New Cretan Quartet: A Perfect Disaster Show

News | July 8, 2024

Hi! We are the New Cretan Quartet and we’re very excited to share with you a few words about our project and our recent performance in Milan. But first, let’s get a couple of details about us out of the way. We are violinists Giannis Mageiropoulos and Georgios Chliavoras, violist Stefanos Symeonidis and cellist Kostis Spyridakis, and we all met on the island of Crete. Now, Crete during the 30’s somehow managed to have a string quartet, probably the only one, called the “Cretan Quartet” and its founder, Aristeidis Antonakakis also composed the first string quartet ever written on the island. Our quartet, inspired and founded by our incredible teacher Georgios Demertzis, is an effort to continue the legacy of the Cretan Quartet (hence the name) and enrich the musical landscape of Crete, which unfortunately is a land quite barren of such musical endeavours.

Our path however was not always clear cut and we might have been lucky, but Crete is not exactly the place to create a string quartet. Our circumstances were unlikely to say the least; Kostis, our cellist, began the cello at 16 and after finishing his bachelor in music, became a teacher in the music school of Heraklion; Stefanos, the violist, happened to be studying Biology in Heraklion and decided at 19 to buy a viola; Georgios, one of the violinists, is a master’s graduate in Chemical Engineering finally giving in to his other passion, the violin; lastly, Giannis, the other violinist, was a just a tiny (giant) 14 year old boy aspiring to be a Cretan Lyra player, who was somehow turned onto the violin instead.

At Le Pressoir de Moncaeu. David Chocron pictured here in an effort to appear taller than Giannis

As you can imagine, getting these people together to rehearse can be quite difficult. One is a teacher in the mornings, while the other is his student, and meanwhile the other two are busy getting their biology degree or studying quantum mechanics. It’s not, therefore, a huge leap of the imagination to understand why our project is called “A Perfect Disaster Show”. Drawing inspiration from our own experience, we thought what better to show the world than the actual daily life of a string quartet. It’s not all suits and ties and sophisticated music as most people think; on the contrary, the reality can be quite chaotic. In March 2024, after an intense week of brainstorming with the immense help and support from wonderful human being and MERITA mentor, David Chocron, we managed to bring the show to life during our residency in the French countryside at Le Pressoir de Monceau, Macon. As per the initial focus of our quartet, we included works written on the island of Crete, such as the aforementioned piece by Antonakakis, works by two of the most important Greek composers, Mikis Theodorakis and Nikos Skalkottas, as well as works of our international repertoire, namely Beethoven’s 1st “Razumovsky” Quartet and Shostakovich’s 4th, all carefully wrapped in the form of a chaotic rehearsal, with members being annoyingly late while egos and rivalries make rehearsing impossible.

Cretan Ensemble

Outside the Villa Purricelli Guerra before the performance. It might not be directly obvious, but we’ve all lost 2kgs of sweat already.[/caption]Fast forward to a week ago, on the 29th of June, when our first MERITA performance took place at the Villa Puricelli Guerra, a historical building dating all the way back to 1712, in Sesto San Giovanni, Milan. The conditions were just right; blistering heat and 200% humidity in the atmosphere made it almost impossible to play, let alone think straight, thus providing the perfect stage for us to showcase our amazingly disastrous rehearsing abilities.

All joking aside, we thoroughly enjoyed the concert and our few days in the amazing city of Milan. We’d like to thank everyone who made this possible to begin with, all the wonderful people at Le Dimore del Quartetto, Fondazione La Societ√† dei Concerti, Comitato Amur and ProQuartet among others, as well as the attendees of our performance. Finally, a huge thanks to our teacher and mentors Georgios Demertzis and David Chocron, we are forever grateful.