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8.557970 - KALOMIRIS: Symphony No. 3 / Triptych / 3 Greek Dances
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Manolis Kalomiris (1883-1962)
Triptych • Palamian Symphony • Three Greek Dances

 

Manolis Kalomiris is today considered the father of the Greek national school of composition. One of the most prolific Greek composers, he considerably enriched the musical heritage of modern Greece with his work, thus creating a unique point of reference. His contribution to the creation of a distinctly Greek symphonic sound has been very definite.

In the evening of 18 March 1936, Kalomiris's wife, Charikleia, found her husband writing music at the piano, his eyes streaming with tears. She asked him what the matter was, and he answered, completely shattered: " Venizelos has just died and I have been trying to compose a funeral march to mourn the Master Builder of Great Greece." The score Kalomiris had in front of him was the second movement of the Triptych.

The work was initially to be entitled Symphonic Triptych: Crete, " in memory of a hero ", and was conceived with a chorus, To the Liberation of Crete, as its final movement. (Eleftherios Venizelos originated from Crete.) The chorus ended up as an independent piece, and it is only in recent years that its relationship with what became the Triptych has been acknowledged. The reasons that incited Kalomiris to compose a Postlude without choral accompaniment remain unknown up to this day. The Triptych finally had its première in Athens on 28 February 1943, a tragic day for both Kalomiris and Greece. On the morning of that very day the citizens of Athens buried the great Greek poet Costis Palamas (1859-1943), seizing at the same time the opportunity to demonstrate for freedom. The demonstration shattered the whole of Nazi-occupied Athens. It was on that very evening that the Athens State Orchestra had scheduled its inaugural concert. And so the first public performance of the Triptych, a work written in memory of the statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, was destined to be given on the day of the funeral of Palamas, who was the other ideological mentor of Kalomiris. Kalomiris himself stood on the orchestra podium and directed his own work, which immediately took on a special symbolism: the Triptych grievingly sang of an era for ever gone and at the same time articulated the need for the pursuit of noble ideals.

The Palamian Symphony is Manolis Kalomiris's third symphony, composed after the Levendia Symphony [ Symphony of Manliness ] (1920) and The Symphony of the Good and Innocent People (1931). The Palamian Symphony was completed in the spring of 1955 and first performed by the Athens State Orchestra on 22 January 1956 in Athens, under the direction of the great Greek conductor Andreas Parides (1910-2000) to whom the work is dedicated.

All three symphonies mentioned above are related to the great Greek poet Costis Palamas; the Levendia Symphony is dedicated to him, The Symphony of the Good and Innocent People borrows its title from one of Palamas's verses and the Palamian Symphony proudly bears the poet's name. Kalomiris wrote on the Palamian Symphony :

" Whatever good and pure I have produced is most of the times inextricably bound to Palamian verse, to the Palamian Idea. Today, in my declining years and before I set out on the ultimate journey, I wish for yet once more to sing against the backdrop of His divine lyre. And I set the Palamian Symphony as an altar, a monument of my faith to the ever-lasting Greek Art and the Poet who symbolizes it. "

The work was received with great enthusiasm and was praised to the skies by almost the entire Athenian circle of musicians and intellectuals. The Palamian Symphony stands as one of the greatest landmarks, not only in modern Greek music but also in Greek art and beyond. The contribution of Greek symphonic music to the challenging terrain of European symphonic composition has not yet been duly appreciated, yet the experience of listening today to such a work as the Palamian Symphony suggests that such contribution is far from negligible.

The Three Greek Dances, even though composed separately, much earlier and at different times, were joined together in 1934 to form an integral dance suite. The first dance, Ballos, based on the two-beat rhythm typical of this popular dance from the Greek islands, was initially composed for piano about 1917. Idyllic Dance, which borrows its motifs from Kalomiris's first opera The Master Builder (1916), was composed in 1924 by commission of the Grassi concerts, which also undertook the work's inaugural performance in Paris. It is in fact a fantasy, lacking a characteristic rhythmic pattern. In concert programmes of the time, this dance was also referred to as The Singer's Intermezzo, since its theme has been borrowed from the whistle flute played by the character of the young singer in that opera. Dance from Tsakonia ( Tsakonikos ) originates from the composer's second opera The Mother's Ring (1917). Written in the traditional five-beat rhythm, the original theme of this dance is embellished with phrases and themes from the opera.

The island of Psara was razed by the Ottomans in 1824, during the Greek War of Independence. Solomos composed his poem in order to describe the utter grief but also the grandeur of that tiny island which resisted and fought for liberty. Kalomiris followed in Solomos's footsteps, leading the orchestra in just a few bars to a grand culmination that gloriously emerges out of darkness and destruction.

The exact date of composition remains unknown. The work was first performed in Athens by the Athens State Orchestra on 13 November 1949.

Philippos Tsalahouris

English texts adapted from the Greek original, edited and annotated by Evangelos Christopher Tyroglou

English Translation Copyright © Evangelos Christopher Tyroglou, unless otherwise stated

The original Greek texts and booklet note, and the English translations of the narrated texts, can be accessed at www.naxos.com/libretti/557970.htm

 


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