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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Nikos SKALKOTTAS (1904-1949)
Violin Concerto (1938) [32.41]
Largo Sinfonico (1944) [26.16]
Seven Greek Dances for strings [17.46]
Georgios Demertzis (violin)
Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Nikos Christodoulou
rec. June 1997, Malmö Concert Hall
BIS BIS-CD-300904 [78.00]

Skalkottas's music still has the power to astonish. The Violin Concerto is awesomely concentrated and, for 1938, extremely 'advanced'. He uses twelve-tone method freely and leavens this with capricious Stravinskian chatter in the final movement of three. If you started your exploration of Skalkottas with the Bis-Christodoulou-BBCSO CD of the complete Greek Dances you will find little echo of that here. This is extreme end dodecaphony - not fragmented though - melodic lines emerge, intertwine and stream away freely rather like the Berg but without the Berg concerto's all-conquering melancholy beauty.

From six years later written in the dismal depths of the Nazi occupation of Greece comes the phantasmal Largo Sinfonico, originally intended, despite its great length (a single movement spanning 26 minutes), as part of a symphonic suite. This is a well sustained and fantastic movement which has many accessible stretches including the harp-shaded episodes at 15.23. The work is also not without protesting conflict as at 20.03 as well as an acidic lyricism (23.40). Again it is determinedly twelve tone.

The seven Greek Dances are part of the cycle now recorded complete in full orchestral versions by Bis. The Epirotikon goes rather stiltedly by comparison with its full orchestra counterpart on the BBCSO Bis disc. This was also conducted by Christodoulou who also by the way contributes the extremely helpful if rather technical booklet note. These seven dances with their uncomplicated tonality make a pleasing contrast with the outright twelve tone method of the other two major works on this disc. The dances can best be characterised as close to Enescu and Wirén.

This disc well merited selection for reissue at midprice as part of the tranche of 30 discs to mark Bis's thirtieth anniversary.

Rob Barnett



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