Yannis MARKOPOULOS (b.1939)
1. Pyrrichios Dance No. 13, "Nemesis" (2001) [7:20]
2. Shapes in Motion (Piano Concerto) (1999) [21:10]
3. Triptych for Flute, Strings and Harp (1969, 2001-06) [15:25]
4. Concerto-Rhapsody for Lyre and Orchestra (1986) [16:06]
5. Little Fantasy (2005) [4:28]
6. Classical Sketches: No. 2. Lamento (1958) [3:38]
7. Evilia Topia (Sunlit Landscapes) (2007) [5:15]
(flute: 1,3,5-7); Dimitri Papatheodorou (piano: 2); Zacharias Spyridakis (Cretan
lyre: 4); Dalia
Ouziel (piano: 5); Sophie Hallynck (harp: 3,6)
Virtuosi/Iannis Leonidakis (3,6); Brussels Philharmonic/Michel Tilkin (1); Flanders
Opera Symphony Orchestra/Edwig Abrath (2,4)
rec. June 2003, Auditorium of the VRO Orchestra, Leuven, Belgium (1); September
2007, Studio Steurbaut, Ghent, Belgium (2,4,5,7); October 2007, Jardin du Mayeur,
Mons, Belgium (3,6)
NAXOS GREEK CLASSICS 8.572237 [73:21]
Yannis Markopoulos, who just turned 71, was one of the main
figures behind the "Return
to the Roots" movement in Greek music thirty years ago. The works presented
on this album are mostly from the latest years, although some go back as far
as half a century. Still, they are unified by the composer's characteristic style.
The works are melodic, with a firm bass and rather conservative harmonic progression.
Rhythm plays a vital part, and folk elements are abundant. The music is for the
most part tonal, at times bordering on minimalistic. Melodies avoid large leaps,
usually going up and down the scale, or circling around a note.
The opening Pyrrichios Dance No. 13 gives a good preview of the style.
The composer succeeds in making it instantly likeable, but at the same time not
tedious. He achieves this by combining the stable with the changing. The music
is based on a very solid bass, almost static. The strings repeat their statements
without much alteration, whereas the flute's part is ever-changing, fluent like
water, varying as in the best variations. The name Nemesis has no macabre
connotations here. Nemesis is the Greek goddess of retribution, the bringer of
balance, not necessarily vengeance. As the poet Mesomedes put it: "Nemesis,
winged balancer of life, dark-faced goddess, daughter of Justice". Here
she dances, and soft are her steps. Which gives us another recurrent feature
of Markopoulos' works: his music often has gentle, feminine traits. And it is
Shapes in Motion, a concerto for piano and orchestra, stylistically
stands apart from other works on the album, and requires from the listener
more effort to follow the stream of metamorphoses that the motifs undergo.
In my humble opinion, there is too much repetition. The music is very intense
throughout; there is literally no rest until the cadenza in the last movement.
There’s a lot of excitement, for sure. Still, the work looks one-sided.
The Triptych is sunny summer-music. The delicate flute dances and sings.
The strings are sensitive and supporting. As in Nemesis, the superimposing
of stable and mutable makes the music approachable yet interesting. The three
parts are in turn playful, pastoral and contemplative.
There is a lot of folk influence in the Concerto-Rhapsody for Cretan lyre
and orchestra. The sound of the instrument is engaging: it could be compared
to an oboe, as if a viola were compared to a clarinet. The tiny first movement
introduces it in a wide, stately melody. The second movement, with its virile
stomps and leaps, has much that is predictable, but does not become boring. The
same scheme - stable bass and orchestral tutti, varying solo above - leads
to interesting dialogues between instruments. There is a feeling of a group dance
and of a certain inevitability. The dance gets faster in the third movement.
The music has an almost hypnotic power, turning and swirling the dance motif
again and again (and, for me, far too much) - until the orchestra puts a sudden
end to proceedings.
I liked the Little Fantasy for flute and piano. It has a beautiful melody,
which is developed like a song without words. It stands on the verge of "easy
listening" music, but, in my opinion, does not cross it. All is moderate
and balanced. Lamento is short but memorable. It has some British feeling
around it. The momentum is good, the melody is attractive and suits the flute's
voice very well. Finally, Sunlit Landscapes for solo flute could be the
Greek Lark Ascending: it "dreams itself along" in a similar
way. This is not a buoyant way to end the album, I admit, but still a pleasant
All performances are devoted and technically immaculate. I would especially
praise the sensitive and expressive flute of Marc Grauwels. The recording quality
excellent. The liner-notes tell you everything one could possibly wish to know
about the composer, the works and the performers. However, something tells me
I won't return often to this disc. There is too much of the feeling of "almost",
and too much predictability. That said, it is good music to listen to for a few
times. But don't rush through the disc at once - make breaks.