Conductor and composer Alkis Baltas was born in Thessaloniki, on 30 Nov. 1948, to musician parents. The son of Sotirios Baltas, from the island of Lemnos, and Galatea Economidou, from Ioannina, Epirus, he received his first violin lessons from his mother. He continued his violin education with Stavros Papanastasiou at the Thessaloniki State Conservatory, where he also studied Advanced Theory and Composition under Solon Michailidis. As a violinist, he was a member of the Thessaloniki State Orchestra (1969-74), and participated, on various scholarships, in the World Youth Orchestra; he also collaborated, as an assistant to Yannis Mantakas, with the Thessaloniki Aristotle University chorus. In 1974, he graduated from the Aristotle University with a degree in Law. He went on to study music, on a ‘Society for Macedonian Studies’ scholarship, at the Berlin Hochschule der Künste, graduating, in 1978, with diplomas in composition (class of Max Baumann) and orchestral conducting (class of Hans-Martin Rabenstein).
Upon his return to Greece in 1978, he embarked on a long, remarkable, and many-sided educational career, making efforts towards the dissemination of serious music among wider social strata. He served as Artistic Director of the Thessaloniki State Orchestra (1983-1992; during his term in office, among other things, he founded the Thessaloniki State Youth Orchestra). He was also Artistic Director of the Greek National Opera (1994-1997), the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) Music Ensembles (1997-1999), the Corfu Municipality Symphony Orchestra (2004-2008), and the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra (2011-2017). Between 1992 and 2011, he taught Harmony, Orchestration, and Orchestral Conducting at the Thessaloniki Aristotle University. He has acted as Artistic Director of the Contemporary Conservatory of Thessaloniki and the Athens Hellenic Conservatory, and is currently Artistic Director of the ‘Music College’ conservatory in Thessaloniki. Since May 2010, he has served as Chief Conductor of the Corfu Philharmonic Society Symphony Orchestra. From 2001 to November 2019, he held the position of Artistic Director of the Patmos Sacred Music Festival.
His rich conducting career features collaborations with all the Greek and many foreign symphony orchestras, as well as the Opera of Thessaloniki and the Greek National Opera; his international appearances include concerts in Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, former Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Austria, Germany, former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, the former USSR, Turkey, the USA, Argentina, Qatar, Australia, and the UK.
Alkis Baltas is a Member of the Greek Composers’ Union. His compositional oeuvre covers almost the entire range of music genres: vocal and orchestral works, chamber music, compositions for solo instruments as well as for voice and piano, choral works, operas, incidental music, etc.
His music writing is predominantly tonal, cultivating, for the most part, the late Romantic idiom. Following and continuing the models of the Greek National School, he uses, in many of his works, elements of the Greek folk tradition, thus bespeaking his origins. His works Cypriot Suite, Greece, Choral Elaborations of Greek Folk Songs, Little Folk Songs, and the Asia Minor song Tonight at Midnight are characteristic examples. In many of Alkis Baltas’ works, the Romantic and National elements coexist with the neoclassical style, the atonal writing, and more modern idioms, thus creating sharp contrasts, while his music occasionally evinces a markedly grotesque and humorous character. By making frequent use of older techniques (such as the canon, the passacaglia, and the fugue), the composer alludes to the early European musical tradition, being its heir himself.
His love for the young is reflected in various compositions, either written for young musicians (like Music for Youth, Voyage in the Mediterranean, Four Island Songs) or intended for young audiences (for instance, In the Composer’s Workshop and Choral Songs for Children, as well as the musical tales The Happy Prince, The Selfish Giant, What Zenon Wants, and Frikadela, the Witch Who Hated Carols).
His extensive oeuvre includes operas (Momo, They Think It’s Hot in the South Pole), the ballet Panoria, symphonic music (Divertimento for Orchestra, Symphonic Requiem, Symphony in One Movement, etc.), music for strings (Lament, Suite for Strings, Romantic Movement in a Strange World, etc.), chamber music for various combinations of instruments, music for solo instruments, as well as songs for chorus a cappella, for chorus and instrumental ensemble, for solo voice and instrumental ensemble, and songs for voice and piano. He has also elaborated and arranged works by many composers for various instrumental ensembles (for example, Nikolaos Mantzaros’ Hymn to Liberty).
He has collaborated with the National Theatre of Northern Greece and the Theatrical Workshop of Thessaloniki. Many of his works (chamber music, choral and orchestral works, opera, etc.) have been repeatedly performed both in Greece and abroad. His compositions have won distinctions in Greek and foreign competitions (Italy, Spain).
Works by Alkis Baltas have been released on 14 CDs so far: Little Suite for Woodwind Quintet, Musical Moments, Little Songs of Love, 6 Simple Songs, Greek Dialogues for Two Violins, Suite for Piano, The Songs of the Secular Monk, Divertimento for Orchestra, Symphonic Requiem, Suite for Strings, Lament, Romantic Movement in a Strange World, Variations in Blue, Lullaby for Amadeus, Paganini Variations, Orphic Hymn to the Night, Echo in the Void, Panoria (ballet), Monologue, The Selfish Giant, Sacred Choral Works, music for the film ‘Pavlos Melas Nazi Camp’, Intimate Dialogues, An Offering to Mother, Choral Songs for Children, Morning Star, Cypriot Suite, The Elder in Hagia Sophia, Wind Blowing, The Unknown Island, Greensleeves Dream, Vision, Echoes, In Foreign Lands, Tonight at Midnight.
In April 2020, he won a ‘Clouzine’ International Music Award for the CD Sacred Choral Works, ‘in recognition of having met the highest standards of excellence in Best Contemporary Choral Music Album’.
Text by Helena Grigorea and Ioannis Tselikas
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]