Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

SKALKOTTAS Violin Music (solo sonata; four sonatinas; seven pieces)  Georgios Demertzis (violin) Maria Asteriadou (piano)  BIS 1024 [66 mins]
Save around 22% with



Dmitri Skalkottas (1904-49) is one of my favourite composers. He would be much better known in UK if he had not chanced to come from Greece, one of several countries which are marginal to the contemporary music scene, leaving us with a distorted and blinkered, Anglocentric, view of the century's music. He studied with Schönberg in Berlin, but returned to Athens and complete obscurity when Hitler came to power. For a time, during the 60s as I recall, Skalkottas was featured in London and Oxford at the English Bach Festival (which included good helpings of modern Greek music), due to the enthusiasm and generosity of Lina Lalandi. I remember from that time a notable performance of a piano concerto, so lengthy and difficult that three pianists shared the three movements! Afterwards, Skalkottas disappeared from notice again.

He died in 1949, but his music still sounds fresh and modern, very much so as against what was being written in UK, though not in a way that should frighten off anyone who has belatedly become used to some of the 2nd Viennese school music of the beginning of the century through the championship of Glock and Boulez not so long ago. Skalkottas was prolific, unappreciated and reclusive, but eventually revealed as one of the most important and accessible of dodecaphonic composers, being relaxed and pragmatic in his use of tone rows, often several in the same work. He continued, also, to compose tonally in parallel with his serial compositions. Skalkottas's music is optimistic, usually lively in its rhythms and instrumentation, serialism with a dash of the Mediterranean sun.

BIS is doing him proud, as they have before for Schnittke. But perhaps this project is even more important, because Schnittke has been widely performed and recorded by others during his lifetime and since. In his concert review (S&H November 1999) of a fleeting, indeed furtive, visit to London of Georgios Demertzis with his New Hellenic Quartet, Richard Whitehouse recommends Demertzis 's recording of Skalkottas's violin concerto.

Here he tackles the substantial body of music for violin, Skalkottas's own instrument - he only abandoned a virtuoso career in order to devote himself to composition, whilst earning his living playing in the back desks of the Athens Symphony Orchestra.

The solo sonata (1925) in four movements, modern but looking back to Bach and baroque forms, ought to be in violinists' regular repertoire. The sonatinas are substantial works, belying the diminutive. The seven character pieces which end this marvellous recital range over elements which will be met with in Skalkottas's other music. The March of the little soldiers is a wry anti-militaristic miniature; the Nocturne expansive and lyrical, the Rondo a rapid, ironical, overview of the technique of violin-playing, the final Menuetto Cantato employs mirror-like reversal in its second half.

Authoritative performances by these two artists, and impeccable recording. The extensive notes, including a brief biography, are by another Demertzis (relationship, if any, undisclosed).

Recommended with all enthusiasm.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

Reviews from previous months

Reviews carry sales links
but you can also purchase

Return to Index