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Manolis KALOMIRIS (1883–1962)
Complete Works for Solo Piano
Ballades: No. 1 in E minor (1905 rev 1933) [4:36]; No. 2 in A flat (1905) [4:29]; No. 3 in E flat (1906 rev 1958) [4:56]
Rhapsodies: No. 1 (1921) [6:06]; No. 2, Chant à la Nuit (1921) [8:02]
Five Preludes (1939) [10:28]
Nocturne (1906 rev 1908) [5:15]
Patinada (Serenade) (1907) [3:35]
Ya Ta Hellinopoula (For Greek Children), Vol. 1 [6:20], Vol. 2 [5:49], Vol. 3 [4:56]
Anatoliki Zografia (Oriental Picture) (1902) [5:11]
Olivier Chauzu (piano)
rec. 2016, Studio 4'33, Pierre Malbos, Ivry-sur-Seine, France
GRAND PIANO GP748 [69:43]

Manolis Kalomiris stands as the composer-statesman of Greek music. Nationalism laid an unshakeable grip on his shoulder. He did not seek to espouse other countries' styles although quite naturally other strains do emerge, especially among the earlier works. His Greek credentials were no obstacle to his adoption of non-Greek forms such as the Ballade, Prelude, Rhapsody and Symphony as the channels for what he had to say.

His early piano music bears signs picked up during his scholar years in Vienna. An admiration for Liszt, Chopin and Tchaikovsky is there to be noticed in the romantic throes of the three Ballades. Revisions in the 1930s and 1950s did little to attenuate that. The exciting Third Ballade heaves and lays about it with dark-fisted determination. It may be that the 1958 revisions injected the colourful rainbow spray of notes around 1:40. The Nocturne looks forward as an augury of the later folksong style. The Patinada comes closest to salon fodder but even here Kalomiris finds himself introducing quietly swirling figures. The Anatoliki Zografia revels in the turbulent passions of the Ballades but also looks forward to the folksong element.

Twenty years later - in fact from around the time he completed his First Symphony, Levendia - the more impressionistic Rhapsodies show emphatically more folk-nationalistic strata. The second of them, with its allusive nocturnal title, takes us into the sort of misty fragile territory also occupied by Griffes, Baines and Szymanowski. The First Rhapsody is dedicated to José Iturbi. The Five Preludes, written on the brink of World War II and all of them short, assert a range of emotional material from the suggestive lacework of No. 2, to the Rachmaninov-like turmoil of No. 1 and pesante stomp of No. 5. There's a folksy, Kodály-style, peacock-fan brilliance and melody at play as well.

The three volumes of Ya Ta Hellinopoula (For Greek Children) were written throughout his life and comprise eleven very short miniatures. They are not written for children to play but belong among the literature that conjures nostalgic visions of childhood. They permitted him to patter through and ring out the nationalist folksong element which found out-and-out expression among his piano music in the Rhapsodies.

Naxos has two Kalomiris orchestral albums in its Greek Classics series. There's the Third Symphony (review review) and a programme that includes orchestrations of the two piano Rhapsodies (review). In addition, Koch International issued a recording of his Symphony No. 1 Levendia (1921) in which Bruno Fidetzis conducted the Sofia State Philharmonic Orchestra and Bulgarian Nation Choir. His other two symphonies date from 1931 and 1955.

Olivier Chauzu is a dedicated musician, willing to surrender his skills and sympathies to advocate the music of composers whose reputations have been washed away by time or compromised by clouds of inimical witnesses. He has recorded piano music by Louis Aubert (GP648) and Gustave Samazeuilh for Grand Piano and Emile Goué for Azur Classical. Chauzu trained at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris, studying with Gabriel Tacchino, Théodore Paraskivesko, Jean-Claude Pennetier and György Sebök. At other times he was taught by Leon Fleisher, Vitaly Margoulis and Dimitri Bashkirov.

The recording choices made by the GP team are unlikely to dismay you. Chauzu is afforded warmth, clarity and room for the more clamant moments to expand.

Everything is laid out with satisfying typographical clarity in the booklet and there's an indulgently detailed six-page essay in English and French by Gérald Hugon.

Rob Barnett



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