(b. Rethymno, Crete, 1959)
A recognized Greek composer of the new generation, whose writing is characterized by a variety of musical idioms and a constant search for new directions.
In 1985, György Ligeti chose him among other European composers, commissioning the work Symmolpa 5 that was performed by the European Community Youth Orchestra, conducted by James Judd, in Asolo, Bolzano and Luxemburg. In the same year (1985, European Year of Music – Bach Year), he participated, along with other representative composers of the 20th century, in the Biennale di Venezia with the work Symmolpa 4 performed by the Divertimento Ensemble and Sandro Gorli.
In 1987, he collaborated for the first time with the Ensemble InterContemporain and Arturo Tamayo in Frankfurt for his work Symmolpa 3. In the same year, Mathias Bamert and the ECYO presented Symmolpa 3 at the Frankfurt Feste. In 1988, Symmolpa 4 was performed by Ingo Metzmacher and the Hong Kong Ensemble at the World Music Days Festival in Hong Kong. In 1990, his opera There Will Be a Day was presented in Oslo by the Oslo Sinfonietta and Christian Eggen, while the Xenakis Ensemble with Diego Masson performed the Concertino for Piano at the Nieuwe Muziek Middelburg Festival in Holland.
In 1992, he won the “Prix de Rome” and spent the following year as composer in residence at the French Academy of Rome (Villa Medici), where his work Eros-Daemon was performed by the counter-tenor Aris Christofellis. In the same year, pianist Jay Gottlieb played Symmolpa 1 at the Présences ΄92 festival in Paris, at Tage für Neue Musik in Zürich and at the Lecce Festival. In 1992, he collaborated for the first time with D. Papaioannou and the Edafos Dance Theatre Company (Moons-Sappho). In 1994, he was awarded the Nikos Kazantzakis Prize. In 1995, at the Argos Festival (Greece), his opera There Will Be a Day was directed by Victor Arditis and performed by the Oslo Sinfonietta and Stefan Sköld. In 1998, his work Journey into the Night was presented by the Orchestre des Jeunes de la Mediterranée and Henri Gallois at the Aix en Provence Festival.
During the period 1998-2000, he worked as composer in residence for Clio Gould and the BT Scottish Ensemble in London, sponsored by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust. In the year 2000, pianist Alexandra Papastefanou presented his work Mediterranean Desert at the Hellenic Centre in London. In 2002, Helena Papandreou played Melody for Guitar at the Ypres Guitar Festival in Belgium, at the Luigi Legnani Festival, at the Dundee Guitar Festival and the 11th Festival Internazionale della Chitara città di Mottola 2002. In the same year, the Nash Ensemble performed the Concertino for Piano.
He was musical director, composer and music concept creator of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. In the same year, at the Présences festival in Paris, Hae-Sun Kang played Typewriter Tune for Violin. In 2005, the Athens Festival dedicated two concerts to him at the Little Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus with the Camerata, the Accentus/Axe 21 Chamber Choir and soprano Elena Kelessidi, directed by D. Papaioannou. In 2007, his work Amor Fati was performed at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall by the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Myron Michailidis, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of great Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis. In 2007-2008, he participated in the Cultural Year of Greece in China, with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra and Tan Lihua.
In 2008, he composed Point of No Return, a work commissioned by the Kronos Quartet. Still in 2008, the Orchestra of Colours conducted by Miltos Logiadis presented Amor Fati in Madrid and, in 2009, at the Athens Festival. In the same year, at the Milano Incontra La Grecia festival, the work Five More Steps until you Fall Asleep was performed by the Dissonart Ensemble and the Sentieri Selvaggi Ensemble.
In 2010, his composition The Pedal Tone for a Child was presented by Myron Michailidis and the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra (a work commissioned by the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of its opening), while the Athens State Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Alkis Baltas played Amor Fati at the Athens Concert Hall. In the same year, his composition Unknown Dialects was presented at the Athens Festival by the Dissonart Ensemble (directed by Alexandros Efklidis, set and costumes designedby Petros Touloudis), while the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble played Typewriter Tune for Amplified Chamber Ensemble in Amsterdam.
He was the first guest of the ‘Carte blanche’ series at the Athens Concert Hall in 2011, where the Piano Concerto No. 4 – The Pedal Tone for a Middle-Aged Man was performed by George-Emmanuel Lazaridis as soloistand the Camerata conducted by George Koundouris. In the same year, the Prism Quartet presented Typewriter Tune for Sax Quartet in New York. In 2012, the Onassis Cultural Centrededicated the ‘Composer’s Portrait’ concert cycle to Koumendakis with a series of performances and concerts. He has also composed music for 4 Greek tragedies performed at the Epidaurus Festival (1981, 1984, 1989, 1996) by the National Theatre, the Art Theatre and the Notos Theatre.
In October 2013, his contemporary opera for children and adults Omiros-Orimos was produced by the network opus21musikplus and premiered at Munich Gastein with the Children's Choir of the Bavarian State Opera. On 15 October 2013, the Onassis Cultural Center NY presented Koumendakis's music at Carnegie Hall with pianist George-Emmanuel Lazaridis and the Prism Saxophone Quartet.
As composer in residence for 2012-2014, he was commissioned by the Greek National Opera to compose the opera The Murderess, based on the novella of the same name by Alexandros Papadiamantis and premiered at the Athens Concert Hall on 19 November 2014. On 10 April 2014, the Ensemble Recherche presented the Concertino for piano and 7 instruments at the Konzerthaus Freiburg.
His works have been performed at important concert halls like the Salle Olivier Messiaen, Théâtre de l’ Archevêché, Teatro La Fenice, Alte Oper, Benesse Museum at Naoshima, Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Purcell Room, Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ (Amsterdam), Auditorio Nacional de Música (Madrid), Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (Maryland), Piccolo Teatro (Milano), Guarnerius Art Centre (Belgrade), Odeon of Herodes Atticus (Athens), Athens Concert Hall, Thessaloniki Concert Hall and the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus.
His music has also been conducted by Martin Brabbins, Gaetano Colajanni, Olivier Cuendet, Christopher Warren-Green, Paul Chiang, Henry Kucharzyk, Peter Wiegold, Igor Savrouk, Gunther Schuller, Nikos Tsouchlos, Alexandros Myrat and Theodore Antoniou.
His collaboration with the Greek National Opera continues from his position as Director of Artistic Programmes of the Alternative Stage, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre.
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]