Huffington Post (Greek) features violinist Benjamin Bowman
The Huffington Post (Greece) interviewed violinist Benjamin Bowman. The final feature was done in Greek, but below are his original English answers. The Saronic Chamber Music Festival runs from July 31 – August 4, 2019. Read the published Greek article here.
What does it mean and how it feels for you coming back and participating again to the Saronic Chamber Music Festival?
This festival serves as a sort of reset button for me, for the sheer beauty of the location (and the food!), and for the friendships that have become so important in my life. There are many chamber music festivals in the world, but very few that can make you feel as though you’re coming home when you arrive. The music is the glue that keeps us all coming together, year after year.
Having already participated to that quite a few times what is your sense about it, both as a musician that plays in it and regarding the audience’s reaction to it?
It is always an exploration. Everyone here shares a common work ethic and creative mission. It is a joy to be in an environment such as this, where even a standard piece of music can be scrutinized and a new approach forged. Perhaps the landscape helps to inspire this work ethic, but perhaps credit should be given to the artistic direction of the festival as well – it’s a real challenge to keep passion stirred, and the directors always do this with care. I always feel as though I’m part of something that belongs in the communities we play in, like I’m part of something that is just at its beginning, but will be around for a long time. The saronic gulf is a special place in the world, and the music adds beautiful dimension to it.
From your vast experience do you think that chamber music with all the intimacy that requires can work at open air concerts?
As much as I appreciate being able to hear a pin drop in a quiet concert hall, I also enjoy the atmosphere that can be created at an open air performance as well. It has its own feeling of intimacy, with the open sky above and the occasional sound of a motor bike passing by. We can also often configure the seating in a way that brings the audience closer to us, often on the same level. With a little bit of real-world ambient noise or a gust of wind, we all appreciate the music we are sharing in the midst of the real world context, and it adds a feeling of transparency or casualness that is most welcome, at least to me!
Are you aware and have you even played any work of Nickos Skalkotas and what is your opinion about this great Greek composer?
I believe a work of Nickos Skalkotas will be performed at this year’s festival, but unfortunately I will not be playing it myself. I hope to play his music in the future.
What do you think about the festival’s program for this year?
I can speak to the pieces that involve me: Mozart’s viola quintets are among my very favorite pieces in the chamber music repertoire, and the D major marks the final one of these works I have yet to perform. The Brahms sextet (Op. 36) is a classic part of the literature that will challenge and reward the musicians and audience alike. It is both flexible for new interpretation, and comfortably familiar to many. The Dvorak “American” is a perfect piece from the string quartet repertoire, virtuosic yet accessible. It is an ideal piece for outdoor venues, and will appeal to the younger people in the audience as well. While there’s nothing particularly risky or daring about programming any of these pieces, I think they help to broadcast the intent of this festival: to unify, and celebrate great works from the chamber music repertoire in a glorious setting, with friends.