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Kalomiris: Three Greek Dances

HMC 003r


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: 979-0-801168-15-3
Pages: 68 

Score designing and editing: Yannis Tselikas, Yannis Samprovalakis
Music Copying: Konstantina Polychronopoulou, Stathis Kampylis
Foreword: Nikos Maliaras
English translation: Helena Grigorea

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    The Three Greek Dances are the fifth (in chronological order) purely orchestral work of Manolis Kalomiris, after Romeiki [Greek] Suite, Symphony No. 1 (symphonia tis levendiás), Island Pictures for violin and orchestra, and Symphony No. 2 (Symphony of the Simple and Good People).[1] This work was composed for large symphony orchestra, and took its final form in Prague, in 1934.[2] However, all three component parts were in fact based on much earlier originals, written during the 1910s and forming part of other works by Kalomiris.

   The first DanceBallos, dates from around 1917[3], and was originally composed for piano. It was included in an edition of folk tunes that Kalomiris published in 1922. At that time, the composer had come to an agreement with publisher Zacharias Makris for the publication of twenty folk songs arranged by Kalomiris for voice and piano, or piano solo. This project was never completed, with only ten songs being published eventually, Ballos among them.
   Ballos is made up of a series of ten traditional instrumental Aegean Island ballos tunes divided into two sets of five. Each set opens with a brief two-measure introduction, which merely accentuates the rhythm in the first section, while it serves as a modulation from the B-flat major to a C chromatic typemode in the second. Each of these traditional melodies lasts between four and eight measures, which are occasionally repeated.
   The orchestral version of Ballos, saved only in one undated manuscript, seems to belong to a later period. Yet the existing evidence regarding the real composition date is somewhat puzzling.[4] All things considered, it should be dated much closer to, and perhaps simultaneously with, the piano version (this being Kalomiris’ usual practice: he would compose the orchestral version at the same time as the piano version, or even earlier). In any case, the structure of the orchestral version does not differ substantially from the piano version: some accompanying or contrapuntal motifs are merely added to various instruments, while the repetitions of the piano version are occasionally fully rewritten in the orchestral version, since there is a different orchestration or harmonization. Moreover, the orchestral version bears the indication Moderato, which is absent from the piano version.
   Idyllic Dance was written as a kind of orchestral adaptation of motifs and extracts from the composer’s first opera, The Master Builder, a work of the years 1915-1916 based upon Nikos Kazantzakis’ play The Sacrifice,[5] and premiered in Athens, in March 1916. Kalomiris selected and used elements from the overture and the first scene of the opera, as well as from the intermezzo between the second and third act.[6]Compared to its prototype, Idyllic Dance is therefore the most independent section of the Three Greek Dances. Before becoming part of this work, it had temporarily belonged to Island Pictures.[7] The version that was included in the Three Greek Dances cycle had been composed in 1924, in response to a commission from the Association des Concerts Grassi, and was presented as ballet music, on 12 April 1924, at the Théâtre de la Gaîté (also known as the Gaîté-Lyrique) in Paris, with dancer Isabel de Etchessarry.[8] For the present edition, both the original manuscript of Idyllic Dance and the two versions of The Master Builder were taken into consideration, given that the second includes later improvements made by the composer.
   The melody and the elaboration of Tsakonikos, this distinctive and famous traditional dance with a time signature of 5/4, appear in the opera The Mother’s Ring, composed in 1917. In Act II, this dance, performed upon the second entrance of the Fairies, is heard three times in full, each time being followed by an elaboration of the theme or the rhythm. The folk melody of Tsakonikos, like most dance tunes, is characterized by symmetry of form, which Kalomiris acknowledges by dividing the dance into two four-measure phrases that constitute an eight-measure whole.
   A comparison between the Tsakonikos dance as it appears in The Mother’s Ring with the full score of the Three Greek Dances reveals some remarkable differences: apart from the fact that Kalomiris assigned the roles of the singers to various instruments, the celesta used in the opera (The Mother’s Ring MS, 1938-39) is replaced by a group of percussion instruments, since the instrumentation of the Dances does not include a celesta. Any dramatic changes in the plot of the opera are reflected by changes in the orchestration of the Dances, leading up to a comparatively shorter conclusion.[9]


