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Panayiotis DEMOPOULOS (b. 1977)

Nina’s Clock: piano improvisations:

METIER JAZZ RECORDS MJD72405 [56:09]

 

White o’clock: bad hand (4:42); Two o’clock: the life bone (3:42); Three o’clock: acts of heinous violence (4:56); Nina’s clock: Glasgow was (4:08); Plenty o’clock: leggy pegs (5:37); One o’clock: then (9:43); Eight o’clock: careful dominoes (5:07); Midnight: Haemon must pass (5:12); Fair o’clock: the chief and purple knife (7:00); Eleven o’clock: homebound hiss (2:54); Monk o’clock: blue tonk [3:03]

Panayiotis Demopoulos (piano)

Rec. ASC Studios Macclesfield, Cheshire, October 2015

 

I usually associate ‘improvisation’ with church services, where the organist ‘fills in’ a few awkward moments such as during the Gospel Procession, after the ‘Eucharistic’ hymn has finished and there are still two dozen communicants, or when the collection takes longer to collect than planned. On the other hand, there is plenty of improvisation in the world of jazz and rock music. Classical music, from the second half of the twentieth century has developed techniques for using this genre, including aleatory (random and chance) music and graphical scores giving ideas, suggestions and clues to the instrumentalists. It is often suggested that this creates a greater collaboration between composer and performer, although I guess that this category of music does not command a huge following amongst ordinary classical music lovers.

Alas and alack, Panayiotis Demopoulos does not give much detail about how he developed the eleven piano improvisations on this disc. To be sure, he does present a rather trite paragraph of the work’s genesis, which he claims is ‘not an accurate account.’

Fortunately, the Divine Art webpage does give a clue. The Suite: Nina’s Clock is written for solo piano, with some mechanical ‘preparation’ (i.e. its sound is altered by various means, including objects added between or against the strings) The music is part improvised but is based on a ‘structured skeleton’. It presents a story of ‘one night after recording sessions’ and present several ‘moods and styles.’ The blurb explains that the eleven movements do not represent the ‘normal twelve o’clock’ but is ‘a reflection of moods, external stimuli and events as felt by the composer.’

Looking at the titles reveals a couple of violent, aggressive labels – ‘the chief and the purple knife’ and ‘acts of heinous violence.’ One does not associate this kind of activities with Macclesfield, where the CD was ‘laid down.’ And what does ‘Glasgow was’ imply and who or what was ‘leggy pegs’? Yet these titles do not really reflect the mood of the music. I guess that the listener could dump these enigmatic tags and just enjoy the music.

There is a wide variety of musical styles presented here, including jazz, avant-garde classical and simple musings. I was impressed by the playing of these pieces, which typically sounds extremely complex and technically demanding. Certainly, the composer/pianist seems to spend some time ‘inside’ the piano plucking and scraping strings.

The result is impressive and enjoyable. Clearly any improvisation is a ‘one-off’ production that can never be realised in the same manner with identical detail. However, as noted above, there was a ‘plan’ for this set of pieces that suggest it could be performed again, with different outcomes.

I have been fortunate in reviewing a recording of Panayiotis Demopoulos playing music by Brahms, Mussorgsky and the pianist himself. ( DIVERSIONS DDV24166 ). Demopoulos was born in Athens in 1977, later growing up in the town of Kozani. He studied with Margaret Murray McLeod at Napier University, Edinburgh during 1996. Several years later he was awarded a scholarship, enabling him to study piano with Murray McLachlan and composition with Tony Gilbert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Paralleling an academic career with composing and performance, Demopoulos completed a PhD in Composition at York University. Currently he teaches at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, near his hometown. He regularly performs throughout Europe. Not limiting his achievement to music, he is the coach of a local basketball team, a local government official and enjoys European cinema and poetry.

John France May 2018

 


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