Benefit draws true stars

Concert: When the BSO's director-designate Yuri Temirkanov conducts the Royal Philharmonic to raise money for the children of Kosovo, he will be joined by a spectacular line-up of performers.

April 27, 1999|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Some of the greatest names in classical music are lining up behind Baltimore Symphony music director-designate Yuri Temirkanov to raise money for the hundreds of children who have been orphaned by the bloodshed in Kosovo.

"The Concert for the Children of Kosovo" will take place on May 20 in the world's largest classical-music venue, the 5,000-seat Royal Albert Hall. Temirkanov will conduct the Royal Philharmonic, with appearances from such soloists as pianists Evgeny Kissin and Stephen Kovacevich, violinist Tasmin Little, flutist Emanuel Pahud, as well as actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Felicity Kendall, several distinguished opera stars and the Royal Choral Society -- all of whom will contribute their services without fee.

It is the most spectacular lineup of classical talent since Leonard Bernstein, the New York Philharmonic, Vladimir Horowitz, Isaac Stern, Mstislav Rostropovich and others combined forces almost 25 years ago for the so-called "Concert of the Century," a fund-raiser for the preservation of New York's Carnegie Hall.

The concert is being organized by the Melkonian Foundation, a registered charity founded in 1982 to raise money for children orphaned by war or natural disasters such as earthquakes. In its past efforts -- such as a benefit for children orphaned by the 1989 earthquake in Armenia -- its fund-raising committees have included such prominent Britons as their Royal Highnesses Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

"We've been overwhelmed by the support from the artistic community on this occasion," said Vartan Melkonian, the charity's founder and director, by telephone from London yesterday. The 51-year-old Melkonian, a well-known British conductor and composer, was himself left an orphan by the deaths of his parents in Lebanon 47 years ago.

He said that the first artists to offer their services -- independently of each other -- were Temirkanov, who lost his father to a German firing squad in World War II, and Kissin, a veteran of fund-raising efforts for improved medical care for Russian children. Temirkanov and Kissin were followed soon after by Redgrave, Kovacevich and others.

A British video company, Global, will record the concert free of charge, Melkonian said, adding that he does not yet know if it will be broadcast live or at a later date.

"Broadcast companies have not yet approached us," he said. "But we have put this concert together so quickly that we haven't even decided upon ticket prices."

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