There is a large part
of Skalkottas's oeuvre that is seriously dissonant. It made
quite an impact in the 1960s and 1970s in the UK when revived on the BBC by Dorati and others. Separate
from that strain this Greek composer also wrote in a grateful
lyrical idiom in touch with the song and dance of his homeland.
This can be heard in his large collection of Greek Dances.
It is this raw, dancing
and whirling energy that we catch in the 45 minute ballet suite
of The Sea, written in 1948 and orchestrated the
next year. The style combines Bartók, Khachaturian and Tchaikovsky
in a romantic package which is sometimes grand and sometimes
frivolously playful as in The Little Fish. There is a
throaty little central serenade in the otherwise raucous Dance
of the Mermaid. The Tchaikovskian lead soldiers seems raucously
to the fore in The Dolphins. The Nocturne (tr.
7) is epic and seriously reflective of the sea's power and great
distances. The music for the Preparation of the Mermaids
in tr. 8 sounds as if ready made for a Ray Harryhausen animated
fight sequence. The sinuous Sheherazade-like violin solo in
The Tale of Alexander the Great recalls the fantasy
of Rimsky's Sadko and Stravinsky's Rossignol.
The final Hymn to the Sea is brazen and alive with a
pomp that does not sound entirely natural from this composer.
Once again the leader of the Iceland Symphony Gudný Gudmundsdóttir
is to the fore.
The Four Images
are from the same period as The Sea. This is
effectively another folksy dance suite in the varied manner
of the thirty-six Greek Dances: hammered, exhausting
energy and amorous serenades. Nielsen's Aladdin came
to mind more than once as also do the more terpsichorean Canteloube
songs and Arnold’s national dances. This is light music with a foot that keeps switching
into the serious. The harmony is far from bland - its accents
have learnt from Bartók and yet more from Kodály.
is a work by Mitropoulos. This is a stormily and rapturously
surging work with more than a little indebtedness to Tchaikovsky
and Nielsen at their most tempestuous.
The grand Greek
Dance in C minor romps along in rustling Dvořákian
colours. The writing is not quite as tangy as in the main sequence
of 36 Greek Dances but it is uproarious and would make a fine
and unhackneyed encore at a Prom concert ..... if only!
This along with the
masterly Thirty-Six Greek Dances is one of the easiest
approaches to the genius of Skalkottas.