Prodigal daughter

The future of classical music is here
By EMILY PARKHURST  |  January 23, 2008
LOOKING AHEAD: Anastasia Antonacos.

When pianist Anastasia Antonacos walks into the coffee shop for our interview, it is clear even without a piano in the room why she has been so successful. She holds herself with a confidence unknown to most young musicians. Before we can get started, a fellow musician stops to chat. Several other people stop to say hello during the interview. It seems the city of Portland knows Annie Antonacos.

And for good reason: She is the future of classical music. She has denounced the high-brow mentality of the generation of classical musicians before her and replaced it with a relaxed, approachable personality.

From her humble beginnings in Saco, Annie has blossomed into a talent not to be missed. With a doctorate in piano performance from Indiana University and a number of international awards to her name, Annie returned to Maine to teach at her alma mater, the University of Southern Maine.

The Portland Phoenix sat down with her to find out what the future looks like for one of Maine’s most exciting performers.

What brought you back to Maine and will you be staying long-term?
There are so many great things happening here. I know a number of musicians who have recently moved back. Portland is a great town to be a young artist and is attracting some exciting musicians. I’m less willing to consider full-time teaching opportunities in places like Arkansas and Iowa when I compare them to the artistic environment available here.

How do you feel about the future of classical music?
I just read a report that classical record sales are actually up. People are still buying music. But the days of traditional concert hall performances where everyone sits quietly and doesn’t interact with the performer are over. Living composers are the key to classical music surviving. They have the opportunity to draw people out to hear something new, something they can’t buy online.

What will you be playing at your upcoming concerts?
I’ll actually be playing a number of shorter works including four Schubert Improptus, which I have loved all my life. I’m honestly not sure whether I’m playing them for the audience or for myself. I’ll also be playing four “Icons” by Finnish composer Rautavaara, who turns 80 this year. The composer has included paragraphs that describe the “icons” that were his inspiration. I hope to be able to project the images on a screen while I’m playing.

You often involve visuals in your performances. Is multi-media the next logical step for classical music performances?
Working with other kinds of artists is vital to creating a successful artistic community. I performed recently at an art gallery in Rockland called Elan Fine Arts, which was a great space. The Bayside Trio, my flute-cello-piano trio, is considering doing a performance of Armenian composers there when they have an Armenian art exhibit this coming fall.

What kind of music do you listen to ... honestly?
I listen to everything. Listening to classical music has felt like work lately while I’ve been preparing for my recitals. But I listen to Radiohead, U2, Bjork. I’ve always loved the late Beethoven Quartets. I listen to ragtime, gypsy music, and quite a bit of jazz. Classical music is benefiting from all the other genres out there right now. Modern composers are drawing from so many different styles.

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