Alexey Shor: “I liked the energy of Armenian audience”
Maltese composer Alexey Shor who is a resident composer of the Malta International Music Festival shared his impressions about his trip to Armenia and told about his connection to this hospitable country
– The premiere of “Images of the Great Siege”, the symphony cycle for two orchestras dedicated to the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, took place within the framework of the VI Malta International Music Festival and during the Armenian Cultural Days in Malta. It was performed by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra. Did they manage to convey your message to the audience?
– I think it turned out to be a tremendous premiere. It is very difficult for the two orchestras to perform at once, and this rarely happens, not everyone can boast of such an unusual experience. The most difficult work fell on conductor Sergey Smbatyan, and, thank God, the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra created by him was one of the orchestras on stage, and he used to work several times with the second orchestra – Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. Smbatyan, of course, spent a lot of time working on the scores: both the conductor and the two orchestras were perfectly prepared, and the music sounded wonderful.
It is not an easy task to manage two orchestras at the same time. The conductor, of course, has an understanding of how wind instruments are combined with strings and how to make sure that some do not silence the others, but when the strings are twice as much than usual, it seems that this is a difficult task that Sergey Smbatyan coped with amazingly. 10 points out of 10!
– What inspired you to create this work describing an important historical event not for Malta only, but for the whole Europe?
– I think that the Great Siege of Malta is an amazing story. This is the story about which 200 years later Voltaire said: “There is nothing more famous than the siege of Malta.” Now, this event has become less known, people know that it took place, but a few outside Malta realize how important it was and what role it played in the history of Europe. In addition, this is a wonderful Hollywood story. If someone wrote a script with many incredible characters telling how a tiny army stood against the enemy’s armada and won – usually such stories have a happy end only in the movies – I would have shrugged and thought that it could never happen in real life.
– Is a symphony cycle for two orchestras “Images of the Great Siege” a kind of a tribute to the memory of the Maltese heroes who stood up against several thousand strong armies?
– Yes. As a person living in the 21st century and a person distant from war, it is difficult for me to imagine the state of mind of people in war, and how they could withstand it. For example, there was an incredible situation during the siege of Fort Saint Elmo. The fortress itself was small and could house around 100 people. Many people died every day, while reinforcements came at night, and each of the newcomers knew that they would likely die next day. Nevertheless, this continued for 30 days.
– How much is historical events reflected in your music?
– I’d say the symphonic cycle dedicated to the Great Siege is my second experience. The first can be considered “Crystal Palace” ballet, which is also based on a historical event. But, most of my music is associated with some fleeting impressions or emotions, rather than specific events.
– You visited Armenia last year. How does Armenia stand out to you?
It was an amazing trip. My father spent first 12 years of his life in Armenia, and we were dreaming of going there someday. But, the dream did not come true. You know, how it goes, once we decide to go next year, then something did not work out … We were dreaming about it for 30 years, and finally, thanks to the invitation by Sergey Smbatyan, I went to Armenia to participate in the festival.
I have unforgettable impressions, especially from the audience. It was middle of the summer, not a concert season, it was too hot, and yet every day thousand people came to concerts. I liked the audience’s energy. Armenian spectators are very friendly, they behave well during concerts, all their mobile phones were turned off, and no one was talking. It was an absolutely fabulous trip. I hope that cultural contacts will continue. There is already close relationship between Sergey Smbatyan and the European Foundation for Support of Culture, and I am very happy that I am a part of this project.
I liked Armenia very much, and I look forward to my next visit. I already have two planned trips: Crystal Palace ballet will be staged in Yerevan on June 2-3, and I will definitely come, and in early July there will be a festival during which my music will be performed.
– Did you have an opportunity to get acquainted with the Armenian sights?
I saw many ancient churches, which are located in the most picturesque places, and the most ancient ones are erected on the ruins of pagan temples. I was very much impressed by the monastery of Geghard. I have magical memories of the choral performance of the Armenian music in Geghard.
– What does travelling mean to you? How do the trips influence your creativity and life experience?
– Travel is an obvious source of new emotions and new impressions, so when I travel, often music ideas are born in my head and I write them down. Some of them were gathered into a series called “Travel Notebook”. The premiere of “Travel Notebook” with the orchestra was played by wonderful Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan in Yerevan last year.
– You spent a week in Armenia and you saw a lot. What music did Armenia inspire you to compose?
I usually do not compose music that needs to be stylized to the music of a specific place that I visited. I just compose something related to my emotions. But, my emotions from Armenia were extremely positive and warm, and I want to compose music which gives me feelings or warms, happiness and optimism.