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The Athens Conservatoire Historical Archives

The Athens Conservatoire (Odeion Athinon), the first and most important institution for performing arts in Greece, was founded in 1871 by the Music and Drama Association and functions uninterruptedly until today. The material held at the Athens Conservatoire Archives reconstructs, not just the history of the Conservatoire itself but also the history of musical life in Athens during the last 140 years and, in some cases, the political history of modern Greece.  At the same time, the research at the Archives deconstructs the still dominant perception that art music never actually existed in Greece.

The Athens Conservatoire Archive contents:

– Manuscript records of the sessions of the executive council of the Music and Drama Association since 1871; documents concerning the function of the conservatoire as well as the regulations of its functioning.

– Printed records of the Conservatoire’s Activities, where one can find names and the titles of the teaching staff, names as well as the progress record of the students, names of those students who have obtained scholarship, and the program of the musical activities (that is recitals and concerts).

– Manuscript class registers, marks, records of examinations, papers of examinations with corrections and marks, starting with the first registers, where we can come across the name of Spiro Samara, until the beginning of the 20th century, when Dimitri Mitropoulos and Nikos Skalkottas began their studying at the conservatoire, then during the German occupation when Marianna Kalogeropoulou (Maria Callas) became a student of the conservatoire and the period of the civil war when Michail (Mikis) Theodorakis studied at the institution.

– Administrative and legal documents and architecture sketches of both the old building (the one in Pireos street) concerning the concert hall, signed by Ernest Ziller but also of the new one, signed by Ioannis Despotopoulos, as well as pictures from both buildings.

– Programs of concerts (dating from the first one which took place in January 1874), a very rich musical library (rare books on music as the first book of musical theory written in Modern Greek, A Concise Grammar, or Basic Elements of Music by Nikoaos Flogaitis (1830), or the famous Rapporto (1851) by Nikolaos Chalikiopoulos Mantzaros), musical periodicals (like, e.g., the rare, Odeion of 1903).

– Rare photographs of musicians dating from the 19th century until today.

– Private Archives (containing manuscripts or printed scores, personal notes, personal items, photographs) of e.g. Georgios Nazos (the first director of the Conservatoire and the most important personality of the Conservatoire’s first period), Dimitri Mitropoulos, Gina Bachauer, Manolis Kalomoiris, Georgios Sklavos, Kostantinos Kydoniatis, Georgios Lykoudis, Electra Georga, Georgios Kountouris (Maria Callas’ accompagnateur), Tatsis Apostolidis.

– The whole Archive of ‘Chorodia Athinon’ (the ‘Athens Chorus’), contenting scores, registries, names, newspaper reviews, concert programs.

– Names of world famous musicians who collaborated with the Athens Conservatoire: Ambroise Thomas, Alphonse Danhauser, Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray, August Gevaërt, Camille Saint-Saëns, Sergei Rachmaninov, Filhelm Furtwängler, Felix Weingartner, Paul Wittgenstein, Alfred Cortot, Alfredo Casella, Lotte Lehmann, Bruno Walter, Samuel Baud-Bovy, José Iturbi, Egon Petri, Arthur Schnabel, Alfred Cortot, Alfredo Casella, Gabriel Pierné, Elvira de Hidalgo, Woldemar Fremann, Leopold Godowsky, César Thomson, Arthur Rubinstein, Borislav Huberman, Wilhelm Kempff, Lotte Lehmann, Bruno Walter, Samuel Baud-Bovy, Herbert von Karajan, Richard Strauss, etc.

– Names of Greek non-musical personalities who left their traces at the Conservatoire: Alexandros Rizos Rangavis (1809-1892), who was also one of the members of one of the Executive Councils of the Music and Drama Association, along with, among others, the future prime minister Charilaos Trikoupis (1832-1896) and the politician Timoleon Philimon (1833-1898), Emmanuel Rhoidis (1836-1904) and  Anghelos Vlachos (1838-1920), members of the first commitees for the Drama School − Vlachos later also taught Dramatology; Georgios Vizyinos (1849-1896), teacher of Dramatology, Georgios Drossinis (1859-1951), who wrote the first book on the Conservatoire and its chronicle (Drossinis 1938), Costis Palamas (1859-1943), Ioannis Polemis (1862-1924), Aristomenis Proveleghios (1850-1936), Dimitrios Vikelas (1835-1908), Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957), Nikiforos Vretakos (1912-1991), but also the future prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), who was also the politician who officially established the pitch standard in Greece in 1910.

– A great collection of printed scores by Greek or foreign composers, an important collection of manuscript scores mainly by Greek composers, (but not only, e.g., Ludwig Wassenhoven, who spent some time in the conservatoire, has left some manuscript compositions).  As far as Greeks are concerned, one could mention the names of Nikolaos Manzaros, Alexandros Katakouzinos, Spiro Samara, Dionysios Lavrangas, Georgios Lambelet, Manolis Kalomiris, Dimitrios Lialios, Georgios Axiotis, Loudovicos Spinellis, Giorgos Poniridis, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Nikos Skalkottas, Georgios Sklavos, Giannis A. Papaioannou, Konstantinos Kydoniatis, Mikis Theodorakis. Some of the Greek manuscript scores are unknown or considered to be lost (like the spartito of the opera Androniki (1905;) by Alexander Greck, a work missing until it was found among the unclassified material of the Archive on Spring 2014). As far as Dimitris Mitropoulos (1896-1960) is concerned, at the Athens Conservatoire Archives one can find, apart from many letters,  a great number of his early compositions, manuscript or printed, including probably his first one, dating from 1911 (Romance d’ Esmaralda), as already mentioned. Furthermore, at the Conservatoire one can find the manuscript score of four of Skalkottas’ dances, first performed at the Conservatoire in 1934 under Mitropoulos’ conduction. The conducting signs on the score are very probably made by Mitropoulos himself.

– Last but not least, the Conservatoire Archives also possess Piano rollers, LP’s and CD’s with rare recordings.

Since a large number of the material is still unclassified, it is possible that in the future other valuable elements might be discovered.

The Athens Conservatoire Archives keeps enriching its collection with valuable donations.

Since September 2013 the Hellenic Music Research Lab of the Ionian University has undertaken the responsibility to classify and digitize the Archive of the Conservatoire, a work still in progress.

The Archives are temporarily closed to the public.

  • Director of ALRAC (Archives, Library, Research Center of the Athens Conservatoire): Haris Xanthoudakis
  • Head of the Archives: Stella Kourmpana
  • Contact: archives [at] athensconservatoire.gr

SAMPLES FROM THE ARCHIVES

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