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Impressions for Saxophone and Orchestra
Mikis THEODORAKIS (b.1925)

Cretan Concertino (alto and orchestra) arr. Yannis Samprovalakis (1952) [10:44]
Adagio (soprano and strings) (1993) [3:44]
Nikos SKALKOTTAS (1904-1949)

Concertino (soprano and strings) arr. Yannis Samprovalakis (1939) [11:38]
Theodore ANTONIOU (b.1935)

Concerto Piccolo (alto and orchestra) (2000) [16:00]
Minas ALEXIADIS (b.1960)

Phrygian Litany (soprano and orchestra) [7:53]
Vassilis TENIDIS (b.1936)

Rhapsody of Pontos (alto and orchestra) (1997) [13:24]
Manos HADJIDAKIS (1925-1994)

Mr Knoll from Gioconda’s Smile op. 22 (alto and orchestra) [3:39]
Theodore Kerkezos (saxophones)
Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra/Myron Michailidis
rec. Aristotle University Hall, Thessaloniki, Greece, 12-15 December 2005, 29-31 March 2006. DDD
NAXOS 8.557992 [67:09]

 

Apparently the start of another series from Naxos – Greek Classics – there is a double attraction here: the instrument and the origins of the music. But if you glanced casually at the information above and thought that you’d never heard anything by these composers, you might well be wrong since Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis wrote the music for the films Zorba the Greek and Never on Sunday respectively. Theodorakis is also well-known politically for opposing the military regime of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was initially locked up and tortured, and then like Hadjidakis went into exile. Both returned to their homeland and in the 1990s Theodorakis became a minister in the Greek government.

Theodorakis was born on the island of Chios but his Concertino derives inspiration from the traditional music of Crete. Originally conceived as a sonatina for violin and piano in 1952, it has only very recently been arranged for alto saxophone and orchestra by Yannis Samprovalakis. Like all the other works on the disc, this is its first recording. In three movements, it is attractive with a particularly winsome finale which alternately makes great demands on the fingers of the soloists and then relaxes into gorgeous lyricism. The soulful adagio which follows dates from 1993 and is for soprano saxophone with only strings and percussion as accompaniment.

The next Concertino has also been arranged recently by Samprovalakis. As a young man the composer Skalkottas went to Berlin to study with Schoenberg. He returned to Athens and earned his living as a back desk violinist whilst composing extensively both tonal and atonal music in which there was no interest all. He died of a strangulated hernia on the day his second son was born. Posthumous recognition of his music seems to be gaining momentum. The work played here was written in 1939 for oboe and piano and has been the subject of other arrangements. Also structured in three movements, this tonal work has greater depths than anything else on the disc. The deeply searching slow movement, which also includes a solo violin part, is notable.

The Concerto Piccolo by Antoniou is played on the alto saxophone and was written in 2000 for the present performer. The composer has been a significant figure on the US musical scene since the 1970s and that is detectable in this music although Greek rhythms are also present. The three-movement structure is episodic and the percussion are prominent in the dances of the second movement.

The Phrygian Litany by Alexiadis is again dedicated to saxophonist Theodore Kerkezos. This is an extended song based on traditional music from Asia Minor. The inspiration for the Rhapsody of Pontos also comes from Asia Minor – this area is now part of Turkey and has a complex history. Some members of the family of the composer Tenidis came from the area. He initially trained as a lawyer before concentrating on music and becoming a conductor. The work dates from 1997 and often sounds quite oriental. The final piece – Mr Knoll – is taken from Gioconda’s Smile a famous collection of instrumental songs. With an additional unaccredited bouzouki solo, this concludes the disc on an impassioned note.

Theodore Kerkezos is a most impressive player who is strongly associated with much of this music. The supporting cast and engineers have also done a fine job and there are good notes. Whether your motivation is to hear music for the saxophone or from Greece, this disc is an unmissable bargain.

Patrick C Waller

 


 



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