Newly appointed musical director of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, (QPO) Michalis Economou has expressed his excitement at being part of the country’s cultural development, describing the orchestra as being one of the highest quality and possessing the potential to be among the best in the world.
Economou will lead the orchestra through a performance of Tschaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ on Saturday evening as he takes up the conductor’s baton for the first time as musical director.
The 38-year-old Greek national studied musicology at Athens University as well as violin, theory and composition at the National Conservatory of Athens. He has won a variety of different awards for his composition skills, and has also conducted the Athens State Orchestra, the Kamerata Orchestra of Megaron, the National Symphony Orchestra of Greek TV as well as various other groups.
Economou has also led the QPO on one previous occasion, when he performed here earlier this year to great acclaim.
And now he has been appointed to replace former musical director, Nader Abbassi, who the new man said had done “an amazing job” in developing the orchestra.
“This orchestra has youth, talent and power and they come from all over the world and different schools of music,” he said, adding “they are all top level musicians and they have been really well selected.”
During his tenure, Abbassi was always keen to highlight the Arabic tradition associated with the founding of the orchestra, and would include pieces inspired by the region on a regular basis.
Economou said that he intends to uphold this practice, with almost every concert scheduled for the season containing one piece of Arabic music.
“We will have Arabic pieces, conductors, composers and soloists throughout the season,” he said, adding that in February, the QPO will also be performing as part of a special three-day programme of Arabic music.
Economou has been teaching orchestral conducting in Greece where he has trained over 50 young musicians in the art of conducting over the past eight years. And his passion for developing young talent is something that he hopes to be able to continue to develop during his tenure in Qatar.
“I would be very interested in teaching young Qataris – it is always interesting to teach,” he said, highlighting the importance of inspiring the next generation and educating them about classical music.
And the new conductor believes that his youth will help him to connect with his players and create a formidable combination.
“Being closer to their age is a good thing, and I come from a country with a very strong tradition in music,” he said, adding that he feels very excited to be part of the development of this young orchestra.
“I want to make them trust themselves more, and to play without the help of the conductor,” he said, explaining “when they can listen to each other and play with each other, then they can produce really excellent music.”
The biggest difficulty associated with working with the QPO is also one of its major strengths, as it brings musicians together from all over the world.
Economou explained that trying to merge the huge variety of different styles is certainly a challenge, but one with which he is more than happy to be faced.
In terms of his personal tastes, Economou’s favourite composers include Bach, Stravinsky and Bartok, but he reserves a special place in his heart for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who he described as ‘God-like’ and transcending all other composers.
Back on earth, Economou will be hoping that his talent can combine with those of the musicians he now directs, and that they can continue to be one of the leading cultural institutions in Qatar and the region.
“This Opera House is unbelievable, it is very well constructed and the acoustics are fantastic,” he said, adding “everything in Qatar has been beyond our expectations – everything is of the highest level and this orchestra could be one of the best.”
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