This is a very interesting CD containing works for two pianos or songs for mezzo soprano and piano by Mikis Theodorakis and Jani Christou.
Theodorakis will be known to most people for his score for Zorba the Greek, especially the theme music. Most people will not know that he was also a soldier, an important political voice and activist, as well as a fine composer with quite an extensive list to his credit, encompassing a wide rage of musical genres including film scores, operas, symphonies, works for solo instruments and orchestra, music for the stage, hymns and songs etc. He recently celebrated his ninety-fifth birthday.
Jani Christou is much less well known today, with a much smaller output, largely because he was killed in a car accident in 1970, on or near to his forty-fourth birthday.
The first work is Erofili - Passacailles pour Deux Pianos (1955) by Theodorakis, written in 1955 and inspired by George Choratzis' tragedy Herophile. Each of the seven short movements sets the mood to various scenes in the play, beginning with the short evocative overture.
Listen — Theodorakis: Overture (Erofili)
(track 1, 0:00-0:45) © 2020 Melism Records :
The work is stylistically varied, at times showing a distinct French influence - the composer was at one time a student of Messiaen. At other times a Byzantine influence is felt. This is a very fine performance of a fascinating work, and the varied moods, colours and textures are brought vividly to life.
Theodorakis wrote the second work, Jours de Pluie on poems by Paul Eluard, in 1958. The first of two sets of songs based on Eluard's poems, it comprises four settings - three short and a fourth longer. These were inspired by the poet's beloved wife and their rather painful separation - she went on to become Salvador Dali's muse. The songs are quite sad and intimate, and show what a fine Song writer Theodorakis is. Angelica Cathariou (who possesses a gorgeous voice) is accompanied by Nikolaos Samaltanos, and they make a great pair of performers, complimenting each other sympathetically and perfectly. These songs remind me of French Art songs, perhaps by someone like Duparc.
Listen — Theodorakis: Leurs yeux toujours purs (Jours de Pluie)
(track 11, 0:59-1:51) © 2020 Melism Records :
The second set of songs, Medieuses, follows was written the same year. The songs in the second set, Medieuses, are inspired by a set of poems that were illustrated with drawings of a woman in various feminine poses. They vary in mood, some happy and others mysterious or slightly sad. The same performers are used here, and they are equally convincing.
Listen — Theodorakis: J'ai le pouvoir d'exister sans destin (Medieuses)
(track 17, 1:53-2:22) © 2020 Melism Records :
The final set of songs were written by Jani Christou between 1949 and 1955 and are based on poems by T S Eliot and use the same performers as the previous songs. These works are more modernistic in style and each one is very different from the others. These works have an originality that is quite striking and one cannot but wonder what may have eventuated had the composer lived longer. The composer explores a wide range of sonorities and textures.
Listen — Jani Christou: Virginia (Six T S Eliot Songs)
(track 23, 0:01-1:00) © 2020 Melism Records :
The final two tracks, also by Jani Christou, are a prelude and fugue for two pianos, written in 1944 when the composer was studying with Gina Bachauer in Egypt. The prelude is fast, engaging music, like a toccata in nature and is built of repetitive motives, but is short and never dull. The Fugue is tonal in nature and a bit longer. As the work progresses, it becomes less tonal, but the triumphant final coda is fixed in D major.
Listen — Jani Christou: Fuga (Prelude and Fugue in D minor for two pianos)
(track 25, 4:20-5:20 © 2020 Melism Records :
The music on this disc is very interesting because it is original and well crafted. The performances by all the performers are impressive. This is music that most people have never heard, by two of the most important Greek composers of the twentieth century. I certainly recommend it.
Copyright © 20 November 2020