Syrian musicians take part in special tribute concert at Italian historical site

Maestro Riccardo Muti led an orchestra at the Paestum archaeological site in southern Italy

Riccardo Muti is the founder of the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Nine musicians from Europe’s Syrian diaspora took part in a special classical music concert in Italy on Sunday.

Held on July 5 as part of the Ravenna Festival, the 24th Roads of Friendship concert was held at the Paestum archaeological site in southern Italy.

With this year’s performance dedicated to Syrian archaeologist Khaled Al-Asaad and Kurdish-Syrian politician Hevreen Khalaf, both killed in Syria’s civil war, the guest musicians played as part of the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra under the baton of founder, the Italian maestro Riccardo Muti.

Speaking to the Associated Press before the event, Syrian cellist Karoun Baghboudarian, who resides in the Netherlands, said the concert was a way to "build bridges between civilizations, between people, with music."

Of her nation and its people, she said: "We hope that Syria will come through the war and all the difficult situations as heroes, and that they can live normally."

Beauty amid the wreckage

While the festival is now held annually in the city of Raverna, Muti launched the Roads of Friendship concert series in Sarajevo: the first concert in 1997 was held in the battle scarred city as a way to provide an artistic balm.

From then, the annual performance went on to Beirut in 1998, Damascus in 2004, Nairobi in 2011 and Athens last year. Each concert has Muti lead a guest orchestra featuring musicians from the host country.

“On each of our trips, we ask musicians from local orchestras and choirs to join our team. These musicians, sharing the same music stand, may have nothing in common but music, yet they can express the same idea, the same concept,” Muti said in a 2019 interview with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra website.

“As I often repeat, the performing of music is a symbol of democratic co-existence, where each performer plays his part while listening to and respecting the others’ parts; they all aim at the best result and contribute to what we could call the greater good.”

Spreading culture with the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra

This year's Ravenna Festival concert featured one of Europe’s most dazzling young ensembles. Founded by Muti in 2004, the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra is an Italian collective who are all under the age of 30 and chosen from countrywide auditions judged by the maestro and a committee of leading international musicians.

The orchestra have performed in esteemed opera houses in Paris, Moscow and Salzburg as well as the 2015 Abu Dhabi Festival.

Speaking to The National before the sold out Abu Dhabi performance in Emirates Palace, Muti said he launched the youth orchestra as a form of cultural exchange.

“We have to bring music everywhere in the world and, in turn, accept music and culture from other countries,” he said.

“That way we can help create a universal musical language we all can enjoy.”