ALEPH

Panagiotis Ant. Andriopoulos – Preface to recording

The CD Aleph includes 10 compositions by seven Greek composers, which are recorded for the first time (world premiere recordings). Five of these compositions are for solo flute and the other five for flute and piano. The works are performed by two top soloists, specialized in contemporary music: Iwona Glinka, flute, and Vicky Stylianou, piano.

The CD was recorded in February 2016, while the works included in it had been previously performed in concert That means that the compositions and its creators came into contact with a music-loving audience and this recording concludes the whole project, which presents aspects of contemporary music for solo flute and for flute and piano.

The works are modern and its creators contemporary, so this CD also constitutes a record of the modern Greek musical creations for flute, a subject constantly and thoroughly studied by soloist Iwona Glinka, who has also written a doctoral thesis on the works of Greek composers for solo flute.

In ALEPH, the composers who have written music for solo flute are: Christos Sp. Anastasiou, Aris Carastathis, Spiros Mazis, Athina Pavlaki-Pirounia and Dimitris Themelis. The works for flute and piano are composed by: Dimitris Themelis, Aris Carastathis, Athina Pavlaki-Pirounia, Haralambos Platanou and Vassilki Filippeou. The works dedicated to Iwona Glinka are: Ioulos, for solo flute, by Spiros Mazis, and Fantasia, for solo flute, by Dimitris Themelis.

The disc opens and closes in ancient Greek style! It opens with Makron (2012) by Christos Sp. Anastasiou, which is the third of the seven parts of Paravasis (from the Ancient Greek Tragedy) and closes with Marsyas Song, by Dimitris Themelis, which is based on the myth of the double pipe player Marsyas. Marsyas was beaten by the God of music, lyre player, Apollo in a music contest and then flayed alive.

In Three miniatures, by Athina Pavlaki – Pirounia, for solo flute, Iwona Glinka unfolds her virtuosity, playing for solo flute (Awakening in the woods), alto flute (Walking on ice) and bass flute (Sad pantomime).

Vassiliki Filippeou’s Theme and variations for piano and flute, based on a theme by Dimitris Dragatakis, reminds us of this great Greek composer (1914-2001), whose works for flute have been performed by Iwona Glinka and have been specifically mentioned in her thesis. Composer Vassiliki Filippeou dedicates this work to the memory of Dimitris Dragatakis.

The compositions are modern and often include all the techniques of contemporary music, bringing out, not only the unique characteristics of the instrument, but also Iwona Glinka’s skills in the works for solo flute. Yet, the lyricism and musicality we find in whole works or in parts of works is not absent.

Thousands of notes, wonderful timbres, exquisite dialogues between flute and piano, strong and emotional performances from the two soloists who perform in the best way the compositions of contemporary Greek composers.

The disc constitutes an example of collaboration and high quality result on the two performers’ parts, who do not only perform the compositions with fidelity and virtuosity but also create a poetics of music. The disc is a hymn to the poetics of freedom and the struggle of creativity.

Premiere 08/2016

This beautifully produced disc presents 10 world premiere recordings by seven contemporary Greek composers. Specialist fodder, one might think, but the beauties contained in these performances open out the envelope considerably. Not to mention the fabulous recording: In particular, the flute is reproduced with phenomenal realism. Iwona Glinka is familiar to me through various recordings of the work of Dinos Constantinides reviewed in Fanfare. The repertoire in the present set of discs under review is wide and rewarding, revealing a broader side to her art while reconfirming her devotion to the music of our time. 

Written in 2012, Athens-born Christos Anastassiou’s Makron for solo flute is a varied, flighty piece. If only the composer’s own notes were not so unhelpful, appearing in effectively note form; not to mention being grammatically incorrect. (That could be the translation, of course: The English text follows the Polish, as Sarton is a Polish label.) But stand-alone statements such as “used the Isomelody and Isorhythm,” pithy though they may be, hardly illuminate. And while one can glean the meaning of “throughout the work are always subdivisions 3,” it hardly exudes style. Luckily the piece itself is far more user friendly. One has to posit some performer choices here, as the composer’s website gives the duration of the piece as between one and five minutes (Glinka takes 4:40). Anastassiou’s piece offers an intriguing way into the recital, as if beginning with a musical question mark. Glinka’s performance is impeccably clean yet mightily expressive. 