Professor of Historical Musicology,
Head of the Greek Music Research Lab,
University of Athens
[English translation by Helena Grigorea]


A. Idyllic Dance
12 April 1924
Théâtre de la Gaîté (Gaîté-Lyrique)
Orchestre de l’Association des Concerts Grassi
Solo dancer: Isabel de Etchessarry
Conductor: E.-C. Grassi

B. Ballos and Tsakonikos
24 March 1934
Prague Radiojournal Orchestra (former Czechoslovakia)
Conductor: Manolis Kalomiris

2 June 2012
Konzertkirche Neubrandenburg, Germany
Orchester Neubrandenburg
Conductor: Stefan Malzew

[1] The composition of the Three Greek Dances was also predated by the orchestrated version of Rhapsody no. 2 for piano, which, however, was not the work of the composer himself but of his friend, composer and conductor Gabriel Pierné (1925).

[2] Fivos Anoyanakis, Catalogue of Works of Manolis Kalomiris, 1883-1962 (Athens: Manolis Kalomiris Society, 1986), 35-36 and 55, fn. 69. Philippos Tsalachouris, Μανώλης Καλομοίρης, 1883-1962: Νέος κατάλογος έργων [Manolis Kalomiris, 1883-1962: New Catalogue of Works] (Athens: Manolis Kalomiris Society, 2003), 81-82

[3] Anoyanakis, ibid.

[4] For further details, see Nikos Maliaras, Το ελληνικό δημοτικό τραγούδι στη μουσική του Μανώλη Καλομοίρη [The Greek Folk Song in the Music of Manolis Kalomiris] (Athens: Papagrigoriou – Nakas, 2001), 100-103.

[5] The tragedy The Sacrifice was written in 1909, while Kazantzakis lived in Paris. It was published in June 1910, inthe ‘Panathenaea’ magazine under the title ‘The Master Builder’, its author using the pen name ‘Petros Psiloreitis’. See Nikos Maliaras, ‘Η σχέση Λόγου και Μέλους στις “καζαντζακικές” όπερες του Μανώλη Καλομοίρη (Πρωτομάστορας και Κωνσταντίνος Παλαιολόγος)’ [‘The relation between Words and Musicin Manolis Kalomiris’ “Kazantzakian” operas (The Master Builder and Constantine Palaeologue)’], in Ελληνική μουσική και Ευρώπη. Διαδρομές στον Δυτικοευρωπαϊκό Πολιτισμό [Greek Music and Europe. Exploring Western European Civilization] (Athens: Papagrigoriou – Nakas, 2012), 120.

[6] Anoyanakis, ibid., like several others after him, only mentions the Singer’s Intermezzo as a source. It is worth noting that, in its original version, The Master Builder was divided into three acts (with an intermezzo between second and third act), which in the 1929 reworking were combined into two acts, with the first two of the 1916 version becoming act one of the 1929 version, and the intermezzo and the third act becoming act two of the final version. Idyllic Dance was writtenin 1924, i.e.prior to the 1929 reworking, and therefore retains elements of the 1916 compositional structure.

[7] As can be seen on the cover of the manuscript : Island Pictures / III. Singer’s Intermezzo.

[8] The Théâtre de la Gaîté (Gaîté-Lyrique), one of the oldest theatres in Paris, was founded in 1759 on the boulevard du Temple, and was relocated to the rue Papin in 1862. In the early 1920s, not long before the presentation of Kalomiris’ work, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, still in collaboration with Igor Stravinsky, danced there.

[9] For further details, see Nikos Maliaras, Το ελληνικό δημοτικό τραγούδι στη μουσική του Μανώλη Καλομοίρη [The Greek Folk Song in the Music of Manolis Kalomiris] (Athens: Papagrigoriou – Nakas, 2001), 203ff.

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