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A short history

The Athenaeum International Cultural Centre is a non profit music organization. It was founded in 1974 by Maestra Louly Psychouli, Pianist Nina Koukouraki, and a group of artists, intellectuals as well as personalities of public life who shared in common the aspiration of regenerating the Greek musical education as well as the cultural life of the country.

To achieve this, Athenaeum cooperated with several cultural counterparts abroad, carrying out invitations as well as interchanging young artists, giving international master classes, concerts, e.t.c., thus strengthening the intercultural relations of Greece with musically advanced countries.


In 1974 the Athenaeum International Cultural Centre set up its Conservatory, which soon made a name of its own, owing to the regenerating spirit it brought to the music education of Greece.


It enacted, in 1975, the International Music Competitions of Greece in Opera - Oratorio - Lied, and Piano, which are held annually in Athens, under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture, that were also included in UNESCO'S Fédération Mondiale de Concours Intérnationaux de Musique.


In 1977 the International Music Competitions of Greece, were dedicated to the memory of Maria Callas, whose death in that year was a great loss in the operatic world.


In 1978 Athenaeum enacted, under the sponsorship of the Greek Ministry of Culture, a concert in the memory of Maria Callas, which was held on 16th September (day of Callas' death) every year at the Herod Atticus Odeion, in Athens. Unfortunately, due to financial reasons, this concert does no longer take place. Besides paying tribute to Callas' memory, this concert aimed at introducing the winners of the International Music Competitions Maria Callas of Greece to the public. Additionally, many famous artists were invited, such as Victoria de Los Angeles, Christa Ludwig, Ileana Cotrubas, Irina Arkhipova, Hermann Prey, Lev Vlassenko, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Halina Czerny - Stefanska, Thomas Vasary, Anny Fischer, Cheryl Studer, Dame Gwyneth Jones, Gundula Janowicz, as well as great orchestras, such the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra of Bucharest, the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, e.t.c.


In 1979 Athenaeum took a leading role in creating training programmes for symphonic and vocal ensembles as well as for electronic music.


In 1982 the sculptor Aspasia Papadoperaki created, on Athenaeum's own initiative, the Maria Callas' statue, under the sponsorships of Mmes Kaiti Kyriakopoulou - Iliopoulou and Kyriaki Petzetaki. It is a statue in bronze, which stands in Madritis' Square (Behind the HILTON HOTEL), Athens.


In 1984 Athenaeum moved to an iconic building in 8 Amerikis Street, at the centre of Athens, which restored at its own expense.

It established, in 1987, an annual series of 70 concerts, aiming at promoting young artists.


In 1994 Athenaeum was already well known as a highly prestigious International Cultural Centre. As a result, the International Music Competitions of Greece that were dedicated to the memory of Maria Callas, were renamed International Grand Prix Maria Callas.


In 1997 the International Grand Prix Maria Callas was appointed Institution of the City of Athens by the Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.


In 1998 Athenaeum moved to the another central district of AThens,Thission, opposite to the Ancient Agora of Athens. Its new residence was an old mansion in 3 Adrianou str., which it restored, again, at its own expenses. This year, Athenaeum aimed at establishing a Symphonic Orchestra, consisting of musicians from the Balkan Peninsula. The underlying motivation was the belief that the art of music is the ideal cultural place, where people of a certain region can acknowledge the roots they share in common. The Balkan Orchestra performed at the Herod Atticus Odeion, in Athens, 2002. Furthermore, financial difficulties of Athenaeum resulted in the cancellation of the Orchestra's performing activities.


Due to its consistency in attaining the goals it sets, as well as its major role as cultural leader, Athenaeum has been receiving subsidies from the Greek Ministry of Culture since 1989.


In 2005 Athenaeum was nominated for the Conseille de Musique Award by UNESCO'S International Committee.


The cultural life of Greece was hard hit by the recent recession. Athenaeum, too, had its own losses, which mostly had to do with a) the cancellation - owing to a lack of subsidies - of the aforementioned concert in commemoration of Maria Callas, and b) the two - year suspension of the Maria Callas International Grand Prix in Opera - Piano. The last Grand Prix took place in 2011, while the news of its suspension became a much talked about subject by prominent figures in arts and culture of the country.

Two years later, this major artistic event is back giving a ray of hope about its future. Athenaeum hosted the 38th International Grand Prix Maria Callas - Opera (4 -11/10/2014) as well the 39th International Grand Prix Maria Callas - Piano (14 - 23/05/2015) in collaboration with the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation. The entire project is part of the NSRF 2007 - 2013 Programme for Development, which concerns these two International Grand Prix. Athenaeum hopes for a permanent conduct of both the International Grand Prix Maria Callas and the commemorative concert in the immediate future.