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Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, November 2008

Pianist Lorenda Ramou, a friend of the composer, is also one who has done the job of editing his complete piano music (which is what we have here), and one must also say that her performances are about as radiant and affirmative as one could ask of this contrary music…on a few of these pieces, notably the world premiere Nostalgia, Butterfly, and Little Ballad (all composed before 1949), we hear some hints of a tonal world soon to be abandoned, and what we hear is most attractive. Near the end of his life, Dragatakis evidently decided to evolve back to the future with his Inelia (1997) and Monologue No. 4 (2001), each pregnant with the thoughts and musings of a new type of tonality that forges ahead yet is still catchy and alluring. I wish I had heard this type of style in his more severe and atonally-embraced Sonatinas or Etudes, but I must confess that those leave me cold.

Again, this is a bit tragic, as for so many composers trapped in that artificial aesthetic. But one must commend Ms. Ramou for her efforts, as the music is worth saving, much worth hearing, and as for the rest—well, no one is perfect, and atonal-aficionados will probably find much to enjoy in this well-recorded disc.

Colin Clarke
Fanfare, September 2008

[The] present disc comprises Dragatakis's complete music for solo piano, presented chronologically. The first two items we hear cannot be dated accurately, so are only designated as "before 1949"; the most recent work is the Monolog No. 4 of 2001.

Nostalgia is a simple little piece, with affectingly inflected right-hand melody floated atop a gently rocking left hand. There are hints of a Greek musical language here, but they are only hints. The influence of the Impressionists, particularly Debussy, seems more evident. Butterfly is more obviously Hellenic, while the Little Ballad of 1949 seems more ambitious than its title would suggest. Ramou plays the latter in particular with great character, her staccato touch a particular source of delight.

The two Piano Sonatinas date from 1961 and 1963 (the second is receiving its world-premiere recording here). The First Sonatina is more overtly angular than anything heard thus far and is remarkably terse in its expression. The finale is charming; its close, witty. The Second Sonatina immediately ushers in a more elusive sound world, closer perhaps to Schoenberg than anything heard thus far. The Largo is broad in expression, even dramatic at times, opening up dark sound spaces that the composer has so far been reluctant to uncover.

Antiques (1972) is a suite of some eight short movements. The composer's own description of the work as "eight miniatures that summarize human history" might seem overly ambitious. It was inspired by the replicas of ancient Greek statues by Grigoris Semitekolo. Here the musical language is even more disjunct (especially the Allegretto second piece), with glissandos forming an occasional but telling part of Dragatakis's expressive vocabulary. The final movement is a quiet Adagio that leads seamlessly into Anadromes II. Anadromes takes us to 1977 and is a piece that includes a distinctly playful side in amongst its more significant ruminations. Both of the etudes take their musical source as Dragatakis's incidental music to Euripedes's Medea; both are predominantly slow, the second being more fragmentary in nature. Inelia (1997) was written for the pianist Elena Mouzala (the title is derived from a retrograde version of her first name) and is overtly nostalgic in nature, even in its more animated sections.

The final piece is one in a series of Monologs. At over 11 minutes it makes a substantial statement. Apparently it is written without bar lines, but with plenty of tempo changes. This certainly would explain its interior, almost soliloquizing world.

The recording, made in the Athens Concert Hall in September last year, is adequate, if a little lacking in body in the higher reaches. Lorenda Ramou must count as an authority on the music of Dragatakis—she has edited the critical edition of his complete piano music (to be published by the Philippos Nakas Music House), and the Etude No. 1 was dedicated to her by the composer. An interesting disc.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2008

This is the first time I have come across the name of Dimitris Dragatakis, a Greek musician who was well into his forties before embarking on a composing career. To that point he had played viola in the Greek National Opera Orchestra and taught violin at the National Conservatory. Born in 1914, his career was interrupted by the Second World War and the ensuing national conflict in his homeland. Though he had composed only 130 works on his death, he was highly regarded in Greece, eventually becoming President of the Greek Composers’ Union. Stylistically his early piano music - here represented by three works, Nostlgia, Butterfly and Little Ballad - is rooted in traditional tonality, just occasionally straying into a more ambivalent key structure. By the time we reach the 1960’s for the two Sonatinas, we are in the world of Berg and Webern, each movement brief and stripped down to the bare basics. They are well-structured and with interesting rhythmic patterns, though it will take time to get to know them. This mood of abstract music continues into the eight short movements that make up Antiques from 1972, teasing remnants of music of a long gone era flitting in and out of the music. The last five tracks take us through to his death in 2001 - Anadromes II, Etudes l & ll, Inelia and Monologue No. 4 - arriving at the point where Dragatakis has married atonality and tonality into a harmonic cohesive whole. Lorenda Ramou is one of the best known Greek pianists on the international circuit and received dedicated works from Dragatakis, working with him in the preparation for performance. We can take it that we are in safe hands with a disc that represents his total keyboard output. Technically they do not set out to give a showcase for the soloist’s brilliance, though the fragmented nature must present problems of creating a cohesive entity. Most are here receiving their world premiere recording, the sound quality as good as they come.

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