Constantine Ishkhanov is the founder and chairman of the European Foundation for the Support of Culture (EUFSC), a Malta-based organization dedicated to the promotion and development of classical music and other artistic practices in Europe and around the world. In the wake of the EUFSC InClassica International Music Festival, which took place in August and September in Dubai, we spoke with Mr. Ishkhanov to learn more about the foundation’s recent activities and how it has handled the recent turmoil of the past two years.
Constantine, the European Foundation for the Support of Culture (EUFSC) was founded by you a few years ago. The pace of its development, the range of activities, the locations of its projects and the scale of its activities are growing every year and are now on par with the most significant projects of global importance. How do you assess these developments and have all the objectives you set for yourself been achieved? Where is the foundation going now?
Seeing the development of the EUFSC has been an incredible experience for me, and something that I am very proud of. These accomplishments represent an incredible amount of hard work by everyone here at the Foundation, and reflect our resounding commitment to achieving the best in everything we do. Diversifying our event portfolio, as well as working to expand the scope and scale of our existing projects, is something that is vital to our organization and, I believe, one of the main reasons for our continued success. . An example is the Malta International Music Festival: When we started this project in 2011, we only presented a handful of artists and concerts. Now when we compare that to the most recent edition of this festival – which we actually held this year in Dubai due to Malta’s current COVID-19 restrictions – we see how the event has grown, welcoming this year thirty-seven renowned world soloists, seven major orchestras and eleven renowned conductors. However, these things just don’t happen. They are the result of years of experience and, above all, of establishing deep and meaningful relationships with our artists. The world of music is small and words move fast – if you keep your promises and consistently deliver events that resonate with people, they keep working with you.
How do you approach the realities of modern life with the COVID-19 pandemic? Last year you presented some projects online, for example the online festival in Armenia which you presented with the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra (ASSO). Additionally, this year you moved the InClassica International Music Festival to Dubai. How do you see the continued development of cultural events around the world, and more particularly the projects of your foundation? Do you believe the world will be back to what it used to be, or should we be looking for new ways to develop?
It is true that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges for us as an organization, challenges with which we are indeed still confronted on a daily basis. However, you have to adapt to survive and be ready to embrace new ideas and ways of operating, with the partial shift to online content as well as reaching less restrictive territories of good examples as you mentioned. The advantages of both of these approaches are obvious, but it’s also worth mentioning that they have their limitations and are basically not the main reason the EUFSC was founded. While it is true that we are always keen to expand the reach of our business – and have had fantastic success in places like Dubai, for example – we nonetheless remain committed to maintaining a strong presence in Europe and beyond. parts of the world. In fact, despite the difficulties due to COVID-19, we have nevertheless managed this year to organize a significant number of projects in Italy, Malta, Russia, Germany, Japan, Uzbekistan, Austria and others. country. In terms of using digital content, this is something that, even outside of its obvious advantages at the present time, should never – in our opinion, at least – replace live events. The experience of hearing an orchestra play live, for example, is something that is impossible to duplicate. It is of course impossible to predict how things will evolve in the world over time, but we remain unwavering in our determination and willingness to continue to present the best of classical music to audiences.
Educational projects are an integral part of EUFSC’s activities, including music academies around the world and a large-scale competition for pianists. What niche occupies the educational aspect of your activities in the mission of the foundation, and why do you pay so much attention to classical music education?
Educational initiatives are indeed a vital part of EUFSC activities. This is for many reasons, but the main one is our recognition of the incredible benefits that events such as academies and competitions give to young people. The positive effects of learning a musical instrument are well documented in the scientific literature, and being able to bring our expertise to this endeavor is something we are very proud of. For students wishing to pursue musical studies at a higher level, these events are especially valuable, giving them direct access to some of the world’s most respected and knowledgeable teachers, while helping them gain vital visibility. at a stage of formation. in their career. This year, we presented the International Classical Piano Competition in Dubai, an event that hosted participants from all over the world aged 15-36, with the winner not only winning a record first prize, but also a concert tour. performances around the world taking place this year and into 2022. We have designed the award in this way because of our belief that continued support and continued exposure is vitally important to creating a lasting career, and we are very proud of this aspect of the competition. Finally, on a personal note, seeing my own son’s musical development while studying piano made me realize the incredible benefits that good educational opportunities can offer, and reaffirmed my commitment to this as a central element of EUFSC activities.
Your foundation has been working with the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra for more than five years, including festivals in Armenia, orchestral tour and other initiatives. What motivated your cooperation? How do you rate the cultural life in Armenia today and what opportunities do you think await Armenian musicians in the future?
We have a special relationship with the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra (ASSO) that’s right, a relationship that is both important to us and which has given rise to many concerts and other incredible projects. I have known their founder, artistic director and principal conductor, Sergey Smbatyan, for many years now, and have seen him grow professionally to become an internationally renowned conductor. In fact, he is now Principal Conductor of ASSO and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, which we are delighted to see as a Maltese organization. The cooperation with the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra developed very organically, although I personally had some knowledge of Armenia’s cultural landscape before that due to my family’s Armenian roots. In terms of cultural life in Armenia today, I think it has immense dynamism and momentum, and is home to many fantastic musicians such as the 2005 winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, the incredible violinist Sergey Khachatryan, presented to us as part of our InClassica festival this year in Dubai. Armenia and its artistic community continue to gain visibility across the world, which is largely due to the enormous amount of talent the country is home to. It has been a pleasure for us as an organization to collaborate with Armenian artists such as ASSO, and we look forward to many more projects together in the future. When it comes to the future prospects of Armenian artists on the international stage, only time will tell. However, based on recent history, I’m sure it will be very brilliant.
To find out more about EUFSC, visit their official site.