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DUNELM Records

Panayiotis DEMOPOULOS - Nuages
Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Nuages gris (Gray Clouds) (1881) [3:45]; La lugubre gondola I (The Funeral Gondola I) (1882) [4:07]; Unstern (Evil star) (1880-86) [5:35]; Vallée díObermann (1848-54) [15:24]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109 [20:51]
Panayiotis DEMOPOULOS (b. 1977) Tetractys for solo piano (2000) [8:18]
Panayiotis Demopoulos, piano
Rec. 18 April, 28 May 2003, Whiteley Hall, Chethamís School of Music, Manchester. DDD


Early recordings by young artists are often infused with a fiery drama that offsets the imperfections later laid to rest by experience and countless hours of repetition. The freshness of the sounds produced by a talent still in his 20s can be revelatory if not revolutionary. They also tend to be rife with imperfections in their interpretations of traditional works. This is due, at least partially, to the zeal with which they are performed. The works of a young composer are also often the most exciting of a composerís career, as that is where the greatest amount of experimentation is evident while the young person finds their voice. This album appears to be the first recording by Panayiotis Demopoulos, a young man obviously in love with the classics, and quite talented in his own right. It is an attempt to highlight his strengths and establish himself in some way both as a composer and as a performer. Predictably the results are mixed.

The recording of the Liszt works is not particularly well done. The levels were not set high enough, nor were the microphones set close enough to the piano. The recording itself seemed muddy, and made the performance itself seem very inexact and imprecise. It is difficult to discern either Mr. Demopoulosís actual level of technical prowess or his emotive ability. Either that or the damper pedal on the piano was not properly working. The entire recording is drenched in a bath of acoustic reverb.

Happily, the Beethoven Sonata is a much better recording, and the performance much more enthusiastic. The second movement seems to be particularly well suited to Mr. Demopoulosís abilities, and for these few minutes at least the recording stands as far above average. He also displays a solid understanding of the many variations in the third movement, and does a notable job throughout.

The last several tracks on the album comprise a single work in four movements titled Tetractys for solo piano. This work was written by the performer, and is the most interesting work on the disc. Apparently the thematic material is based around a tone row derived arithmetically, but not mathematically, from a Pythagorean formula combined with the first three notes of Nuages gris. If that sounds confusing, the liner notes do little to clarify through their brief discussion of the use of Venn diagrams and mathematical set theory to create the harmonic material used. That being said, whether created through Schoenberg-influenced mathematical mysticism, John Cage-ish serendipity, or pseudo-scientific inspiration, the work itself is quite good. Each variation is distinctive, but in the final estimation, and hangs together very well. It feels as if it is a tone poem of sorts, rising slowly and quietly at the beginning and ending in a nearly violent crash and clatter at the end of the fourth movement. Overall it is an interesting piece, which one would hope, signifies the beginning of a prolific compositional career for Mr. Demopoulos. That being said, it represents the smallest part of the album, which is unfortunate. While an entire album of works by a young performer/composer in the classical music realm could possibly seem pretentious and would probably be largely ignored, the other selections do little to raise this disc above the crushing pile of those released every year. Tetractys is given little chance to find its way to the surface of the musical landscape.

While I sincerely hope that we have not heard the last of Mr. Demopoulos this early effort is nothing particularly special. Should he become one of the great performers or composers of this time, this album will become an essential recording due to its early, raw fervor and the Tetractys. However, should he go the route of most musicians, performing where he can but never truly distinguishing himself, this will go into the oblivion of history. There is nothing particularly off-putting about it, and it is harmless enough. Alas, that hardly seems enough for a solid recommendation. Better luck to him on his next effort.

Patrick Gary

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