National orchestra kicks off season with The Planets

Conductor Michalis Economou interviewed

Michalis Economou will be conducting the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra

Michalis Economou will be conducting the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra

Greek conductor and composer Michalis Economou will be returning to Malta to conduct the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) in this season’s first grand orchestral concert – The Planets. I caught up with him to talk about his musical experiences, his previous work with the MPO and what he is looking forward to about this concert.

You are recognised as a significant figure in the Greek musical scene, through your work both as a composer and conductor. What do you identify as significant moments in your career that have helped reach the position you are in today?

There are many significant moments in my career that I will never forget. If I had to choose one, it would definitely be the proposal to serve as Music Director of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra after a secret musicians vote in 2011. The second one would be my collaboration with the world's leading singing competition Operalia by Placido Domingo. I was honoured to conduct the winner’s gala for several years in several countries.

Over the past decade you have increasingly become associated with leading master-classes for young conductors. Why do you find this particular kind of work so appealing and to what would you attribute your success in this area?

When I was a student, conducting a professional orchestra even for a few minutes was a dream. A couple of years ago I felt the need to offer young conductors this unique experience that nobody ever offered me when I was a student: podium time. Passing your knowledge onto the youth is not optional, it should be mandatory for every human being. Each generation has to be better than the previous one in every aspect. History is written because people decide to share their experience and knowledge with others. I am really proud of the National Conducting Masterclass with the Athens Symphony Orchestra. We are reaching its Tenth edition in Spring 2018.

The music is written in such a way that both performers and audiences leave the concert hall with a huge smile on their face

You are a regular conductor with all the major Greek orchestras and have also worked with many other symphony orchestras and ensembles in Europe, the United States and Asia. How would you describe and compare the experience of working with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in the last few years to the international music scene?

The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra is a world acclaimed orchestra and consists of musicians that have an appealing warmth on and off the stage. It has always been a distinct pleasure for me to make music in Malta with this wonderful orchestra. I am looking forward to our numerous collaborations currently and for the seasons to come.

Holst’s epic orchestral suite, The Planets, features in your upcoming concert with the MPO. Why do you think that The Planets is particularly suited for our national orchestra and what could the audience expect from this performance at the MCC?

I strongly believe that this concert will be one of the highlights of the entire season. The Planets is a very dynamic composition featuring the magic and mystery of our incredible solar system. It involves a huge orchestra as well as a female chorus and the music is written in such a way that both performers and audiences leave the concert hall with a huge smile on their face.

We will also have the opportunity to hear a performance of your own composition in this concert, with Clare Ghigo as a soloist. What can you tell us about this work, from its conception to its public performances?

My work was composed last season and was premiered in Greece by the National Radio Orchestra conducted by the acclaimed Greek conductor Lucas Karytinos. For me, being a composer is a very complicated and strenuous process. It involves a continuous battle with yourself until you feel you have achieved something that you really like. The problem is that you will not necessarily like it the following day. This is what makes composing so difficult. Creating music is an infinite cycle that never comes to an end. However, there is nothing compared to the feeling of presenting your compositions to the public. I have had good luck with the publics in the US, Greece and Qatar until now. I am really looking forward to presenting my music in Malta next week.

The MPO Concert The Planets will take place at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta on November 15 at 8pm.Tickets are available online or by calling on 2559 5750.



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