By Ted AYALA
Local composer George N. Gianopoulos is already a busy man, but on Wednesday, Feb. 5 he will be busier still. At noon his “Hatzlacha Rabbah!!!” will form part of the program at the next installment of the Glendale Noon Concerts held at the First Baptist Church on Louise Street. Later that evening he will be off to the Paper and Plastik Cafe on Pico Boulevard for the world premiere that evening of his “City Vignettes” for mezzo soprano and piano.
In anticipation of these two important events, he answered five questions concerning the performances, his thoughts on his own music, as well as that of today’s classical music.
Ted Ayala: Your music is closely associated with the Glendale Noon Concerts and the Music at MiMoDa series at the Paper and Plastik Cafe. Can you tell me a little bit about how you became involved with them and why you have collaborated so often?
George N. Gianopoulos: Music at MiModa is organized by cellist and pianist Maksim Velichkin who is a close friend. He appointed me composer-in-residence for the series and makes it a point to either perform my music himself (through his commission of “The Circadian Calendar for Solo Cello, Op. 25”) or allows me to invite other musicians to perform my music as often as possible. The Glendale Noon Concerts is organized by my friend Jacqueline Suzuki who has been a big supporter of my music. She actively has promoted concerts I’m involved in and tries, whenever possible, to invite artists who are performing my music. My most recent composition “City Vignettes for Mezzo-Soprano and Guitar/Piano, Op. 29” will be premiered at Music at MiModa. It was written for the fantastic mezzo-soprano and guitar duo the Malkin-Trybek Duo and also arranged for mezzo-soprano and piano, which is how it will be heard on the 5th.
T. A.: You dedicated the viola and piano arrangement of “Hatzlacha Rabbah!!!” to violist Victor de Almeida who will be playing your work in Glendale that day. Can you tell me a little bit about your working relationship with him and why you chose him as the piece’s dedicatee?
G. N. G.: The viola and piano version of “Hatzlacha Rabbah!!!” is dedicated to Victor, but the viola duo version that he will be performing with his wife Carolyn Riley on Feb. 5 is dedicated to Julliard School of Music students Ariana Solotoff and Jenni Seo. Victor has been a huge supporter and champion of this piece, performing it over a dozen times and recording it for his debut CD – with his arrangements of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and “Pulcinella Suite” as discmates – to be released later this year. He has been looking for an opportunity to perform with his wife, also a fantastic violist, and since he enjoys performing the version dedicated to him, he decided to try his hand at the duo arrangement.
T. A.: You may have read an essay published by Slate earlier this week declaring classical music in the United States is dead. But the writer of the article seems to have overlooked that among many other signs of life, one of the most obvious is the sheer number of composers active today. Do you feel classical music is in decline or is it in the process of evolving?
G. N. G.: The landscape of classical music is in a unique place right now. I think that it is definitely evolving and some parts of it are trying to adapt with technology and popular music trends. I feel that it will remain viable when the music is honest. Music is such a visceral experience and effects humans on so many levels that we can intuit sincerity through it.
T. A.: One of the reasons often blamed for the genre’s decline is the rise of the post-war avant-garde in the 1950s-1970s. Do you think this is a fair accusation? On the other hand, Schoenberg himself is reputed to have said that despite the new world of sound his 12-tone method opened up, a lot of good music in the key of C remained to be composed. Your music is a great example.
Is your music’s embrace of tonality something that you deliberately chose or was it a path the music determined for itself?
G. N. G.: I think that is a fair accusation; however, I think it was a necessary development for music. Music in all genres always needs to be challenged and pushed to its boundaries – this is the foundation of creation. I think that only through the harmonic turmoil of the post-war avant-garde that we were able to come back to and embrace tonality today. Schoenberg created a system for creation that is still relevant and useful for composers and musicologists alike. I haven’t made a conscious effort to compose tonal music; instead, it is just want felt natural to me and my personality – it is honest.
Glendale Noon Concerts will be presenting “Hatzlacha Rabbah!!!” alongside the “Viola Concerto” by Cary Belling at the First Baptist Church in Glendale. Performance starts at 12:10 p.m.; admission is free to the public. “City Vignettes” will be part of a program that includes music by Chopin, Elliott Goldkind, and Stig Jonas Pettersson performed by Music at MiMoDa at the Paper and Plastik Cafe at 5772 W. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles. Performance begins at 8 p.m.; admission is $10.
For more information about Glendale Noon Concerts, visit www.glendalenoonconcerts.blogspot.com or call (818) 242-2113. For more information on Music at MiMoDa and to obtain tickets, visit www.mimodastudio.com/events.php or call (323) 937-0488.