By Fotios Kaliampakos – Special to the Hellenic News of America.
With enthusiasm for innovation and contemporary music, pianist Georgia Lazaridou talks to the Hellenic News of America about her approach to the great composers of the past, her thesis on the work of renowned Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. She also speaks about her upcoming concert featuring also soprano Sophia Pelekasis and violinist Christoforos Petridis in the memory of Maria Callas. The concert, which will take place on September 27 in Merkin Hall in Manhattan, is organized by the Hellenic American Cultural Foundation and it will be introduced by Nicholas Gage.
1. How did you decide to pursue a career, or better, a life, in music?
I was born and raised in a house where the sound of music was echoing all day long. My mother is a piano teacher and since I was 5 years old I have been connected with the sound of the piano. It almost felt like music chose me instead of me choosing music and it seemed like a natural path that offered me the greatest pleasure.
2. How did your particular interest in classical music come about? Why piano?
Because I grew up listening to classical music. It breathed into me from a young age with the enormous sound of the piano that awakened me at every step. I never questioned pursuing a career in classical music. As I said earlier, it was a natural path and an invisible force that guided me to where I am now. Of course, with a lot of hard work behind every step.
3. Where did you study? How did you decide to come to the States?
Leaving Greece was a one-way direction due to the limited opportunities and the economic crisis. My journey started when I was 17 years old, starting my studies in London. Since I was very young, I used to come every summer to a Chamber Music Summer Festival in a very small town in Pennsylvania, called Kutztown. After a concert, the president of the university offered me a full scholarship and I took the decision to leave London and come to the States in less than five minutes. It was the best decision I ever made!
4. What is your creative process? How do you approach a work new to you and how a new (contemporary) work?
Contemporary music is the evolution of music. Perhaps, it is the only road that exists for music to progress to other levels with original and synthetic sounds. I like to serve and contribute to the evolution of music in the piano world. It is not easy to explain, but with contemporary works, I automatically connect and feel a natural attraction. Such works excite my imagination and I try to think and perform them as the composer intended to write the work. I discover their thoughts and capture them in the hearing of the sound.
5. Is there room for innovation when playing a piece like a Beethoven sonata, something that so many interpreters have approached before? What is the meaning of playing the great works of the past for an artist? For the audience?
Of course, there is always room for innovation in all classical works. Performing a classical work like a Beethoven sonata means that even after 100 years, there will always be something we haven’t thought of or imagined. The artist put their own stamp on the strengths of their soul and the maturity of their musical career. The public is hungry for sound innovation. They are tired of the same classical sound, and expect something different, original, and unique from the artist. I believe that this is the only way it makes sense to perform such classical works now. Otherwise, an electronic work could produce their music without the human factor entering. Of course, I always approach a work with respect to the composer’s intentions, and let’s not forget that the world around us is changing too.
6. What are your latest performances/recordings and what are your future plans?
I am in my third year of doctoral studies at the Manhattan School of Music under the guidance of Dr. Joanne Polk, and this has become my priority. For the past two years, it has been very hard to balance practicing, performing, and studying with an equal amount of concentration. This past July, I was fortunate to be back where it all started, at the Kutztown Chamber Music Summer Festival. I was a teaching assistant to the founder of the festival, Dr. Maria Asteriadou, and I shared the stage with talented musicians. My latest performances featured composers such as the remarkable Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzis, on whom I am pursuing my thesis, on his music. His pieces, and not only the ones limited to my instrument, and his artistry have been one of my greatest inspirations.
7. You are participating in a concert for Maria Callas. What does Maria Callas mean to you?
Maria Callas is the absolute inspiration for every artist. She introduced us to the world of the opera and made it a top event up to this day. Her interpretations are truly unique. Her personality evolved into a unique diva that remains to this day and perhaps will remain forever. It was the divine voice that changed the world of opera, and her explosive temperament remains in our ears every time we encounter her performances. After every performance that is heard, you only need silence! I am very excited and honored about performing such works next week along with two very talented young musicians, Sophia Pelekasis and Christoforos Petridis.
For more information about the concert: “Maria Callas: A Tribute to Her Life and Music” please visit https://www.hacfoundation.org/current
Note: Fotios Kaliampakos is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA).