Copyright 2019 Yolanda Kondonassis. Photography by Laura Watilo Blake, Mark Battrell, Robert Muller, Michael Cavotta.

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When Remembering is Better

October 11, 2017

For my entire career, I’ve been all about new music – playing it, commissioning it, promoting it, defending it. It’s an artistic cause that matters, and I’ll continue to support it in as many ways as I can. It’s funny, though, how life can alter your angle of perspective. As the parent of a teenager, I’ve had more than one conversation that goes something like this:

 

Me (referring to a song that comes on the radio): Oh, I love this song!

My daughter: Geez, it’s so old.

Me: What? It came out last summer. 

My daughter (while fiddling with the dial, looking for another station): Like I said, it’s really old.

 

We live in a time when things happen fast and everything is immediate. This makes me sound ancient, but I’m quite certain that this compression of time affects absolutely everything, and most acutely, it diminishes our appreciation for all that has come before us. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time anymore to reflect on the contributions or accomplishments of our predecessors before moving on to the next big thing. There are just so many “next big things” that we can barely keep up with this moment, much less the previous few moments, or years, or decades, or centuries - and if we do, we are often accused of being “behind the curve” or “stuck in the past.” It’s no accident that one of the most popular buzz phrases of our time is “Moving forward…” 

 

I have always loved the quote by the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The catchy phrase has been coined in several variations, one of which is “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” But I like the original, because I believe there is a difference between studying history and remembering the past. Studying history is a somewhat detached endeavor – separated, objective, and usually from a distance. Remembering the past, however, implies a connection, an internal process and some reflection. 

 

For all of these reasons, I suppose it is no accident that I chose this period in my life to break briefly from chasing the new in favor of honoring the legacy of something older and closer to my heart. 

 

Released almost a year ago, Ginastera: One Hundred marks a milestone in my career on a number of levels. It was my 20th recording release during my 20th year of conservatory teaching, and the project afforded me the profound luxury of looking back with reverence at a composer whose music affected me deeply. It was an opportunity to honor a man who, in my opinion, has not been honored enough for his life of musical contributions.

 

I’ve said this before, but the existence of Alberto Ginastera’s Harp Concerto not only made my solo career (having performed it nearly two-hundred times all over the word), it was probably a major factor in my decision to choose the harp over the piano at a critical fork in the road. Having a piece of music that gave me the opportunity to be passionate, ferocious, vibrant, dissonant, and fiery was a deal-maker for me. While I love much of the harp’s traditional repertoire, Ginastera’s concerto gave me a window into all the other characteristics that the harp - and a harpist - could possess. That excitement was my fuel.

 

So, not only for what he did for me personally, but for what his body of work gave the musical world, it was time to look back – to appreciate, to learn, to honor and to reflect on a composer who moved us. 

 

This was a chance to do more than study, but to remember.

 

YK

 

 

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