Georges Pélétsis: Music is beauty in sound
The first president of the Riga Center for Early Music, professor at the Latvian Academy of Music, composer and musicologist Georges Pélétsis is one of the honorary guests of the Malta International Music Festival.
In the intense programme of the final day of the festival, we were lucky to ask Pélétsis several questions and find out how the Latvian “Knight of the Order of Consonance and Diatonicism” had found a colleague in Malta.
– Is it true that you were not planning to become a composer? Was it purely by accident?
– Yes, it is true, in my childhood I did not have any significant composition skills, but when I changed the vocal studies department for the music theory department at the Dārziņš Music School, music composition became my compulsory discipline. I had to attend classes and do homework; that is why by the end of my studies I had several proper compositions that gave me courage to go to the Moscow Conservatory. This is how it all started. Now I am happy that it worked out, I am pleased with my life and I cannot imagine how I could live if I had chosen another profession.
However, I did choose one more specialty and it became a problem in my life, because I sometimes have to sit on two chairs. So, first I finished the course with Aram Khachaturian as a composer and then it happened so that I had to teach polyphony, and I realised that I lacked knowledge and education in the theory of music. That is why I decided to go the Moscow Conservatory for the second time and did my PhD as a musicologist. Actually I wrote two PhD theses. And now, on the one hand, I like that I have two professions, but sometimes it is hard to combine them.
– Who is your favourite composer?
– I have several favourite composers, they are all Italian: Domenico Scarlatti, Antonio Vivaldi and Claudio Monteverdi. Among contemporary composers I would point out minimalists, for example, Steve Reich, or the great Russian minimalist composer Pavel Karmanov.
– Can you describe the ultimate goal of your art?
– This is a difficult question. The answer can be as lengthy as a book. If I have to answer in just one sentence, then music is beauty in sound and I would like to be involved in creation of this beauty.
– You have compositions based on Christian texts, for example, the Book of Revelation. Why is that? By no means all composers turn to Christian topics.
– I was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. Of course, it is worth remembering that I was born in the twentieth century in the Soviet Union, where religious activities were prohibited. When my wife and I had a church wedding, we had to go from Riga to Moscow, so that no one could find out that it happened, otherwise we both could have lost our jobs. Later, in the 1990s, when it became possible to demonstrate your faith openly, I started composing religious music. But then I realized that I should not do it. Instead of writing religious music for Church, we should create Orthodox music for concert halls. The music repertoire in churches is very rich; they know what to sing on church holidays, whereas it is quite difficult to find Orthodox music that can be offered to people coming to concert halls. I try to contribute in this area.
– You are a student of Aram Khachaturian, how can you comment on what has been happening during VI Malta International Music Festival: music of this great Armenian composer was performed almost every day both by orchestras and chamber ensembles.
– Such events prove the eternal values: what is temporary and what loses its significance very quickly cannot sound at such festivals after a long time since their creation. Aram Iljich Khachaturian passed away long time ago, but his music is still alive and it will always be relevant and much-in-demand. And festivals like the Malta International Music Festival only confirm that: it becomes obvious who was composing for eternity.
– The resident composer of the Malta International Music Festival has been the contemporary Maltese composer Alexey Shor. How can you, being a musicologist and a composer, characterize his music?
– The music by Alexey Shor has been a great discovery for me. Of course, before the festival I found something on the Internet, but this immersion into his music that was presented at the festival demonstrated to me the whole range of his art. And then I said to Alexey Shor that we are knights of the same Order: the Order of Consonance and Diatonicism, that is, the beauty of music.
In addition to this, I was especially impressed by the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, which is, in fact, the orchestra consisting of soloists, and each one of them has a unique temperament and enthusiasm.
– This is your first time in Malta. Do you have a feeling that you might wish to come here again?
– From the very beginning this placed seemed sacred to me. One should consider the sheer amount of churches on this tiny island; they say there are 365 of them. Where else can you find something like this? This island integrates the incompatible – antiquity and its translation into the modern life; it is not a museum, but a desirable and organic part of the present time. It is a unique place. I do not know if it happens, but I would like to come here again.