About this Recording
8.579047 - KONTOGIORGOS, G.: Dancing with Centaurs / Concertino, "Testosterone" / Ringtone / Night Walk (Mavrommatis, Panteli, Orchestra of Colours, Logiadis)
English  Greek 

George KONTOGIORGOS (b. 1945)
Dancing with Centaurs
Stories for Saxophone


Dancing with Centaurs

This is a ten movement suite for soprano saxophone and piano inspired by the idyllic Mount Pelion and the mythical centaurs. From the ancient times, due to their strange figure, centaurs have stimulated the imagination of people and artists and they have become a frequent subject of fiction writing and visual art. The surrealistic title is an allegorical reference to the myth. Τhe anthropomorphic nature of the centaurs symbolises the constant and painful effort of man to master the instinctive impulses and the power of his spiritual being—not only to overcome them but to idealise them and transform them into virtues. However, instincts remain dominant and sometimes human weaknesses lead to unexpected behaviour.

I began by composing the movement entitled Dancing with Centaurs, which musically depicts the lustfulness of the centaurs. According to mythology, during the ceremony of Pirithos’s marriage to the beautiful Hippodameia, and as they were swept away by their dizziness of drunkenness, the centaurs attempted to rape the women of the Lapiths, while the centaur Eurition attempted to make the bride Hippodameia his mistress. Thus, the terrible battle began, known as Centauromachia, as it is represented uniquely by the sculptor Pheidias on the Parthenon’s south metopes.

Over the next few years I gradually composed the remaining parts of the suite, which also mention the idyllic Mount Pelion and the centaurs, who, after they were defeated by Lapiths, were driven out from Pelion and moved to other mountain areas.

The movement Infidelity refers to the centaur Nessus. According to Plutarch, Nessus, after carrying Heracles’s wife Deianeira across the river, tried to rape her. Heracles was furious, and quickly shot a poisoned arrow straight into Nessus’ chest. In revenge, Nessus persuaded Deianeira that his blood would ensure that Heracles would leave Iole, a woman he had fallen in love with, and Heracles would be faithful to her in eternity. Thus, Deianeira, instructed by Nessus, dipped Heracles’s shirt into the blood flowing from Nessus’ wound and sent it to him. However, the poisoned shirt stuck in the flesh of Heracles’ body, and consumed it. After being tortured by horrible pains, he died on a funeral pyre of oak branches. The so-called ‘Heracles Fireplace’ is located at the top of the Mount Oeta, which I used to observe every day from my window during my childhood and adolescence.

The wise centaur Chiron not only nurtured Asclepius, god of medicine, but also expounded his medical art. I have been a spiritual student of Asclepius and consistent worker during my 35 year scientific occupation. Thus Farewell, the last movement, is dedicated to Asclepius and to his master centaur Chiron.

The composition is based on musical ideas borrowed from Greek tradition, mixed with elements from jazz and contemporary music. Certain melodic and expressive elements are derived from surviving fragments of ancient Hellenic music, others from pastoral songs and laments of Epirus based on the pentatonic scale and also from traditional songs of Asia Minor. The saxophone represents the energetic and seductive mood of centaurs, while the beat, continuously supported by the piano, integrates the rhythmic and occasionally dancing dimension of this imaginary depiction. The extensive exploitation of almost the full range of the soprano saxophone, large intervals, contretemps and extensive techniques that are characteristic of this composition significantly challenges the saxophonist to develop and showcase the considerable skills required for this work.

The work is dedicated to my beloved wife Eleni for our 10 year wedding anniversary

Concertino ‘Testosterone’
for alto saxophone and strings

The title refers to the hormone testosterone, which is responsible for male sexual characteristics, as well as having other effects, including changes in mood, behaviour and energy level. The brain controls the amount of secreted testosterone through stimulating and suppressing substances. High testosterone levels are connected with aggressive behaviour, whereas decreased testosterone levels caused by falling in love result in emotional changes and promote paternal care. Imbalance between testosterone and inhibiting factors leads to dysfunction, thus low or high testosterone levels lead to uncontrolled emotional changes in men’s behaviour.

I decided to name this concertino ‘Testosterone’, for it is dictated by changes in mood, and is characterised by periods of calm melodic and harmonic levels alternating with high energy passages. After a back and forth conversation between piano and saxophone, a minimalistic ostinato appears, changing the mood, which in turn evolves into a series of unprepared modulations elaborated on by the saxophone. Afterwards, the piano announces musical events, which are taken over by the saxophone and the strings. The high energy activity of the saxophone, contrasting against the melodic sequences of strings and culminating in a paroxysmal virtuoso passage with multiphonic roaring, concludes the composition.

Dedicated to Stathis Mavrommatis and Christina Panteli

for alto saxophone and piano

A ringtone indicates an incoming call or a new message. The term comes from early telephones, equipped with a bell and electromagnetic hammer mechanism, creating a ringing sound. Today, ringtones represent hallmarks of the worldwide communications, which have minimised the distance between people.

The characteristic ‘Nokia tune’ used in this composition was adapted by Nokia from a music phrase from Gran Vals, a composition for solo guitar written in 1902 by the Spanish classical guitarist and composer Francisco Tárrega.

This composition was based on the exposition, development, enrichment and variations of Tárrega’s musical phrase, known to most of us as the ‘Nokia ringtone’. Quite often the repetitive ringtone is used with humorous intent.

Night Walk
for solo alto saxophone

Night walks lead to paths of thought and serenity. They offer a unique opportunity for concentration and meditation. Far from the bustle, the fast pulse and the nervous energy of the city, the extraneous information accumulated during the day is gradually erased and the mind clears. Thoughts, free from unrelated events of everyday life, become clear and plain. At the end of the day, mirroring the serenity of the surroundings, the mind regains its ability to reset, recalibrate and develop a new perspective.

This short composition feels like a soliloquy. Free and expressive, even improvisatory, it ultimately reveals recognisable elements of a traditional song from my place of origin in the Hellenic Mainland.

Dedicated to Stathis Mavrommatis

George Kontogiorgos

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