do you envision the future, your own and the planet’s in general? Your concert was entitled “The Uncertain Four Seasons”, in an environment of multiple crises. So how do you yourself interpret/evaluate the present as well as the future?
EUYO musicians are not new to projects that aims to raise awareness on environmental issues. This comes from the players themselves, who are often very invested in the future of our planet for the common good. “I think regarding the planet, I think a lot about how it could become in the future (in my life and long beyond)” says Stephanie Van Duijn, a young US-born Dutch violinist who also took part in the world première of “The [Uncertain] Four Seasons” in Venice. “Of course, I try not to think always negative, but it is also good to be realistic, so that I can make active steps in my current actions that could help reduce my impact on the planet while I live here on earth. In my own life, I envision mostly hopeful things, and seek ways to always improve and grow, to never get stuck. That notion can extend to the planet, as I feel society gets stuck, not willing to put in the hard work or sacrifices it takes to ultimately combat climate change. I feel like making conscious changes in the present helps shape the future into something enjoyable and desirable, in my personal life and regarding the planet”.
The viewpoint is also shared by the Portuguese violinist Maria Francisca Azevedo, who affirmed that “The future of each of us is inextricably connected with the future of the planet in general. The title of the concert emphasizes that our path might be very unpredictable. Nevertheless, I like to envision a bright future where we live more sustainably, so I can pursue my dreams in a prospering and cooperative society. Despite the optimism, it is undeniable that the environmental imbalance is already manifesting itself. Extreme weather can obliterate cultural and natural heritage, cause a shortage of supplies and displace whole communities, causing even more conflicts. That being said, I believe that an orchestra is a great model of what we should aim for: to listen to what surrounds us and adjust our actions in light of what is happening, assuming a collective responsibility towards preserving our planet while always taking action individually”.
The “good fight”
Can music, with its universal character, contribute to a more sustainable future? Will it sensitise people to a more sustainable way of life? Is there a particular “obligation/duty” of the musicians of our time?
“It is not an easy question to answer” admits Cristina Cazac, another Italian violinist “Music is pivotal in giving people emotions, and emotions are what drives us. Therefore, we may think of us musicians as people that can lead the change by giving everyone an emotional drive. That said, however, this is not enough to actually change things. We live ina deeply interconnected society, and the radical changes needed to live more sustainably have deep roots in centuries of exploitation of natural resources. We all have obligations, not just as musicians, but as inhabitants of this marvellous planet of us to contrast climate change and resources exploitation. Perhaps the best contribution a musician can give is to strengthen our hope – when you think you could not do anything to contrast such a massive and overwhelming issue, music can lift your spirit up and help you continue the good fight”.
If you wish to read the interview in Greek visit the following link of Orthos Logos: