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Conductor and composer Alkis Baltas was born in Thessaloniki, on 30 Nov. 1948, to musician parents. The son of Sotirios Baltas, from the island of Lemnos, and Galatea Economidou, from Ioannina, Epirus, he received his first violin lessons from his mother. He continued his violin education with Stavros Papanastasiou at the Thessaloniki State Conservatory, where he also studied Advanced Theory and Composition under Solon Michailidis. As a violinist, he was a member of the Thessaloniki State Orchestra (1969-74), and participated, on various scholarships, in the World Youth Orchestra; he also collaborated, as an assistant to Yannis Mantakas, with the Thessaloniki Aristotle University chorus. In 1974, he graduated from the Aristotle University with a degree in Law. He went on to study music, on a ‘Society for Macedonian Studies’ scholarship, at the Berlin Hochschule der Künste, graduating, in 1978, with diplomas in composition (class of Max Baumann) and orchestral conducting (class of Hans-Martin Rabenstein).
Upon his return to Greece in 1978, he embarked on a long, remarkable, and many-sided educational career, making efforts towards the dissemination of serious music among wider social strata. He served as Artistic Director of the Thessaloniki State Orchestra (1983-1992; during his term in office, among other things, he founded the Thessaloniki State Youth Orchestra). He was also Artistic Director of the Greek National Opera (1994-1997), the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) Music Ensembles (1997-1999), the Corfu Municipality Symphony Orchestra (2004-2008), and the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra (2011-2017). Between 1992 and 2011, he taught Harmony, Orchestration, and Orchestral Conducting at the Thessaloniki Aristotle University. He has acted as Artistic Director of the Contemporary Conservatory of Thessaloniki and the Athens Hellenic Conservatory, and is currently Artistic Director of the ‘Music College’ conservatory in Thessaloniki. Since May 2010, he has served as Chief Conductor of the Corfu Philharmonic Society Symphony Orchestra. From 2001 to November 2019, he held the position of Artistic Director of the Patmos Sacred Music Festival.
His rich conducting career features collaborations with all the Greek and many foreign symphony orchestras, as well as the Opera of Thessaloniki and the Greek National Opera; his international appearances include concerts in Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, former Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Austria, Germany, former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, the former USSR, Turkey, the USA, Argentina, Qatar, Australia, and the UK.
Alkis Baltas is a Member of the Greek Composers’ Union. His compositional oeuvre covers almost the entire range of music genres: vocal and orchestral works, chamber music, compositions for solo instruments as well as for voice and piano, choral works, operas, incidental music, etc.
His music writing is predominantly tonal, cultivating, for the most part, the late Romantic idiom. Following and continuing the models of the Greek National School, he uses, in many of his works, elements of the Greek folk tradition, thus bespeaking his origins. His works Cypriot Suite, Greece, Choral Elaborations of Greek Folk Songs, Little Folk Songs, and the Asia Minor song Tonight at Midnight are characteristic examples. In many of Alkis Baltas’ works, the Romantic and National elements coexist with the neoclassical style, the atonal writing, and more modern idioms, thus creating sharp contrasts, while his music occasionally evinces a markedly grotesque and humorous character. By making frequent use of older techniques (such as the canon, the passacaglia, and the fugue), the composer alludes to the early European musical tradition, being its heir himself.
His love for the young is reflected in various compositions, either written for young musicians (like Music for Youth, Voyage in the Mediterranean, Four Island Songs) or intended for young audiences (for instance, In the Composer’s Workshop and Choral Songs for Children, as well as the musical tales The Happy Prince, The Selfish Giant, What Zenon Wants, and Frikadela, the Witch Who Hated Carols).
His extensive oeuvre includes operas (Momo, They Think It’s Hot in the South Pole), the ballet Panoria, symphonic music (Divertimento for Orchestra, Symphonic Requiem, Symphony in One Movement, etc.), music for strings (Lament, Suite for Strings, Romantic Movement in a Strange World, etc.), chamber music for various combinations of instruments, music for solo instruments, as well as songs for chorus a cappella, for chorus and instrumental ensemble, for solo voice and instrumental ensemble, and songs for voice and piano. He has also elaborated and arranged works by many composers for various instrumental ensembles (for example, Nikolaos Mantzaros’ Hymn to Liberty).
He has collaborated with the National Theatre of Northern Greece and the Theatrical Workshop of Thessaloniki. Many of his works (chamber music, choral and orchestral works, opera, etc.) have been repeatedly performed both in Greece and abroad. His compositions have won distinctions in Greek and foreign competitions (Italy, Spain).
Works by Alkis Baltas have been released on 14 CDs so far: Little Suite for Woodwind Quintet, Musical Moments, Little Songs of Love, 6 Simple Songs, Greek Dialogues for Two Violins, Suite for Piano, The Songs of the Secular Monk, Divertimento for Orchestra, Symphonic Requiem, Suite for Strings, Lament, Romantic Movement in a Strange World, Variations in Blue, Lullaby for Amadeus, Paganini Variations, Orphic Hymn to the Night, Echo in the Void, Panoria (ballet), Monologue, The Selfish Giant, Sacred Choral Works, music for the film ‘Pavlos Melas Nazi Camp’, Intimate Dialogues, An Offering to Mother, Choral Songs for Children, Morning Star, Cypriot Suite, The Elder in Hagia Sophia, Wind Blowing, The Unknown Island, Greensleeves Dream, Vision, Echoes, In Foreign Lands, Tonight at Midnight.
In April 2020, he won a ‘Clouzine’ International Music Award for the CD Sacred Choral Works, ‘in recognition of having met the highest standards of excellence in Best Contemporary Choral Music Album’.
Text by Helena Grigorea and Ioannis Tselikas
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]
Carrer, Paolo (Pavlos)
(Zakynthos, 12 May 1829 – Zakynthos, 7 June 1896)
Greek composer, a leading figure in the music of the Ionian Islands, he created national operas and vocal music based upon Greek subjects, with libretti and lyrics in the Greek language and melodies inspired from the folk and popular urban traditions of Modern Greece.
Born into a noble family of merchants of Zakynthos, he studied music in his native island under Giuseppe Cricca and Francesco Marangoni, and probably in Corfu under Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros. Musically gifted, but also attuned to the climate of the time in the Ionian Islands, dominated by Italian opera and European culture, he composed his first short works in the late 1840s; the operatic scene Il pellegrino di Castiglia [The Pilgrim of Castille] attracted the interest of the public when it was presented at the “Apollo” Municipal Theatre of Zakynthos. His early successes encouraged him to settle in Milan, the capital of opera, in order to pursue more specialized studies.
In 1850, in the midst of the Risorgimento, Pavlos Carrer moved to Austrian-occupied Milan, where he studied with Raimondo Boucheron, Pietro Tassistro and Giuseppe Winter. Within the year, in a concert at the “Carcano” theatre, he presented his first orchestral works, and composed the score for Tomaso Casati’s ballet Bianca di Belmonte, staged at the “Teatro della Canobbiana”. Under the patronage of Francesco Lucca, the powerful music publisher, Carrer made his debut as an opera composer at the “Carcano” in August 1852, with Dante e Bice [Dante and Beatrice], an opera in three acts based on a libretto by Serafino Torelli. This work, which seems to have provoked the Austrian police with its political undercurrent, is about Italy’s national poet Dante Alighieri, his unfulfilled love for Beatrice Portinari, his political activity and the writing of the Divine Comedy.
In the following year, Carrer collaborated with choreographer Andrea Palladino for the comic balletCadet, il barbiere [Cadet, the Barber], staged at the “Canobbiana” and greeted with tepid applause (June 1853). However, this year had a great success in store for the young composer: his three-act opera Isabella d’Aspeno was premiered at the “San Giacomo” theatre of Corfu (February 1854), to be followed by a triumphant series of performances at the “Carcano” (April 1854 and March 1856). This work, on a libretto by an unknown author signing with the initials R.G.S., holds a special place in Italian opera of the ‘mezzo ottocento’, as it appears to have been one of the models for Verdi’s famous opera Un ballo in maschera.
Carrer’s success in Milan was completed with the production of his grand opéra La Rediviva [Risen from the Dead], in three acts, to a libretto by Giuseppe Sapio. This work was highly acclaimed when it was lavishly staged at the “Carcano” (January 1856), and the success was repeated at the Teatro Comunale of Como (January 1857), and at the “San Giacomo” of Corfu (December 1857). During his stay in Italy, Carrer also composed chamber music, and especially operatic transcriptions for piano and flute, dances and solfège exercises.
Inspired by the vision of creating a national music and becoming the first national composer of Greece, Carrer returned to Zakynthos in 1857. He collaborated with the local theatres as conductor and impresario, taught music, and married the prima donna of his works, soprano Isabella Iatra. It was during that same period that he composed four-act Marco Bozzari, his first opera on a national subject (1858-1860), as well as numerous songs to Greek verses, among which the famous klepht songGero-Dimos [Old Dimos], a folk-like song incorporated into the above opera. After a series of adventures due to its revolutionary content, Marco Bozzari was premiered in the town of Patras in April 1861; it is Carrer’s best-known work and the most popular Greek opera of the 19th and early 20thcenturies, numbering over 45 productions. Originally composed to an Italian libretto by Giovanni Caccialupi, it was gradually translated into Greek and its performances were frequently greeted with popular enthusiasm.
His two other national operas are along the same lines, though more sophisticated from the point of view of compositional technique. His atmospheric, exotic Kyra Frosyni [The Lady Frosyni] (libretto by Elisavetios Martinengos, based upon the long poem by the same title by Aristotelis Valaoritis) was presented at the “Apollo” theatre of Zakynthos, in November 1868. The heroic opera Despo (libretto by Antonios Manousos, collector of folk songs and versatile scholar) was staged at the “Apollo” theatre of Patras, in December 1882. Both the former, a mature work characterized by striking local colour, sensuousness and psychological insight and the latter, a palpably national work, rich in folk melismata and melodic motifs, are now available on CD.
At the same time, Carrer was still composing operas in the Italian style, like Fior di Maria [Greek title: ‘Marianthe’] (to a libretto with a novel-like plot by Giovanni Caccialupi, premiered at the “San Giacomo” of Corfu, in January 1868), in which realistic and pre-veristic elements can be detected. He took more decisive steps towards theatrical and musical realism with the composition of MariaAntonietta (libretto by Georgios Romas, premiere at the “Foskolos” theatre in Zakynthos, January 1884).
His last opera, Marathon-Salamis, an ambitious work in four acts (composed in 1887), holds a special place in his operatic oeuvre; combining late neoclassicism with early impressionism and a Wagnerian tendency for unity, it was never performed in his lifetime but 115 years later! Carrer also left two unfinished works: the three-act opera Lambros il brulottiere [Lambros the Fire-raiser], in the national style (c. 1886), and the operetta Contes Spourgitis [Count Sparrow], in the comedy of manners tradition (1886-1887). Finally, there is the title of a lost opera of unknown description, Don Pigna.
Pavlos Carrer was one of the most popular and most frequently performed composers in 19th century Greece, with a significant Italian career at the same time. He kept track of the development of European opera, listening to artistic innovation and constantly reviewing his compositional practice. In his style, one can detect Italian influences, especially from Verdi’s middle period and late bel canto. Yet his musical idiom is distinguished by a special personal touch and by his effort to invest his works with a national colour. He played a leading role in the most characteristic development in the field of Greek music that took place in the mid-19th century Ionian Islands: the first systematic attempt to create an independent national opera.
Lecturer, University of Crete
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]
Composer and violinist Phanos Dymiotis was born in Nicosia, Cyprus, on 3 April 1965, when the country was in the 5th year of its independence, for the first time since the 12th century A.D. He was the second of the three children of Stella Dymiotou, a literature teacher, and Nikos (d. 1990), an exceptionally talented sculptor, who, according to Stella, “loved classical music and was even more modest than Phanos”.
In that environment, the rare intellectual and musical abilities of Phanos were apparent very early. He attended the primary schools of Agia Marina and, subsequently, Chryseleousa, in Nicosia (1970-1976), and excelled in all subjects, while participating in all the vocal and instrumental ensembles. He played the mandolin, and, at the age of 10, he started violin lessons. He continued his schooling at the “Pankyprio Gymnasio Kykkou”, where music teacher Maro Skordi helped him to enrich his knowledge and distinguish himself, recognizing his progress in the violin as well as the artistry of the works he had already composed, studying from books “in his free time”, as he himself wrote. His composition Marcia Funebre was written in 1977 on the death of Makarios III, one of the world’s most popular leaders, whose funeral was a stirring public event. It is the first of Dymiotis’s works that attest to his constant interest in the unequal struggles and political deadlocks of his country, part of which was invaded by the Turks in 1974.
While still in high school, Dymiotis also composed a String Quartet (1979), which was chosen and performed by a professional ensemble in Sofia, on 20 August 1979, as part of the events for the International Year of the Child. The quartet and Marcia Funebre impressed Philip R. Pfaff, the English examiner in Cyprus of the Royal Schools of Music Associated Board, who, upon the insistence of Maro Skordi, agreed to examine Phanos Dymiotis in the violin and look at his compositions. As a result, Dymiotis completed his secondary education in one of the best music schools of England, Chetham's School of Music in Manchester, which prepares gifted children for Higher Education.
While attending Chetham’s School of Music (1979-1983), he composed ten works, some of which are the work of a mature composer, like the Divertimento for chamber orchestra, and the oratorio The Last Apostle, inspired, too, from Makarios III, parts of which were performed in Nicosia on 19 January 1983. Dymiotis made equally spectacular progress in his violin studies. And, in every phase of his studies, he was also active as an organizer and performer of music.
In Manchester, he formed a deep friendship with Greek pianist, conductor and musicologist George Hadjinikos (1923-2015). Through him, he became acquainted with the work of Nikos Skalkottas (with whom he probably identified to some degree). Hadjinikos also gave him the opportunity to show his performing skills by inviting him to replace at the last moment the soloist of a concert he was conducting, and he impressed both audience and critics in Lalo's Symphonie espagnole.
Being, at the age of 18, an accomplished composer and violinist, he easily got into Cambridge University (Trinity Hall) in 1983, and graduated in 1986, having received the highest distinction, first-class honours for two consecutive years, “a double first class, a most unusual achievement” according to a university certificate. In 1986-87, Dymiotis pursued postgraduate studies (Master of Philosophy) in Musical Composition. His teachers were Robin Holloway and Alexander Goehr (son of Walter Goehr, Schoenberg’s pupil in Berlin and fellow-student of Nikos Skalkottas), with whom Dymiotis had been having lessons since 1984-85.
The last phase of Dymiotis’s studies was in 1987-1993, at Princeton University, U.S.A., where he acquired a doctorate in composition. Thanks to one of the many scholarships that he had received, in 1993 he attended classes in advanced composition at the Aspen Music School, under the director himself, Greek-descended composer George Tsontakis. His participation in a composition contest for the 1992 inauguration of the University of Cyprus renewed his ties with Cypriot musical life. His composition Academic Overture (after Brahms’s Akademische Festouvertüre) won first prize and was performed in Nicosia in October 1993.
Dymiotis’s professional career started with a three-year contract (1995-98) as Lecturer at Goucher College in Baltimore. In 1993-95, awaiting the beginning of the contract, he was in New York, active as a performer and composer. However, as he wished to have plenty of time for composing and performing, he soon abandoned his academic career. From 1998 onward, he lived in Lutherville, outside Baltimore, Maryland, a state on the densely populated East Coast, which afforded him the possibility of collaborating with the musical ensembles of many cities: he was Concertmaster of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra at Easton (where he was also Composer-in-Residence); he played in the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, in the Baltimore Opera, as well as in the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, the New Horizons Chamber Orchestra, and the Mariner String Quartet among others.
His interest in the wide and egalitarian dissemination of music led him to participate in the programme “Performing Arts for Everyone” of the Kennedy Center Millenium Stage, Washington D.C., and to give violin lessons in primary schools.
During that period, he wrote a work for Cyprus, the Hymn to Aphrodite, to Homer’s text, commissioned on the occasion of the accession of Cyprus to the European Union in 2004.
The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra commissioned Dymiotis to compose a work to be performed along with Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat at a concert on 22 March 2007. For this composition, which he named The Soldier's Blues, Dymiotis “borrowed” the orchestration and melodic motifs from Stravinsky’s Soldier. From the Blues he took scales and harmonies. Dymiotis was present at rehearsals of the work. But its premiere was given amid the fresh and tragic sense of an unexpected void caused by his sudden death, on 10 March, in a road accident, returning from a concert of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra in Wilmington.
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]
Composer, musicologist and writer Takis Kalogeropoulos (1946-2009) dedicated himself to a lifelong service of Greek art music, as a composer, researcher, writer, editor and/or translator of large volumes of musicological research and similar works, like those on the Athens State Orchestra [Memory of D. Mitropoulos (1990), The Athens State Orchestra at the Athens Concert Hall (1991), The Athens State Orchestra at the Athens Festival 1991, and the lavish album Athens State Orchestra. Prehistory and History, for the 60th anniversary of the Orchestra (2004)], as well as the Greek edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Music, by Michael Kennedy (pub. Yallelis, Athens 1993), where he added many explanatory remarks and special notes, making a three-volume edition out of the one-volume original. In the period 1994-2002, he compiled the seven-volume Dictionary of Greek Music, from Orpheus to the Present Day (pub. Yallelis); as he informs us in his foreword, in its more than 4,000 pages, he allowed hospitable space to all the people of Greek Music (or those that declare themselves to be such), without gradations of quality, preferences or exclusions. And, we add, without any state funding and with very few, unpaid, collaborators. The sum total of his texts exceeds 750!
Takis (Panayotis) Kalogeropoulos was born in Athens (6.7.1946) and died at the town of Rio in the Peloponnese (31.10.2009) after a serious road accident. He was descended from old families of Zakynthos and Crete.
From an early age, he studied music with his mother, a pupil of the Kalomiris couple (piano), and with Constantinos Kydoniatis (advanced theory and orchestration), Georgios Sklavos (instrumentation), and Evanghelos Evangheliou (trumpet) at the Athens Conservatory. He also received private violin, piano and Byzantine music lessons.
In December 1970, by assembling some fine young musicians, he founded and directed the “Panharmonia” Youth Symphony Orchestra, which evolved under his direction into an active young ensemble with which he performed a considerable number of Greek and foreign works in Greek premieres. In autumn 1970, Kalogeropoulos resigned and settled in Vienna, where he studied privately with Egon Wellesz among others. He returned to Athens in 1978, and spent the rest of his life composing, carrying out research, and writing.
His compositions include three symphonic poems, Tryphon and Chrysofrydi (to the poetry of Ioannis Gryparis, for symphony orchestra, 1971, 1976), A Whole Night (based on the poem by Aris Alexandrou, for solo oboe and symphony orchestra, 1972, 2004), and The Volleyball (for 10 hornists and 10 percussionists, 1986; for 16 brass instruments and percussion, 2008), many chamber music works, and a variety of compositions for wind ensembles or symphony orchestra. Among them are Scarabs, Terracottas and Lighthouse Keepers (song cycle to the poetry of Ioannis Gryparis, with piano or symphony orchestra, 1974-76), Four Greek Dances (for 10 wind instruments, 1979-80), Debussiana (for 8 wind instruments, 1981), Christmas Fantasy (for 10 performers of wind instruments who also play percussion instruments, 1982), and Cretan Sonatina (for oboe and piano, 1982-83). Also, Apostrophe (or Soap Opus, based on the poem by Kostas Karyotakis, for tuba, oboe and piano, 1986), and many transcriptions for wind instruments (he collaborated as orchestrator with the wind instrument ensemble “Nikolaos Mantzaros”), as well as an elaboration-adaptation (for wind orchestra, 1985-89) of Twelve Greek Dances out of Nikos Skalkottas’s36 Greek Dances. As an adolescent, he had composed the opera The Magician with which he presented himself to Kydoniatis, around the age of sixteen, hoping to be accepted as his pupil.
Works by Kalogeropoulos have been performed in Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, the former Soviet Union, and Canada; LP and CD recordings have been made by “Motivo”.
He was a member of the Greek Composers’ Union and a basic collaborator of its periodical (“Antiphono”), vice-president (elected by the musicians) of the Athens State Orchestra Artistic Committee (1990-94), and an honorary member of that orchestra’s Society of Musicians.
He received awards from the Universities of Milan and Genoa (1993) for musicological studies on 19th-century Italian music.
Kalogeropoulos’s music, deeply influenced by that of his teacher Constantinos Kydoniatis, is characterized by a partly satirical mood and is, for the most part, programmatic. The composer possesses a profound knowledge of all the capabilities of, especially, wind and percussion instruments, a fact that is obvious in his entire oeuvre. He often borrows familiar motifs from the international musical literature, which he ingeniously invests with a light-hearted tone. He also makes use of melodies from various parts of Greece.
Takis Kalogeropoulos was married to the eminent naïf painter and former leading singer at the Vienna State Opera Sophia Kalogeropoulou, née Mazaraki; they had two daughters, Dione and Daphne.
Christos I. Kolovos PhD
English translation by Helena Grigorea
Kalomiris, Manolis (1883–1962)
Manolis Kalomiris was a composer, music critic, and pedagogue. A pioneer and a leading figure of the Greek National School, he dominated Greek musical life from the mid-1910s and throughout the first half of the 20th century, playing a pre-eminent role in the creation of musical institutions and societies, and occupying administrative positions at the same time.
The only child of Ioannis Kalomiris, a physician from the island of Samos, and Maria Chamoudopoulou from Smyrna, he was born in Smyrna on 14 December 1883. At the age of four he lost his father, and was raised by his maternal uncle Minas Chamoudopoulos. He grew up in a well-to-do, intellectual, bourgeois environment that remained close to Greek tradition, which proved a determining influence upon his compositional oeuvre. Sophia Spanoudi, his most important piano teacher, also initiated him into the poetry of Kostis Palamas, which was to become Kalomiris’ fundamental source of inspiration.
In 1901, he started studying piano and theory at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna, under Wilhelm Rauch and August Sturm (Piano), Hermann Grädener (Theory and Composition), and famous musicologist Eusebius Mandyczewski (History of Music, Instrumentation). In the conservative setting of Vienna, he acquired solid theoretical knowledge according to the German and Austrian tradition, he was introduced to the work of the great classical and romantic composers, and was impressed by Wagner and the representatives of the national schools of music. It was there that he composed his first works, some of which he later described as ‘small preludes’ to his creative career. In these works, French and German romantic influences are combined with what Kalomiris himself called a ‘Greek-Oriental local colour’.
Upon graduating with a piano diploma in July 1906, he married his fellow-student Charikleia Papamoschou, and they moved to Kharkov (then Russia, now Ukraine), where he worked as a piano teacher at the Music School of the Obolensky Girls’ Lyceum. His direct contact with works of the Russian National School and with the country’s educational system crystallized his ideological and compositional aesthetic, expressed in his articles in Noumas, a trailblazing demoticist magazine, and supporting a Greek-centred system of music writing and education. While in Kharkov, he composed songs for voice and piano to the demoticist poetry of Palamas, Malakasis, and Pallis, as well as his own; incidental music for Grigorios Xenopoulos’ drama Stella Violanti (1909); and his first symphonic work, Romeiki [Greek] Suite (1907), which, despite being an early work, contains many typical elements of a large part of his later oeuvre: the programmatic–extramusical character of his instrumental compositions; his inspiration from Greek folk tradition, poetry, and prose; his use of characteristic Greek rhythms and modes; the contrapuntal writing and the continuous elaboration of motivic material; his use of augmented second and stepwise—frequently chromatic—movement in accompanying patterns, in a quasi glissando manner; and the cyclic form.
On 11 June 1908, he gave a concert, at the Athens Conservatoire, consisting exclusively of his own works: a landmark date for his career as a composer as well as an exponent of a Greek National School; the accompanying text, written in demotic Greek and expressing his principles, functioned as a manifesto, signalling its beginning.
In the autumn of 1910, he settled in Athens. In December, he conducted, at the Athens Conservatoire, the first symphonic concert featuring his works. Early in 1911, he became head of Theory, and taught Piano, Harmony, Counterpoint, Composition, and, for a short time, History of Music. In 1918, he was appointed General Inspector of Military Music (1918-1920, 1922-1937).
With the staging of his first opera, O Protomastoras [The Master Builder], in 1916, based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ tragedy of the same title, he was recognized as a composer and main exponent of a national music revival, as this work reflects the spirit of the Greek ‘Great Idea’ and the national euphoria that prevailed during the period that preceded the Asia Minor Catastrophe, like many other compositions of his until 1922: the song cycle Mayovotana [Magic Herbs] (1914), the opera To Dachtylidi tis Manas [The Mother’s Ring] (1917), and the Symphony No. 1 [‘I symphonia tis Levendias’] (1920).
From the early ’20s, we also observe impressionistic elements in such works as O Pramateftis [The Pedlar], First Rhapsody for piano, Trio and Quartet ‘quasi una fantasia’, the song cycle S’ agapo [I Love You] to the poetry of Kostis Palamas, and Symphony No. 2 [‘Symphony of the Simple and Good People’], in which the chorus is used in a kind of vocalise.
The period after the tragic events of 1922 was followed by a personal tragedy: in 1923, his sixteen-year-old son Yannakis was killed. In 1926, he withdrew from the Hellenic Conservatory, which he had founded in 1919, and founded the National Conservatory, which he directed until 1948, when he became Chairman of the Administrative Council, a place he held until his death. In his capacity as music teacher, he composed various piano works and many choral pieces, and also wrote a series of manuals on theory and solfège. Until 1930, he had produced very few compositions but made a more systematic effort to have his works performed abroad.
Symphony No. 2 (1931) marks a renewal of his compositional career, which continued, uninterrupted, until his death. The major works of the ’30s include the Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1935), Songs and St’ Osiou Louka to monastiri [At Venerable Luke’s Monastery] (1937) to the poetry of Angelos Sikelianos, Triptych for orchestra (1937), and Preludes for Piano (1939). During the ’40s he composed, among other things, the symphonic poems Minas o Rebelos [Minas the Rebel] (1940) and O thanatos tis Andreiomenis [The Death of the Valiant Woman] (1943), the ‘musical tale’ Sunrise (1945), the Sonata for Violin and Piano (1948) as well as song cycles, mostly to the poetry of Kostis Palamas; also, two strikingly personal and autobiographical song cycles based on the work of symbolist poet Konstantinos Hadjopoulos. In the midst of the maelstrom of World War II, he started writing and composing, at the same time, his literary (My Life and my Art) and his musical memoirs (From Captain Lyras’ Life and Longings). The most important event, the culmination of his international career, was the staging of his opera The Mother’s Ring at the Berlin Volksoper (premiered on 2 Feb. 1940). In 1945, he was elected Regular Member of the Athens Academy in the Department of Music, which was created especially for him. In the ’50s, he completed his opera Ta xotika nera [The Shadowy Waters] (1950), based on the dramatic poem by W. B. Yeats, and the Concertino for Violin and Orchestra. In Symphony No. 3, ‘Palamiki’ [dedicated to the memory of Kostis Palamas], and in his swansong, the ‘musical legend’ Konstantinos o Palaiologos [Constantine Palaeologue] (1961), based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ tragedy of the same name, the composer’s idiom verges on atonality, without actually crossing the borderline, however.
Kalomiris died on 3 April 1962; his funeral was held at the First Athens Cemetery at public expense. For his oeuvre and his contribution to music, he received many international awards and honours. He ensured his posthumous reputation by keeping a rich archive that includes his manuscripts, press cuttings relating to his work, correspondence, talks, and other documents, managed, since 1980, by the Manolis Kalomiris Society, which aims at the study, dissemination, and promotion of the composer’s oeuvre.
Manolis Kalomiris Society
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]
Greek National Opera’s Artistic Director, Giorgos Koumendakis, born in Rethymno, Crete, in 1959, is one of the most gifted and versatile Greek composers. Apart from his numerous pieces of symphonic and chamber music, a large part of his artistic career has been devoted to composing music for the performing arts (theatre, cinema, dance, opera, installations).
He has composed and presented four operas, among which stands out the two-act opera The Murderess (2014, to a libretto by Yannis Svolos, based on Alexandros Papadiamantis' ‘social novella’ under the same title). Commissioned by the Greek National Opera, this work combines the Greek musical tradition with the genre’s contemporary European identity.
Koumendakis’ distinctions date back to 1985, when he was chosen by György Ligeti to compose Symmolpa V. A few months later, he participated in the Venice Biennale. In 1987, he collaborated for the first time with the renowned French ensemble for contemporary music ‘Ensemble InterContemporain’, thus inaugurating an international career that led, in 1992, to the Prix de Rome, an honorary scholarship entailing a year of creative residency at the French Academy in Rome (Villa Medici).
In the same year began his long-standing collaboration with choreographer-director Dimitris Papaioannou and the ‘Edafos Dance Theatre’, which culminated in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, where Koumendakis served as music director, composer, and author of the musical scenario.
He has collaborated with leading figures in the fields of theatre, opera, and dance, such as Karolos Koun, Stefanos Lazaridis, Yannis Houvardas, Roula Pateraki and Rallou Manou.
He has also served as artistic director of the ‘Nikos Skalkotas’ ensemble, the ‘Kyklos Ensemble’, and the Rethymno Rennaissance Festival, as well as the artistic programme manager for the Cultural Foundation of Tinos.
His works have been performed throughout the world, at prestigious concert halls and opera houses like the Salle Olivier Messiaen, Théâtre de l’Archevêché, Teatro La Fenice, Alte Oper, Benesse Museum (Naoshima),Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Purcell Room, Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, Forbidden City Concert Hall (Beijing), Muziekgebouw aan't IJ (Amsterdam), Auditorio Nacional de Música (Madrird), Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (Maryland), Piccolo Teatro (Milan) and the Guarnerius Art Centre (Belgrade).
From 2015 to February 2017, he worked as artistic programme manager of the Greek National Opera’s Alternative Stage, planning innovative programmes and productions based on artistic, educational, and social criteria.
Rena Kyriakou was born in Heraklion, Crete, on 25 February 1917. Child prodigy, internationally acclaimed pianist, composer, and pedagogue. She was a member of the Greek Composers’ Union.
The daughter of well-known architect Dimitrios Kyriakou and Kakia Archaniotaki, Rena grew up in a cultured environment that appreciated her talent and fostered its development very early on. On 31 December 1923, at the age of six, she made her first public appearance at the Parnassos Concert Hall, performing exclusively her own compositions (from Fifteen Children’s Pieces [Δεκαπέντε παιδικά κομμάτια]), which were greeted with positive comments by such musicians as Georgios Lambelet, Marios Varvoglis, Georgios Sklavos, Dionysios Lavrangas, Theodoros Synadinos, Manolis Skouloudis, Ivan Boutnikov, and Frank Choisy. These early works sustain a programmatic character with a marked romantic idiom.
The Kyriakou family then went to Paris in order to seek the expert opinion of neuropathologists and musicians. According to the verdict issued by Charles Richet and the composers of the modern French school Albert Roussel, Gabriel Pierné, Jean Déré, and Vincent d’Indy, little Rena was a performing and composing genius. In Berlin, she played in the form of auditions before Franz Schreker, George Szell, and Max Von Schillings, winning praise once again.
She completed theory and harmony with Richard Stöhr (Munich and Vienna), and Dr. Paul Weingarten (Vienna). She had her first piano lessons with Hilda Müller-Pernitza, Anghelos Kesisoglou, and Paul Wittgenstein. In Paris, Isidor Philipp, Gabriel Pierné, and Nadia Boulanger prepared her for the CNSMDP entrance exams.
In September 1930, among 124 candidates, Rena Kyriakou was among the top five, and was admitted to the CNSMDP, in the piano class of Isidor Philipp, and the harmony class of Jean Gallon. In 1931, her works Kloster, op. 1/Α.Κ.Σ.Ρ.Κ. 35, and Burlesque no. 1, op. 1/Α.Κ.Σ.Ρ.Κ. 36, were presented at the Société Nationale de Musique de Paris concerts (the first participation of a Greek female composer), receiving excellent reviews.
In 1933, her composition teachers Henri Büsser and Jean Gallon, sure of her success, proposed her for the 1934 Prix de Rome. Elena Venizelou (who financed her studies) did not allow her to take part in the competition.
In 1932, Rena Kyriakou was awarded the Deuxième Prix de Piano for her performance of Fryderyk Chopin’s Sonata in B flat minor; in 1933, she graduated from the CNSMDP, winning the Premier Prix de Piano for her performance of Robert Schumann’s Symphonic Variations, op. 13, and an atonal work by Florent Schmitt.
The Premier Prix was her ticket to the historic concert halls of Europe and America, where she introduced herself as a composer too, placing her works among those of Chopin and Liszt, or playing them as encores. She signed a contract for a world tour with the Office Théâtral Européen. At an international level, she got enthusiastic reviews, both for her high-quality interpretations and the originality of her compositions; the music critics placed her among the top musicians of the time.
She gradually came to the decision to devote most of her time to discography. She passionately dedicated herself to recordings, convinced that they were the way to remain in her audiences’ consciousness.
With Isidor Philipp’s consent, she turned to research and promotion of piano works by hitherto neglected composers like Felix Mendelssohn, Emmanuel Chabrier and Isaac Albéniz, producing their complete works in collaboration with Vox. For the same company, she recorded works by Antonio Soler, John Field, Jan Dusík, Enrique Granados, Fryderyk Chopin, and Gabriel Fauré, among others.
She had a prodigious memory, and never used a score, to the surprise of all the great conductors she collaborated with, such as Hans Swarowsky, Carl August Bünte, Robert Wagner, Edmond Appia, Hubert Reichert, Mathieu Lange, Karl Rucht, Christian Vöchting, Václav Smetáček, Rudolf Kempe, Maurice Le Roux, Armin Jordan, Rudolf Moralt, Toni Louis Alexandre Aubin, Henri Rabaud, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Georg Solti, Jean Meylan, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Dimitris Chorafas, Miltiadis Karydis, Theodoros Vavayannis, and Andreas Paridis.
She also collaborated with such famous orchestras as the Vienna String Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Pro Musica Orchestra, the O.S.R., the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Hungarica, the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris, the Torquay Symphony Orchestra, the Westfalen Symphony Orchestra, the Innsbruck Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and the Athens and Thessaloniki State Orchestras.
Her recordings of Chabrier are considered superior to those by Arthur Rubinstein, Marcelle Meyer, Pierre Barbizet, Paul Badura-Skoda, and Louis Kentner. Her discography of Mendelssohn has been deemed better than the corresponding renderings by Guiomar Novaes and Rudolf Serkin, and equal to those of Cortot, Horowitz, Perahia και Thibaudet, while her Haydn recordings were pronounced superior to those of Fritz Neumeyer.
She was made Dame of the British Empire, and Chevalier de France, L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, for her interpretations of Mendelssohn’s and Chabrier’s complete works respectively. She became the third honorary member of the International Mendelssohn Society after Pablo Casals and Alfred Cortot. The Viceroy of Yugoslavia conferred the Croix de l’Ordre de Saint Sava, Chevalier de Yougoslavie, upon her.
In 1943, she premiered her Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, op. 18/Α.Κ.Σ.Ρ.Κ. 74 (the first piano concerto by a Greek female composer), with conductor Theodoros Vavayannis and the Athens State Orchestra, at the Pallas Concert Hall. It was performed again in Geneva in 1954, with the O.S.R. under the baton of Jean Meylan, and at the Athens Concert Hall in November 2009, with pianist Domna Evnouchidou, and Miltos Logiadis conducting the Athens State Orchestra.
It was difficult for Rena Kyriakou to achieve recognition as a composer in Greece, due to the different sound of her works as well as her sex. She was active at a time when Greek music had to be ‘national’ in character in order to survive. And at such a time, she dared to propose her own personal idiom. Greek audiences were not prepared to appreciate experimentation of that kind.
Her works Tango, Α.Κ.Σ.Ρ.Κ. 28, and Burlesque no. 2, op. 9/Α.Κ.Σ.Ρ.Κ. 54, were published by Durand, Paris, while Perpetuum Mobile, op. 15/Α.Κ.Σ.Ρ.Κ. 70, was published by Carl Fischer, New York.
From June 1950, she served repeatedly as jury member at major piano competitions, like the annual CNSMDP competition, the Concours International d’Exécution Musicale de Génève, and the Montreal International Piano Competition.
Rena Kyriakou died of cancer at Moschato, Athens, in August 1994.
Christina K. Giannelou
PhD, Historical Musicology – Piano soloist
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]
Composer Anestis Logothetis (1921-1994) lived in post-war Vienna and distinguished himself as a member of Actionism. He influenced the Viennese art circles as he experimented with new sound media, anticipating the so-called “acousmatic” perception of sound, a concept used ten years later. He is also one of a group of avant-garde composers, together with Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, Sylvano Bussotti, Roman Haubenstock-Ramati and John Cage, who were the first to introduce visual symbols into a new musical notation in the 1950s. Logothetis in particular, through his own characteristic system of notation, created ‘polymorphic music’ – as he termed it himself – with “graphic” scores. He developed a “multimedia” notation system that should be perceived as a cybernetic interaction of current data. His understanding of cybernetics is expressed in the projection of graphic scores in space and in the independent alternation of interaction among performers, which was based on a score.
He was born of Greek parents on 27 October 1921 in Pyrgos, Eastern Rumelia, on the Black Sea (Burgas, Bulgaria today). After the Neuilly Convention, in 1934, the family moved to Thessaloniki where he graduated from the German School. In 1942, he left Greece due to the Second World War and settled in Vienna in order to study. He started as a student of engineering at the Vienna Polytechnic, but he soon turned to music and changed to composition in 1945. He studied at the Vienna Academy of Music under Alfred Uhl and Erwin Ratz (theory and composition), Hermann Schwermann (piano) and Hans Swarowsky (orchestra conducting), graduating with distinction in 1951. He attended seminars and devoted himself to composition in Rome, on a scholarship from the Austrian Cultural Institute in 1956 and 1958-59, receiving a total of ten scholarships, mainly from the Austrian government. For a number of years (1955, 1957, 1960, 1962-65), he participated in the international summer seminars for modern music in Darmstadt, where he became acquainted with such composers and musicologists as J. Cage, E. Brown and B. Maderna, who influenced his views on music and consequently his work. As early as 1957 he started experimenting on sound in the WDR Studio of Gottfried Michael Koenig in Cologne, which resulted in the first electroacoustic composition in Austria, FANTASMATA. Following his preference for the use of innovative means for musical production, in 1981 he composed the work WELLENFORMEN with a computer in the EMS studio in Stockholm.
Collaborations: KATARAKT in 1960 with Otto Mühl, MEDITATION in 1961 for the work “Aktion Perinetgasse” by Hermann Nietsch, IDENTIFIKATION with his brother Stathis Logothetis for the “Europalia” festival in Brussels in 1982 etc.
The total of his musical output is divided in two periods: the first, during which the composer wrote 65 works in conventional notation with various combinations of instruments and orchestrations, and the second, where his works are presented in his own ‘graphic’ notation, a system that he had been working on since 1950, though it appears for the first time in 1959 in the drafts of his work STRUKTUR-TEXTUR-SPIEGEL-SPIEL. He composed works for orchestral ensembles, electronic and multimedia music as well as many radio operas (Hörspiele) for NDR, SR, ORF, SWR and WDR. In 1974 he published his essay: “Zeichen als Aggregatzustände der Musik” (Jugend und Volk Publications, Vienna; republished in the book Anestis Logothetis Klangbild und Bildklang, Lafite Publications, Vienna 1998).
Logothetis received the ‘Theodor Körner’ Award twice (1960, 1963), and First Prize (Ex Aequo with I. Xenakis) at the Doxiadis Athens Technological Institute (A.T.I.) music contest of 1962, sponsored by M. Hadjidakis. He also received a Recognition Award from the City of Vienna in 1985, the Medal of Honour of the City of Vienna in 1986, an honorary award from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Sports in 1989 (commission of his works DAIDALIA ODER DAS LEBEN EINER THEORIE and his last long multimedia opera AUS WELCHEM MATERIAL IST DER STEIN VON SISYPHOS); in 1993, he received the ‘Floriana’ Award for the relation between Speech and Music in his work MANTRATELLURIUM.
Numerous concerts as well as exhibitions of his graphic scores have taken place since 1964 not only in Europe but also in the USA, Japan, Korea and India.
He died of cancer in Vienna on 6 January 1994.
(Composer, PhD Candidate in Musicology – National
and Kapodistrian University of Athens)
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]
Dimitri Mitropoulos was born in Athens on 18 February 1896. After private piano lessons, he enrolled at the Athens Conservatory in 1910, his main teachers being Belgian violinist, composer and conductor Armand Marsick (harmony, counterpoint) and German pianist and music teacher Ludwig Wassenhoven. On 22March 1913, he made his first appearance as a pianist and composer at a private chamber music concert together with Marsick (presenting Un morceau de concert for violin and piano), and on 29 April 1915 he conducted the Athens Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in his composition Taphē (‘Burial’). In 1919, he completed his piano studies and was awarded a Soloist Diploma (with hons.) and the ‘Andreas and Iphigeneia Syngros Gold Medal’. At the same time, he was granted a scholarship for studies abroad by the Conservatory Board of Trustees.
Mitropoulos’ compositions during the period 1910-1920 display an overall cosmopolitan style with elements of late romanticism, impressionism, modality, selective folk influences and programmatic allusions. This period is completed with two large-scale works: the three-act opera Sœur Béatrice, to a play by M. Maeterlinck, Athens, 13 May 1920, and the prodigious four-movement Eine griechische Sonate, Brussells, 15 October 1920. After a brief stay in the Belgian capital, Mitropoulos sought new intellectual and musical stimuli in Berlin, where he initially joined the circle of Ferrucio Busoni. His silence as a composer during the years 1920-24 was counterbalanced by the rich experience he gained especially as a music assistant and piano accompanist at the Berlin State Opera, under the guidance of Erich Kleiber (1922-24).
Upon his return to Athens in the summer 1924, Mitropoulos took over the Hellenic Conservatory Symphony Orchestra and, in 1925, he became chief conductor of the ‘Concert Society’ Symphony Orchestra (which resulted when the student orchestras of the Athens and Hellenic Conservatories merged). From 1927 to 1939, he conducted the Athens Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, reviving the Athenian musical life. At the same time, he was moving in new directions as a composer: with the works Passacaglia, Intermezzo e Fuga for piano (1924), 14 Invenzioni for voice and piano, to the poetry of C.P. Cavafy, and Ostinata in tre parti for violin and piano (1926-27), Mitropoulos introduced musical modernism in Greece through atonality and the twelve-note method. The significance of this move for a country of the European periphery is enormous, considering that in Italy, for example, dodecaphony was introduced by Luigi Dallapiccola as late as 1935-36. His temporary adoption of a more neoclassical identity, with additive rhythms, along with neotonaland sporadic folk allusions, is effectuated in the Concerto Grosso of 1928. Virtually detached from the spirit and ideology of the Greek National School, as early as 1910, Mitropoulos gradually dissociated himself from the circle of his fellow-composers. This fact, in combination with his dedication to conducting, which presaged the possibility of an international career, led him to abandon composition. His final works were the incidental music for two Greek tragedies, Electra by Sophocles (1936) and Hippolytus by Euripides (1937).
Dimitri Mitropoulos’ leap to international acclaim came on 27 February 1930, when he appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the triple capacity of conductor, pianist (in Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Concerto) and composer (conducting his own Concerto Grosso). This was soon followed by a series of international engagements: Paris, Rome, Milan, Monte Carlo, Warsaw, Moscow, Leningrad, Boston. From the 1937-38 season, he took over the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, establishing it as one of the top American symphonic ensembles. During the season 1940-41 he made his debut as guest conductor in 14 concerts of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, with great success. In 1941 he made his first appearance as conductor of the N.B.C. Symphony Orchestra, upon the invitation of Arturo Toscanini himself, and in 1942 he also conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Between 1944 and 1948, he was artistic director of the ‘Robin Hood Dell’ music society in Philadelphia. From the 1949-50 season, he became music director (together with Leopold Stokowski) of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1950, Mitropoulos returned to Europe. He appeared at the 13th Maggio Musicale of Florence, conducting R. Strauss’ Elektra. In 1951, he conducted the New York Philharmonic at the Edinburgh Festival, and in the same year he was elected artistic director of this orchestra. In 1952, he conducted the Italian première of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck in the temple of the bel canto, the Teatro alla Scala. In the 1952-53 season he reduced his appearances as he was convalescing after a serious heart attack. During autumn 1955, the New York Philharmonic toured Europe; on 1 and 2 October, Mitropoulos conducted again in Greece, at the Herod Atticus Theatre, after an absence of sixteen years, in a pulsating and deeply emotional atmosphere.
In 1956, he continued his guest appearances in Europe (Teatro alla Scala, Salzburg Festival, Köln, Vienna State Opera). From 1957 onwards, the administrative council of the New York Philharmonic reverted to the system of joint chief conductors, with Mitropoulos and Leonard Bernstein. In the following year, Mitropoulos resigned and continued his career as guest conductor with a series of engagements with the greatest orchestras, opera houses and festivals in Europe and America. In 1959, he suffered a second heart attack. However, in January 1960, he conducted the New York Philharmonic in the first four concerts of the Mahler Festival; this was followed by performances at the Metropolitan Opera, the Salzburg Festival (with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras) and the Vienna State Opera. His last appearance before an audience was made on 31 October, with the Köln Radio Symphony Orchestra.
On 2 November 1960, Mitropoulos had his third, fatal, heart attack and died at the podium during a rehearsal of Mahler’s 3rd Symphony with the orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala. He left the legacy of his oeuvre, small but extremely important for Modern Greek art-music, his recordings, his archive that was preserved thanks to the perseverance of his close friend Katy Katsogiannē and, above all, the humanism of a great musical figure, a model and a lesson for future generations.
Assistant Professor, School of Music Studies, A.U.Th.
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]
(Leipzig, 1907 – Sharon, Massachusetts, 1995)
Charilaos (or Harilaos) Perpessas (or Perpesas) was born on 10 May 1907 in Leipzig, where he spent his childhood and youth. He was the eldest son of Constantine Perpessas and Agnes Mustafa from Siatista, West Macedonia. His father was a prosperous fur merchant in Leipzig. Charilaos grew up in a wealthy, bourgeois environment and received an excellent education. He attended the König-Albert-Gymnasium of Leipzig and was taught the Greek language privately by Siatista scholar Christos K. Kapnoukagias.
Αt the age of twenty, he joined Arnold Schönberg’s Meisterschule at the Berlin Arts Academy. He never provided any information about his earlier musical studies. In 1947, Schönberg noted in a letter of recommendation for Perpessas addressed to the Juilliard School: ‘he must have graduated from a German conservatory (which means something to me!), and I would not have accepted him, if I hadn’t thought that he was talented’.
He only attended two semesters at the Arts Academy, and never completed the three-year course of the Meisterschule, due to serious financial difficulties of his family.
Although he was on excellent terms with Schönberg, he never adopted the twelve-note system, but remained faithful to the European musical tradition as it had evolved up to the late 19th and early 20thcenturies.
His first period includes pieces for piano and chamber music (which are not saved; they were probably destroyed) as well as a symphonic work entitled ‘Dithyrambs of Dionysus for Orchestra and Piano’ (preserved complete). With the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933, he left Germany – never to return — and after a brief stay in Zürich, he came to Athens. This marks the beginning of his second period. In December 1934, he received an award at the Composition Contest of the Athens Academy for ‘Piece for Orchestra’, a symphonic poem in three movements, adagio, allegro and finale bearing the pseudonym ‘ΜΗΔΕΝ ΑΓΑΝ’. It was a programmatic work, inspired by the last moments of a dying man, and is not saved.
During his residence in Athens, he continued his creative career as a composer. His style was oriented towards romantic and post-romantic composers, especially Gustav Mahler. He never belonged to a national school, an attitude criticized by the musicologists of the time.
‘Prelude and Fugue for Orchestra’ was written in 1935 and premiered in January 1936 by the Athens Conservatory Symphony Orchestra with Perpessas himself as conductor. In the concert programme of the New York Philharmonic for the year 1948, when this work was performed under the baton of Dimitri Mitropoulos (4, 5 and 6 Nov.), we read the composer’s revealing confession: ‘One of the most important things I learned from Schönberg was impartial self-analysis and criticism. When my works did not survive either of these I simply destroyed them’.
During the years 1936-1937, he composed ‘Symphony no. 2’, with the movements Andante-Presto (destroyed or incorporated into later compositions).
In December 1944, at the onset of the civil war in Athens, he broke the curfew and was arrested by an English patrol. During his attempt to escape, he lost his left arm from a mortar shell.
In 1945, he married musicologist and singer Eleni Malafeka, head of the Department of Music at the Ministry of Education. Their daughter, Eleonora (1946-2009), taught piano in Massachussetts for over twenty years.
Perpessas started composing the ‘Christus Symphony’ before 1948, a year that marks the close of his second and the beginning of his third period, with his departure for America. It was completed in 1950, in New York and the first performance was given on 26 October 1950 by the Orchestra of the Philharmonic-Symphonic Society of New York at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Dimitri Mitropoulos.
In the mid-1950s, Mitropoulos, the warmest supporter of his music, severed all contact with Perpessas when the latter broke an agreement to compose a new work as part of a commission on a yearly scholarship, for which Mitropoulos had used his influence. Instead of a new composition, Perpessas presented the ‘Symphonic Variations on Beethoven's Eighth Symphony’.
In the years that followed, he orchestrated J.S. Bach’s Art of the Fugue and Beethoven’s String Quartet op. 127 (‘The Infinite Bliss’, Symphonic Interpretation of Beethoven’s op. 127). The ‘Prelude and Fugue for Orchestra’, which was later renamed ‘Song of the Concentration Camp’ includes on a handwritten score the following allegorical motto (in English, therefore written in America): ‘Motto: I voluntarily descended into my Tomb in order, after having gone through Purgatory, to celebrate my triumphal Resurrection’.
Perpessas’ last work, ‘The Opening of the Seventh Seal’, is made up of two parts. The first, a four-movement symphonic work for soloists, choir and orchestra, includes the following titles: ‘Tomb and Resurrection’, ‘The Song of the Volga’ (original title: ‘The Song of the Boatmen’), ‘Worldrevolution’ (sic), ‘Worldrestitution’ (sic). The second part, a philosophical treatise based upon St John’s Revelation and texts of the early Christian apologist Hippolytus, explores esoteric philosophy and theosophy, metaphysics and mysticism, ancient Greek literature and mythology, as well as the principles of astrophysics and cosmology.
One can detect in his musical writing both his personal stylistic elements in the harmony and rhythm and the idioms of such romantic and post-romantic composers as Beethoven, Bruckner, Mahler, Wagner, Ravel and R. Strauss. He described himself as a ‘traditionalist’, ‘a man of the great tradition’, and saw his individual style as ‘an attempt to continue the work of Gustav Mahler’. He would sign as ‘HP Aquarius’.
Existing works (unfortunately, only the first three in complete form): ‘Dithyrambs of Dionysus for Orchestra and Piano’, ‘Prelude and Fugue for Orchestra’, ‘Christus Symphony’, ‘Symphonic Variations on Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony’, ‘Symphonic Interpretation of Beethoven’s Quartet op. 127’, ‘The Opening of the Seventh Seal’, as well as some sketches upon works by Beethoven and Mahler.
He died on 19 October 1995 at Sharon, Massachusetts, at the age of 88.
Thanks to the efforts of the composer’s niece, Athina Rosenbaum, and upon the advice of musicologist Peter Gradenwitz, the authentic scores of these works were deposited at the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel, while copies on microfilm are kept at the ‘Lilian Voudouri’ Music Library of Greece.
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]
Yorgo Sicilianos (1920-2005) is one of the most important figures of musical modernism in Greece. Born in Athens, he studied theory and composition with Kostas Sfakianakis, Marios Varvoglis and George Sklavos; from 1951 to 1953 he continued his studies at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome with Ildebrando Pizzetti, receiving a diploma in composition in 1953. While in Italy he was introduced to the music of Béla Bartók and the composers of the Second Viennese School, which proved influential on his later development, since it played a decisive role in his decision to turn to contemporary musical idioms. After Italy he attended Tony Aubin’s course in composition at the Conservatoire National in Paris (1953–54) and the classes of Walter Piston at Harvard University, Boris Blacher at the Tanglewood Institute and Vincent Perischetti at the Juilliard School of New York (1955–56). In New York, Sicilianos made the acquaintace of fellow Greek, conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos. Later (in March 1958), Mitropoulos premiered Sicilianos’ First Symphony, op. 14 (1956) with the New York Philharmonic.
In 1956 Sicilianos returned to Greece permanently. At that time, he was one of the first Greek composers to follow modernist trends in music. He went on to produce a total output that consists of 63 works and encompasses all genres: symphonic music, chamber music, piano music, song cycles, opera, ballet, incidental music and more.
Parallel to his work as a composer, Sicilianos was an active participant in Greek music life. He served as Head of the Music Department of the Greek Broadcasting Institute (1960–62), General Secretary of the Ministry of Education’s Greek Music Council (1963–64), Vice–president of the Greek section of the International Society for Contemporary Music and the Greek Association of Contemporary Music (1964–68 and 1965–69 respectively), Head of the Music Department of Greek Broadcast and Television (1974), member of the Artistic Committee and the Board of Trustees of the Greek National Opera (1976–79 and 1980–81 respectively), President of the Greek Composers’ Union (1981–89), member of the Board of Directors of Greek Radio and Television (1987–88) and President of the Artistic Committee of the Greek National Opera (1990–94).
Throughout his career Sicilianos received significant distinctions. In 1962 he won the third prize at the Liège International String Quartet Competition for his String Quartet no. 3, op. 15 and his works were chosen twice to represent Greece at the Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music (Stasimon B, op. 25, Madrid, 1965 and Perspectives, op. 26, Prague, 1967). He was also honoured for his contribution to music with the following medals and prizes: Cavaliere “al merito della Republica Italiana” (Rome, 1962), Chevalier des Arts (Paris, 1990), Herder Prize (Vienna, 1991) and the Eirini G. Papaioannou Prize of the Academy of Athens (1994). Finally, in 1999 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Athens.
Sicilianos’ work can be divided into three periods. The first period, during which he followed tonal and modal idioms, includes works he wrote until 1953, the year in which he finished his studies in Italy, when he still believed that the future of Greek music lay “at the point where Byzantine Chant intersects with Greek Folk Song”. The second period started with the Concerto for Orchestra, op. 12 (1954), where Sicilianos used for the first time the twelve-tone technique. This period, characterised by his seeking of and experimentation in contemporary musical trends (the twelve-tone technique, serialism, post-serialist techniques, electronic music), lasted about 25 years. Mellichomidi, op. 44 (1980) signalled the passage into a third period, during which the composer turned consciously to a more melodic and accessible idiom.
Valia Christopoulou, Musicologist
English Translation by Demetris Kikizas
Nikos Skalkottas (1904-1949)
Nikos Skalkottas, one of the most important figures in Greek music of the first half of the 20th century, was born in the town of Chalcis (Euboea) in 1904. The family moved to Athens five years later, and young Skalkottas studied violin with Tony Schulze at the Athens Conservatoire (1912-1920), graduating at the age of 16 with the highest distinction, the ‘Gold Medal of Andreas and Iphigenia Syngrou’. In the following year, having received the ‘Averoff Foundation’ scholarship from the Athens Conservatoire, he embarked on postgraduate studies at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik under violin professor Willy Hess. In 1923, he turned to composition, studying with Robert Kahn, Paul Juon, Philipp Jarnach, and Kurt Weill (orchestration), before being admitted to Arnold Schoenberg’s composition masterclass at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin (1927-1931), a stronghold of contemporary music at the time, where he studied on a private scholarship from Greek national benefactor Manolis Benakis. In interwar Berlin, Skalkottas had a remarkable career both as a composer/orchestrator and as a performer, and was held in high esteem by his teachers as well as his colleagues. With the rise of Nazism, conditions deteriorated, and he could no longer survive there. Around March 1933, he was forced to return to Athens, leaving behind in Berlin about 70 music manuscripts. At first, he had difficulty adapting to the musical circles of Athens, but he soon resumed his career, working as an orchestrator at the National Theatre and, later, as a violinist in the Athens Conservatoire Orchestra (subsequently Athens State Orchestra), and the Greek National Opera Orchestra; he was unable, however, to make his mark as a composer, his work remaining largely unknown at that time. In Athens, he created an admirable catalogue of works, in quality as well as volume, feverishly composing more than a hundred in the sixteen years between his return and his sudden death, of strangulated hernia, in September 1949.
His oeuvre comprises all kinds of music, except opera. His stylistic uniqueness lies in the originality of his simultaneous practice of two different idioms: tonal and atonal music, in open interaction with neoclassical techniques and national identity. His tonal works include the famous 36 Greek Dances for Orchestra (1931-1936), the ballets The Maiden and Death (1938/1947) and The Sea (1949), the Classical Symphony (1947), and the Sinfonietta in B-flat major (1948). With regard to his atonal or twelve-note output, such compositions as the Return of Ulysses (1942), the 2 Symphonic Suites, his Concertos (for violin, for piano, for double bass, for two violins, for violin and piano, for violin and viola), his 32 Pieces for Piano, the 15 Little Variations for piano, the 4 Suites for piano, the series of chamber works for wind instruments and piano, the series of works for violin and piano, and the string quartets constitute landmarks as far as balance of form and content, compositional technique and musical maturity are concerned.
Recognition of his work has been largely posthumous. No more than three of his compositions were published during his lifetime, and he only lived to see very few works of the Athens period publicly performed. These works were his ballet music, some of his 36 Greek Dances, and a few chamber compositions. Immediately after his death, an unofficial Skalkottas Committee was formed, with musicologist and music critic Minos Dounias as chairman; in 1961, this committee became the Friends of Nikos Skalkottas Society, which was responsible for the Skalkottas Archive for a number of years, before it was transferred to the Emilios Hourmouzios–Marika Papaioannou Foundation in the early 2000s. As early as 1953, however, the publication of Little Suite for string orchestra by Universal marked the beginning of a systematic effort to publish, record, and internationally promote his work, mainly thanks to musicologist Yannis G. Papaioannou (1915-2000). During the 1980s, interest in the Skalkottas oeuvre reached the other side of the Atlantic, and, mainly through the efforts of composer, conductor, teacher, and music publisher Gunther Schuller (1925-2015), another series of works was brought out by Margun publications (later transferred to G. Schirmer, Inc.; subsequently Music Sales Classical). The decision, in the late 1990s, of the BIS label to record the composer’s complete works proved decisive for a wider appreciation of Skalkottas; 17 CD titles have already been released, and the edition is still in progress. The contribution of the ‘Lilian Voudouri’ Music Library of the Friends of Music Society, which now houses the Skalkottas Archive, is expected to provide impetus to research on, and dissemination of, the great Greek composer’s oeuvre, while the publication of hitherto unpublished compositions and orchestrations by the Hellenic Music Centre has enriched our knowledge of a part of his complex creation that remains largely unknown.
Musicologist, Hellenic Music Centre
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]
Leonidas Zoras was born in Sparta, in 1905, and died in Athens, in 1987. His father Michael came from the island of Tinos, a lawyer by profession, but also a playwright; his mother Anna Miliari was from Smyrna, of Corfiot descent.
The death of his father, when the composer was only two years old, forced his mother to settle in Athens, where Leonidas had to go to work in his early teens.
In 1919, he started his musical studies (violin) at the Athens Conservatoire [Odeion Athinon], with Mario Lobianco. He also attended voice lessons with Arghyri Ghini, and music theory classes under Manolis Kalomiris, at the National Conservatory [Ethnikon Odeion]; during the same period, he received lessons in conducting from Emilios Riadis, Dionysios Lavrangas, Dimitri Mitropoulos, and Ivan Boutnikov.
During the period 1921-1925, Zoras wavered between writing and composing. Under the penname ‘Lidas Doras’, he published his juvenilia in various periodicals, using the same pseudonym for some of his early musical works. Though his future clearly lay in music, he applied his literary talents to the translation of librettos, and his love of poetry led him to the composition of song cycles that stand out among his oeuvre.
The first public performance of his works (songs and instrumental music) took place in 1927, and, in 1928, he became chorus master and conductor of the mixed choir of the National Conservatory. At the same time, due to his unsuccessful appearance in the role of Yannakis in Manolis Kalomiris’ opera Mother’s Ring [Το δαχτυλίδι της μάνας], he abandoned singing and dedicated himself to conducting and composing.
In 1931 took place the first performance of his works for orchestra, Greek Dance [Ελληνικός χορός], and Night Song [Νυχτιάτικο τραγούδι] for solo cello and small orchestra, while, in the following year, he wrote the incidental music for Kostis Velmyras’ prize-winning children’s play The Fairy Tale of Violandó [Το παραμύθι της Βιολαντώς]. In 1932, he married Kalomiris’ daughter Krinó, and lived with her until 1939.
In 1933, he made an excellent debut as a conductor in Mother’s Ring, and went on to conduct subsequent productions of Kalomiris’ short-lived National Opera Company in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Egypt (La martire [Η μάρτυς] by Spyros Samaras, The Haunted Bridge [Το στοιχειωμένο γεφύρι] by Theofrastos Sakellaridis, etc.).
In 1936, the piano suite Pieces for Children [Τα παιδιάστικα], and the collection Sketches [Σκίτσα] for voice and piano were published by Gaïtanos, Athens.
In 1938, having completed his studies in fugue, orchestration, and conducting under Kalomiris at the National Conservatory, he obtained a scholarship for the Hochschule für Musik of Berlin, where he studied chorus, symphony orchestra, and opera conducting with Walter Gmeindl and Fritz Stein, and composition with Hermann Grabner, Paul Heffer, and Boris Blacher. At the same time, he attended the rehearsals of the three opera houses of Berlin, and those of the Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Furtwängler and Böhm; he conducted symphonic concerts with Greek works at the Berlin Radio Station (among them, the premiere of his symphonic poem Legend [Θρύλος]), as well as two operas at the Volksoper (Mother’s Ring and Madama Butterfly). Upon completion of his studies, he returned to Greece, and was appointed head conductor at the Greek National Opera shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1941, he married dancer and subsequent choreographer of the National Opera Tatiana Varouti, and was elected board member of the Greek Composers’ Union.
Zoras conducted world premieres and Greek premieres of many works: Eugen d’Albert’s Tiefland [The Lowlands] with Maria Callas; Beethoven’s Fidelio; Dimitrios Levidis’ The Shepherd and the Fairy [Ο βοσκός και η νεράιδα]; Der fliegende Holländer in the first Greek staging of a Wagner opera; the symphonic poem Minás the Rebel, Corsair of the Aegean [Μηνάς ο Ρέμπελος, κουρσάρος στο Αιγαίο], and the musical fairy tale Sunrise [Ανατολή] by Kalomiris; and the one-act opera The Afternoon of Love [Το απόγεμα της Αγάπης] by Marios Varvoglis. His name became associated with those of great opera singers: Maria Callas, Eleni Nikolaidou, Kostas Paskalis, and Nicola Moscona. At the same time, he conducted the Athens State Orchestra and the Greek Radio Symphony Orchestra, he translated librettos, and taught Advanced Theory Courses at the National Conservatory.
Dedicated to conducting for years, it was not until 1947 that he completed two new symphonic works, the suite In the Fields [Στους αγρούς] and Symphony No. 1. In 1948, he composed two song cycles, Three Little Melodies [Τρεις μικρές μελωδίες] and Nostalgic Songs [Τα νοσταλγικά]; the Sonata for Piano and Violin [Σονάτα για πιάνο και βιολί], the Concertino for Violin and 11 Woodwind Instruments [Κοντσερτίνο για βιολί και 11 ξύλινα πνευστά], and the song cycle Instantaneous [Ακαριαία: Greek term for haiku], to the poetry of George Seferis, appeared in 1950. In the early 1950s, through the medium of vocal music, Zoras made an aesthetic turn, away from the sphere of influence of the national school, to which belong the works of his first compositional period, towards a more personal, freely atonal idiom: with the exception of the Sonata for Piano [Σονάτα για πιάνο] (1956), the most important works of this period are the song cycles for voice and piano The Offering [Η Προσφορά], to the poetry of George Th. Vafopoulos (1952); Tomorrow Our Soul Sets Sail [Η ψυχή μας αύριο κάνει πανιά], to the poetry of George Seferis (1956); Nepenthe and Satires [Νηπενθή και Σάτιρες], to the poetry of Kostas Karyotakis (1959); and Five Songs for Female Choir A Cappella [Πέντε τραγούδια για γυναικεία χορωδία α καπέλα], based on the ‘Gifts of Love’ by George Karapanos (1957). In 1957, he made a highly successful tour in Germany, conducting at the Dresden State Opera and the Deutsche Oper Berlin; he also appeared as guest conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, and at the Leipzig Opera.
In 1958, he disagreed with the administration of the National Opera, and moved to Berlin, where he made a noteworthy conducting career (at the RIAS radio station, at the Dortmund Opera, etc.); he also devoted himself to composition, completing the song cycle Fourteen Poems of Constantine Cavafy [Δεκατέσσερα ποιήματα του Κωνσταντίνου Καβάφη] (1960); Τhe Songs of Little Helen [Τα τραγούδια της μικρής Ελένης] (1961),to the poetry of Marina Krassa-Zora (his wife since 1953); and the Sonatina for harpsichord or piano (1961).
In 1968, he returned to Greece in order to take over as Director of the National Conservatory of Athens, and married Brigitte Kossov (1972). From that time on, his compositional output was limited: he wrote a short work for tuba, a few choral songs, and the orchestration of the suite Pieces for Children [Τα παιδιάστικα]. He made occasional appearances as conductor of the National Opera, the Athens State Orchestra, the Thessaloniki State Orchestra, and, more frequently, the Greek Radio Symphony Orchestra. He served as president of the Greek Composers’ Association, as board member of Greek Radio, as judge at the Grand Prix Maria Callas competition, and as a member of the Athens Festival Advisory Council and of the National Opera Artistic Committee.
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]
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Phanos Dymiotis (1965-2007) Suite for String Orchestra (1993) Orchestral parts available on hire Published in collaboration with the Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture Duration: 14΄ ISMN: 979-0-801168-10-8 Pages: 36 Score designing and editing: Yannis Samprovalakis Music engraving: Neophytos I. Roussos Corrections: Maro Skordi Introductory note:... Phanos Dymiotis (1965-2007) Suite for String Orchestra (1993) Orchestral parts...
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Manolis Kalomiris (1883-1962) Three Greek Dances (1934) Orchestral parts available on hire Instrumentation: 3 (3.=Picc), 3 (3.=Ε.Η.), 3 (3.= B.Cl.), 2 – 4, 3, 3, 1 – Timp., 3 Perc. – 2 Hrp. – Strings Duration: 9’ ISMN: 979-0-801168-15-3Pages: 68 Score designing and editing: Yannis Tselikas, Yannis Samprovalakis Music Copying: Konstantina... Manolis Kalomiris (1883-1962) Three Greek Dances (1934) Orchestral parts available on...
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