The Neoclassical Skalkottas. Athens State Orchestra / Stefanos Tsialis. © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

Great Advocacy

GERALD FENECH listens to
orchestral music by Nikos Skalkottas

'Stefanos Tsialis draws impassioned playing from his Athens ensemble, and the openheartedness and technical finesse with which these works are despatched is beyond admiration.'

 

Nikos Skalkottas (1904-1949) is undoubtedly Greece's most important twentieth century composer. Early in his career the composer worked as a violinist with the Athens State Orchestra, from its formation until his sudden death aged forty-five. Indeed, for several years before that, when it was known as the Athens Conservatoire Orchestra, Skalkottas was already part of this ensemble.

This CD is to all intents and purposes a tribute by the present orchestra to one of its most eminent members and its aim is to systematically perform and record Skalkottas' symphonic output. Despite his one-sided image of 'modernist' or even 'national' composer, there is enough evidence for Skalkottas to be regarded as Greece's leading neo-classical composer. The complete assimilation of formal models and the awareness of the historical evolution of music and its genres are so easy and natural in his tonal works that an analysis is hardly necessary. Also, like other composers before him, he resorted to recycling musical ideas in works that were totally different from each other. The ability to create a personal universe of sounds, rhythms, motifs, melodies and harmonies, and then translate them into an idiom, was certainly one of Skalkottas's gifts.

The four pieces on this issue all date from the last two years of his life. Both the Sinfonietta and the Classical Symphony are expressions of the deep regard the composer had for traditional forms blended with his unique musical language.

Listen — Skalkottas: Scherzo (Classical Symphony)
(track 7, 0:00-0:59) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The Four Images and the Ancient Greek March are deeply rooted in Greece's natural folk and dance music, but the instruments used in the latter piece clearly evoke Greek antiquity.

Listen — Skalkottas: Ancient Greek March
(track 13, 0:29-0:55) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Sadly, Skalkottas' music, even seventy-one years after his death, remains, by far and large, neglected. This is indeed unjust, as his works are full of ardent emotions and possess a vibrant and melodic sense of drama.

This disc should go a long way in initiating a true appraisal of his remarkable legacy, which unknowingly has impacted both Greek and European culture. Stefanos Tsialis draws impassioned playing from his Athens ensemble, and the openheartedness and technical finesse with which these works are despatched is beyond admiration.

Listen — Skalkottas: The Grape Stomping (Four Images for orchestra)
(track 12, 1:46-2:28) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Great advocacy for a composer still waiting to get into the mainstream of Europe's musical itinerary. Sound and annotations are first-rate.

Copyright © 19 March 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta

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CD INFORMATION: THE NEOCLASSICAL SKALKOTTAS

FURTHER INFORMATION: NIKOS SKALKOTTAS

FURTHER ARTICLES ABOUT GREECE

 

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