Interview: Stathis Soulis in conversation with Giota Eftaxia

”It is pure magic to get in touch with people of different traditions and cultures and then end up talking with them in the same language, the language of Music”. Stathis Soulis

Stathis Soulis is a young, upcoming and talented conductor who is characterized by his passion for music. Despite his young age, he has made great collaborations with important orchestras in Greece and abroad as well as with notable artists. He has also been awarded for his contribution to culture.

G.E.: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue the profession of musician and consequently of a conductor?

Stathis Soulis: I came into contact with music from a very young age! My parents introduced me to music because they both love it, even though they never followed it professionally due to circumstances. I want to believe that I have made them proud and I feel very lucky that they gave me the stimulus to follow the path of music from as early an age as 4! I started learning to play the piano, which is my main instrument, as well as attending music theory classes. I wanted to follow the career path of a classical pianist until I met the conductor Miltos Logiadis, who was my teacher at the Ionian University (Corfu). I owe what I am today to him and through him I met the world of orchestra conducting. Ι immediately loved this world so I no longer wanted to become a pianist and I have never regretted it!

G.E.: What do you remember from the first time you conduct an orchestra? What were your feelings?

Stathis Soulis: The first time I conducted an orchestra was at the Ionian University. I conduct a modern project, which was the thesis of one of my classmates. It was a unique and unforgettable experience, as the music piece was difficult and combined many levels at once. It was the perfect challenge for a perfect start and I faced it with a lot of courage and love. I still remember this beginning.

G.E.: What are the major difficulties that may be faced by a conductor?

Stathis Soulis: There are many difficulties that a conductor can face. He always needs a calm and clear mind, so that he can face any challenge. One of these difficulties is when there is little rehearsal and preparation time to complete a difficult piece of music or a performance. In this case, concentration and method are required from the conductor so that a multitude of things work at the same time. Moreover, another difficulty that comes to my mind is when the conductor has to unite people/musicians with completely different psychosynthesis and characters. Then the conductor must ensure a harmonious and beautiful collaboration. He must maintain the balance.


G.E.: You have made many remarkable collaborations inside and outside of Greece. Which collaboration emotionally moved you the most?

Stathis Soulis: Unfortunately or fortunately, I can’t single out anyone. Each collaboration has ensured its uniqueness within me and I am grateful for everything I have experienced around the world, both in Greece and abroad and especially for all the people I have met in my life, through these collaborations.

G.E.: On the occasion of the 200 years since the beginning of the Greek Revolution (1821), you will conduct Mikis Theodorakis’ Second Symphony, subtitled ”The Song of the Earth”. What was the ”taste” left by your musical encounter with this important composer?

Stathis Soulis: I was truly fortunate to recently meet up with Mr. Mikis Theodorakis, in the context of projects that I will perform with the National Opera of Greece. It is an experience of a lifetime to meet such a person. He generously shared some moments of his life with me to help me understand the conceptual depth of his work, that I will conduct soon. This meeting was something unique and of course a great honor for me.

G.E.: You have collaborated with the great Greek tenor, Mario Frangoulis and you have traveled all over the world. In fact a 4-year collaboration unites you. What did you gain from this cooperation?

Stathis Soulis: It was a very beautiful experience to live with Mario Frangoulis all these years. I gained many travels, musical moments and acquaintances with musicians from all over the world. It is pure magic to get in touch with people of different traditions and cultures and then end up talking to them in the same language, the language of Music!

G.E.: You have also collaborated as a conductor and pianist with important names and notable orchestras, covering a wide range of music repertoire. What is special about each collaboration? Do you distinguish any of them?

Stathis Soulis: All collaborations are special! I was very lucky, because Ι was not limited in one repertoire. Instead, I had the opportunity to make all kinds of music with the most renowned artists. When you do everything with true love and dedicated yourself to it, everything remains unforgettable in the end.

G.E.: A conductor inevitably leaves his own stamp on each musical composition he is called to conduct. Does this cause you stress?

Stathis Soulis: I would not call it stress. I would call it a challenge and I love them. Indeed, I try to put my little stone in musical works that have been played a thousand times. Ι try to approach them, submitting my own truth through my performance.

G.E.: Each orchestra has its permanent conductor, but it has also guest conductors. Do you think that a guest conductor can impose his own style to the orchestra, with which he collaborates for the first time?

Stathis Soulis: It is definitely very charming to be a guest conductor in an orchestra. You try in a short time to inspire the musicians you have by your side and invite them to make music together. There is nothing more magical and I am lucky all these years for it. You are not trying to impose your personal style. You try to tell them your own truth and develop a healthy relationship between you, with music as the main denominator.

