The collective title
of this recent release is to be taken with a pinch of salt.
The unifying factor is the immaculate playing of Theodore Kerkezos,
for whom some of the works recorded here were written; but three
of them were not originally conceived for the saxophone. That
said, this disc is thoroughly enjoyable throughout. Moreover,
the orchestrations of the works of Theodorakis and Skalkottas
have been superbly done by Yannis Samprovalakis. In fact, Theodorakis’s
Cretan Concerto is an arrangement for saxophone
and orchestra of his First Violin Sonata composed as early as
1952 and subtitled Cretan simply because it incorporates
some elements of Cretan folk music. It is a short, colourful
and tuneful work of great charm cast in a fairly traditional
20th century mainstream idiom, with echoes of Khachaturian.
The Adagio for soprano saxophone, strings and
percussion was written much later, in 1993, and scored for trumpet
or flute or clarinet. So, the work as heard here is yet another
arrangement of this deeply-felt elegy dedicated to the victims
of the Bosnian war.
The Skalkottas Concertino
is a transcription and orchestration of his Concertino for oboe
and piano composed in 1939. It is an accessible work in a comparatively
light mood, and the expert transcription by Samprovalakis adds
to the music’s accessibility. This, however, does not seem to
be the first transcription of the piece; Günther Schüller arranged
it for oboe and chamber orchestra and Piero Guarino scored it
for oboe and strings. The piece works remarkably well in this
is, I confess, new to me, as is that of Alexiadis and of Tenidis.
His concise Concerto Piccolo is an attractive
piece composed for and first performed by Kerkezos. While drawing
on Greek rhythms, the music may again be described as ‘20th
century mainstream’, and none the worse for that. The soloist’s
part is quite taxing, particularly so in the various cadenzas.
The piece opens with a cadenza and ends with another. The central
movement is a lively dance with many intricate rhythms and a
lot of tricky bits superbly negotiated by Kerkezos.
Litany is another work dedicated to Kerkezos. As you
may have guessed, the title refers to the Phrygian mode. The
music is mostly warmly melodic, while the strings weave a somewhat
repetitive tapestry, reminiscent of Arvo Pärt and the so-called
Holy Minimalism. The music is warmer in tone and sometimes rises
to impassioned singing. As far as I am concerned, this beautiful
short piece is a real little gem.
of Pontos is a more ambitious and deeply serious work
as well as a virtuosic showcase for the soloist whose playing
sometimes reminds one of some folk instrument - actually the
Pontos lyra, as we are told in the detailed insert notes. The
music is again permeated with folk rhythms from Pontos, and
superbly scored. A most welcome rarity.
This selection ends
with another song-without-words by Theodorakis’s contemporary,
Manos Hadjidakis. Mr Knoll is a movement from
a suite titled Gioconda’s Smile Op.23 and a fine
example of this composer’s melodic gifts. Hadjidakis is particularly
well-remembered as a composer of some excellent film scores
(for Jules Dassin’s Never on Sunday) and of some highly
successful ballet scores, such as The Birds, composed
for Béjart. His concert output is still neglected. Maybe we
will hear more of his “serious” music soon.
This is Theodore
Kerkezos’s third record for Naxos; but, most importantly I think,
is the first of what looks likely to be a new Greek Classics
series from Naxos.
At the risk of repeating
myself, Kerkezos’s immaculate playing is a miracle and a real
joy from first to last. This cross-section of music by contemporary
Greek composers from different generations and artistic horizons
may safely be recommended.
see also Review
by Patrick Waller December Bargain of the Month