|About this Recording
8.554001 - Guitar Recital: Elena Papandreou
Nikos Mamangakis: Folk
The Greeks are said to have a word for it; the word 'guitar' may even have been derived from the Greek kithara, though they applied it to a form of lyre, and they also have the music for it, a variety of which is included in this recording. The rest is by composers from countries that have not been traditionally associated with the Guitar.
Nikos Mamangakis was born in Crete to a family of folk musicians and his formal studies in music were in Athens and Germany. His prolific output includes music for many media and embraces a wide range of compositional styles; he is resistant to received conventions and is well known and respected for his originality of thought and musical deed. The items in the Folk Suite bear the titles of folk-songs, usually accompanied by various instruments, but Mamangakis comments: "All modern Greek folk-music, rebetica songs, was composed on either the guitar or bouzouki and passed afterwards to other instruments. The guitar has thus played a leading rôle in this music". Hroes is one of a group of solo-instrumental pieces. It is strictly improvised music which eschews "monolithic musical tendencies". Mamangakis adds: "Hroes is a word that was used a great deal in ancient Greek and Byzantine music It signifies nuances – in these pieces, of colour".
When Igor Stravinsky asked Andrès Segovia why he had never asked him to write for the guitar, he was told: "Because I do not want to insult your music by not playing it!" That his view is not shared by everyone, is happily shown in the arrangement of three pieces from Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale (written for three narrators, female dancer and chamber orchestra) by Mamangakis, who at the same time demonstrates his own excellent knowledge of the guitar's capabilities.
The Tunisian-born French guitarist/composer Roland Dyens formally studied the guitar, composition and orchestration in Paris, since when he has developed a highly successful international career and a reputation for the originality of his compositions. His fascination with Latin American music is, given his background, curious, but stimulating Saudude No. 3 (‘Longing’) is subtitled Lembrança do Senhor do Banfim da Bahia (‘Remembrance of Senhor Bonfim, a saint whose festival is celebrated annually in the streets of Bahia’), a "kind of homage to Brazilian Nordeste (northeast) and its African culture". The opening section, Rituel, is a very free, unmeasured improvisation, the second is a dance in the baiao rhythm typical of Bahia, and the Finale is "maybe my vision of this folk-music". Tango en Skaï began in 1978 as an improvisation but was not published until 1985, since when it has become a regular part of the repertory. It is a caricature of the Argentine tango; as Dyens himself says: "Skaï in French means imitation leather, maybe worse than bad plastic! It has to be played with a lot of humour, a maximum of dynamics and a minimum of ruhato. Not at all 'classico-seriously'!".
Nikita Koshkin showed an early interest in music – when he was four his favourite composers were Shostakovich and Stravinsky, but he did not begin to study music and the guitar until he was fourteen. It was in the early 1980s that he first became internationally known for his suite The Prince's Toys, revealing himself as a composer who responds strongly to extra-musical programmatic images, and is unusually inventive in creating idiomatic effects, which he skilfully brings to the service of his music. Since 1990 he has been able to visit many other countries on both sides of the Atlantic. It was the thought: "The piano has concert-scale waltzes like Listz's Mephisto Waltz, why shouldn't the guitar have one" that prompted the composition of the Usher Waltz. It is of course Usher, the fall of whose House was recorded by Edgar Allan Poe. He writes: "The romantic-stylized theme receives a mighty dramatic development and reflects not only Usher's (crazy) way of playing the guitar and his increasing madness, but the mood of the story as a whole. The piece ends in a gloomy and tired coda".
The Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis had little formal education in music before the end of his compulsory military service in 1954, when he went to study at the Paris Conservatoire. When he returned to Greece, after the production of his opera Antigone at Covent Garden, he wrote a scathing attack on the Greek musical establishment, and the popular success of his revolutionary; musical doctrines led to his imprisonment by the right-wing military junta in 1967; international protest at his plight brought about his release in 1970. Much of his music is concerned with historical and contemporary Greek subjects, and arrangements of some pieces were recorded by John Williams in the 1970s. Elena Papandreou's arrangements of two items from the song-cycle Lyricotera were made at the composers' suggestion.
Vangelis Boudounis studied the guitar in his native Athens and later in Spain, Italy and Canada, though he regards Manos Hadjidakis, with whom he worked from 1975, as "the most significant" teacher he ever had. He has enjoyed considerable success as a player, composer and teacher in many countries. Regarding the pieces on this recording he says: "What predominates is rhythm that often starts from rock music but is later disturbed by odd bars of 5/8, 7/8 and 9/8, which are often met in Greek folk music". The Eight Summaries seem to tell little stories briefly and without development. "The traditional Tsifteteli is a dance in duple time (2/4, 4/4) but the Tsifteteli for Elena was not composed for dancing; it begins in 4/4 time, but before long many different times appear, which may be difficult for a musician brought up with West-European culture. There are also unmeasured parts that give the player the opportunity to treat them freely. The initial 4/4 time reappears at the end". Cocktail was written at a time when Boudounis wanted to escape from his then conservative way of playing. Like Dyens' Tango en Skaï, it was first improvised in concert and later written down. Thus, though its structure is very clear, it retains spontaneity and an improvisatory character.
John W. Duarte
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