G.E.: You have conducted most of the Greek orchestras, except for the Thessaloniki State Orchestra. However, you have also conducted the MAV Symphony Orchestra in Budapest. Do you think there are differences with Greek orchestras? And if so, what are these differences?

Stathis Soulis: The level in Greek orchestras is very high! I would say that the difference with orchestras abroad is only our spoken language.

G.E.: Have you encountered difficult collaborations in your career so far?

Stathis Soulis: Hmm, I would say no. Only some difficult projects, but they also had their charm.

G.E.: For the first time, the ”ΕύΓΕ” Awards were established by the newspaper ”Ημέρα”, to elevate people, who showed remarkable action in 2020 on the island of Zakynthos, where you come from. You became one of the winners of these awards. What does this award mean to you?

Stathis Soulis: The ”ΕύΓΕ” Awards is a local institution in Zakynthos in recent years, which I didn’t know until this year. When I was invited to be a candidate, the initial reaction was just joy. When my name was announced to the winners Ι felt even greater joy. I was moved and I thank them all from the bottom of my heart!!

G.E.: On February 20, you conducted the 3rd concert of Soloist Cycle of Athens State Orchestra ”A sneak peek at Classicism”, with three top concerts and three great soloists. The concert as part of the measures for covid-19, was broadcast online. How did you feel that you had to perform the concert and bow to an ”invisible” audience?

Stathis Soulis: Strangely, the concert hall was full of an ”invisible audience”. It was, however, a very beautiful concert ,which resulted from a perfect collaboration with the Athens State Orchestra. I believe that the audience was there with us that night and made us feel their warmth, despite the distance that occurred due to the circumstances. The bow is always full of strong emotions when you feel the audience is present, either with its mental or physical presence.

G.E.: What is your opinion about online concerts? Do you think that art ”loses” its essence and its meaning when it is transmitted through Social Media, where physical contact with the audience is impossible?

Stathis Soulis: I think that anything that contributes in keeping the Art active is valuable and necessary for every artist. Of course, the feeling created by the audience with their applause after each concert is irreplaceable. However, I believe that technology has helped significantly to keep Art alive in some way. We must look ahead and adapt immediately to the new treaty, with the hope and the wish that this ”online journey” will be short and we will get back to full concert halls.

G.E.: Which teacher do you consider important for your configuration as a conductor?

Stathis Soulis: In two words…Miltos Logiadis. I owe him everything, including who I am today.

G.E.: Is there a conductor who has inspired you the most?

Stathis Soulis: I used to be considered a clone of Miltos Logiadis (laughs). However, over the years, I tried to put my own stamp on every performance and I think that I have succeeded to a significant degree. I also admire other conductors for the way they inspire the orchestras, such as Lucas Karytinos, Carlos Kleiber and Leonard Bernstein.

G.E.: Is there an orchestra you would really like to work with in the future? What musical work would you like to conduct?

Stathis Soulis: I dream of collaborating with the Thessaloniki State Orchestra and I would like to conduct Mahler’s Symphony No 2.

G.E.: If you had to choose between conducting and a career as a pianist what would you choose?

Stathis Soulis: Conducting the orchestra, of course!! This doesn’t mean that I don’t love the piano. But, it is a magical pleasure every time I am on the podium.

G.E.: You have said in an interview that one of the conductors you admire is Gustavo Dudamel. Dudamel had characteristically said: ”With an orchestra you are building citizens, better citizens for the community”. Do you think that the world can change through music?

Stathis Soulis: I couldn’t agree more with Gustavo Dudamel! The existence of music in our lives is a matter of the soul.

G.E.: Although, we don’t have many plans due to this situation with covid-19, I would like to ask you about your future plans.
Stathis Soulis: I am waiting for the performances with the National Opera of Greece, with works by Mikis Theodorakis, but also with the Ballet of National Opera in the performance ”Don Kihot”, which is scheduled for next May. We will see… I wish and I hope that everything goes well for all of us in all areas.

G.E.: Thank you Stathis from the bottom of my heart for this amazing interview.

Stathis Soulis: Thank you so much too. It was my honor!!

On the occasion of the 200 years since the beginning of the Greek Revolution (1821), Stathis Soulis will conduct Mikis Theodorakis’ ”Άξιον Εστί” with the National Opera of Greece on October 27, 31. For more details, please follow the link below:

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