Culture 18:53 10/08/2021 World

Konstantin Ishkhanov: This year's "InClassica" will be a world-class event

The "InClassica" International Music Festival 2021 will open on August 28 in Dubai to run through September 26  . The Armenian State Symphony Orchestra headed by the artistic director and principal conductor Sergey Smbatyan will participate in the event. The organizer of the festival is the European Foundation for Support of Culture. Below is the interview of the Chairman of the Foundation Konstantin Ishkhanov with  Mr Ishkhanov, the European Foundation for Support of Culture holds many cultural events in different parts of the world, initiates educational projects and supports individual musicians. What is the general objective of the foundation?

Konstantin Ishkhanov: The core objective of the European Foundation for Support of Culture — or, EUFSC — is, as our title suggests, to actively support, promote and organise cultural projects around the world. Whilst our activities are primarily European in nature, the Foundation holds a wide array of events across the globe, including in Asia, the Middle East and the Americas. Regardless of where the EUFSC operates, our remit remains the same: to help spread and preserve important cultural practises that have contributed so much to the development of our civilisation, and, crucially, to invest in the artistic education and careers of the next generation of performers. Following the activity of the EUFSC, it can be concluded that the foundation raises awareness of classical music. It is interesting, nowadays, when we live in a fast-paced world and new technologies prevail, what is the attitude towards classical music given that classical music is rather conservative?

Konstantin Ishkhanov: While it is true that classical music is considered a niche, and yes, perhaps in some ways conservative, cultural pursuit in the modern world, one thing that contributes to our relentless determination to continue supporting this incredible art form is the recognition of its indelible contribution to our society, and the countless benefits it confers on those who both perform and listen to it. The positive influences on a child’s general education and learning abilities in all subjects should they study classical music is one excellent example of this, and let us not forget that modern film and video game music — mediums that are enjoyed by people the world over — are predominantly classical in nature. I think that if more people spent time examining their relationship with classical music, they would realise that it is much more relevant to their lives than they might first imagine. In August-September, the Foundation will host the InClassica Festival, one of the organizers of which it is. What achievements have you made within the festival during these 10 years? And what makes this year's festival stand out from the previous ones? 

Konstantin Ishkhanov: I think there are a few things to mention here: Firstly, with regard to our previous editions of the festival, we were the first organisation to bring performers such as Grigory Sokolov, Nikolai Lugansky and Maxim Vengerov to Malta. We know from speaking to classical music fans that these occasions were really unique experiences, and things that have brought a lot of value to the country. Another thing we are very proud of is the festival’s history of growth.

Since starting life as the Malta International Music Festival back in 2010, the event has moved consistently from strength to strength, welcoming more incredible artists and larger audience numbers year-on-year and establishing itself as a real phenomenon in Malta’s cultural calendar. In fact, that previous iterations of the festival were so successful has been a key factor in the EUFSC’s decision to present this year’s anniversary edition in Dubai, and why we are so proud to celebrate ten years of such an extraordinary event taking place. In terms of how this year’s InClassica stands out, I would direct your readers to the festival’s website, where they can see for themselves the staggering number of concerts, soloists, orchestras and conductors that will be appearing in Dubai. The fact is, this year’s InClassica doesn’t simply stand out when compared to previous editions, but now can really be seen as a world-class event in its own right, and one that without a doubt is worthy of the same prestige of other events taking place across the globe. The State Symphony Orchestra of Armenia and its conductor Sergey Smbatyan are set to perform within the frameworks of the festival. And you seem to be collaborating with this orchestra not for the first time. What is your opinion about the performing skills of the orchestra and its famous soloists?.

Konstantin Ishkhanov: To witness the growth and dedication of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra has been a real privilege, and something which I’m sure we can all agree has been simply extraordinary. When one considers that Maestro Sergey Smbatyan started this orchestra at the age of only eighteen, and that initially it was launched as a youth orchestra, tells you something about just how much this ensemble, its members and its conductor have developed and matured. Their performances and their entire approach to what they do is really an impressive thing to behold, and I wish them all the very best as they continue their excellent work, both in Armenia and in other parts of the world. We would appreciate hearing your opinion on the current state of classical music in Armenia.

Konstantin Ishkhanov: It gives me great pleasure to hear that, despite the difficulties facing Armenia at this time, classical music events are not just taking place, but thriving in Armenia all year round. I cannot say in all honesty that I am able to keep up to date with all cultural events that are happening in Armenia, because, as I am sure you can imagine, much of my time is taken up with the work of the Foundation both in Malta and elsewhere. However, I am of course aware that Maestro Smbatyan — as one example — has launched many educational projects for Armenian children in addition to his busy conducting schedule. Both of these factors are vital in supporting classical music: to give a platform to those already operating in the field, and to further support the continued development of the sector as a whole. I understand he is also involved in organising multiple competitions, festivals of modern composers and other events, which of course are also incredibly valuable in helping the country to realise its potential in this area. Mr. Ishkhanov, the basis of development is education. The foundation you lead places great emphasis on educational projects as well. Could you please provide some details of your educational projects?

Konstantin Ishkhanov: Of course, and in fact our educational projects are something we are most proud of. For example, in Dubai this summer we will not only be hosting InClassica, but in addition to this we will also be presenting the Middle East Classical Music Academy. This fantastic project will feature masterclasses in piano and violin studies with top professors from around the world, as well as presenting daily daytime concerts — performances which I’m thrilled to say will involve the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra. We also recently completed a series of voice masterclasses in Malta and frequently run similar initiatives throughout the year, as well as partnering with local institutions such as the Malta School of Music.

It should also be noted that our Classic Piano competition, which will take place in Dubai at the same time as the academy, is in my view a continuation of our philosophy of prioritising events with educational value. Not only will the competitors — and, of course, eventually the winners — serve as an outstanding example of what is possible for young people to achieve, but in itself assist in those participants’ career development, something I believe to be an extended part of one’s educational development. I am also thrilled to announce that all students of the Middle East Classical Music Academy will enjoy free entry to all InClassica concerts, something we are confident will be a great source of inspiration for these promising young musicians. The EUFSC provides great support to Armenian bands, Armenian musicians living in Armenia and abroad. It will be interesting to hear your opinion, as a person working in the cultural sphere, on whether Armenian musicians are competitive in the global music industry.

Konstantin Ishkhanov: It is no secret that Armenian performers are very well represented in the higher echelons of the classical music world, counting numerous internationally-renowned soloists and composers amongst their ranks. Armenian performers are frequently awarded with the highest prizes in major international music competitions, and are admired the world over for their unique and lasting cultural contributions. In fact, if one examines the track record of Armenian musicians throughout the world — taking into account their frequent performances at major venues, their appearances with top international orchestras — it is apparent that not only are they competitive, but that they already occupy a position of considerable strength in the industry, one which will surely increase over time. What is key, therefore, is the continued support of educational initiatives in order to help the next generation of artists realise their potential and, eventually, further promote their country on the world stage. I have no doubt that both Armenia’s existing prodigious performers, together with these talented youngsters, will continue to serve their country well and act as ambassadors for this proud nation now and in the future. 

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