Composed during the summer of 1999, Three Moods of Summer by Canada-based composer Aris Carastathis, while never denying that it is music of our time, shows a light touch. The lazy opening (in the sense of a lazy summer’s day) gives way to playful but unhurried interchanges between flute and piano in a musical language that is rooted in tonality. Pianist Vicky Stylianou finds great color and interest in Carastathis’s harmonic vocabulary before the folkish melodies of the finale, “Mood Swings,” come into focus. Carastathis structures this finale well, with plenty of contrast; the piano sound is impeccably caught, and the two instruments are believably placed in the sound picture. Complementing this piece is Carastathis’s solo flute piece Contortions, also of 1999. Of deliberately meandering gait, the work asks for the odd extended technique from the flutist but it is its sense of atemporality that conjures up, for this listener at least, the world of the shakuhachi. 

Born in Patras, Greece, composer Vassiliki Filippeou presents a Theme and Variations based on a theme by Dimitris Dragatakis, to whom the work is dedicated. Again, there are linguistic problems with the booklet notes, but we get the gist at least, generally, although I for one was defeated by the description of the fifth variation: “what is the issue with tumor form, rhythmic texture of both institutions.” The piece itself is fascinatingly complex. Filippeou has a keen ear for harmonic structures and is absolutely consistent in her language. The connection between Glinka and Stylianou enables the quixotic passages absolutely to shine. An excerpt from this excellent piece is available at youtube.com/watch?v=9SLnS-l-8Xw. 

Corfu-born composer Spiros Mazis contributes Ioulos (1990); the title means hymn, or song. The composer’s doctoral thesis was on a practice he calls “multiharmonic-multispectral mode,” in which he adds and removes harmonics from a pedal point. The piece demands various extended performance techniques from its performer, all managed with consummate ease by Glinka, who is the dedicatee of the work. Influences on Mazis are Thomas Simaku (with whom he studied in York), Xenakis, and Murail. At 10 minutes’ duration, the work gives the composer space to create a wonderfully convincing soundworld. 

The composer Dimitris Dragatakis, whose music provided the theme for Fillippeou’s contribution, was again significant for the next composer, Athens-born Athina Pavlaki-Pirounia, who was one of his students. Her The Destiny of the Soul for flute and piano maps the idea of the journey of the soul onto the life of a butterfly. It makes for a beguiling trip, with interactions between Glinka and Stylianou impeccably managed. More immediately appealing to the ear than Ioulos, Pavlaki-Pirouia’s piece offers a plateau of delight. Her Three Miniatures are scored for three different solo flutes (standard flute, alto flute, and bass flute respectively). Pavlaki-Pirounia describes the piece as “the musical sounds that reflect hidden images of our childhood experiences flooded by a deluge of emotions.” The composer’s evident gift for melody predominates. The slow descent in pitch, as well as the addition of smokiness as the work progresses via alto flute to bass flute, is highly effective. The predominantly quiet final piece, “Sad Pantomine,” takes on huge emotional weight. Glinka’s performance is magnificently sensitive, while the recording captures every single nuance. 

Born in Mytelene, Lesbos, Haralambos Platanou takes his inspiration from that beautiful island. (And who wouldn’t: I think I visited Lesbos last when Platanou would have been two years old, in 1987, and was bowled over by its chthonic energy as well as its fragrant, hypnotic spell.) Beautifully flowing, harmonically inviting and easy going, Platanou’s contribution to the present recital, Three Fantasies, holds many delights. The flow of the central Fantasie is particularly beguiling. 

Another work written for Glinka, Dimitris Themelis’s Fantasy for Solo Flute (2005) thrums with energy, its active line seeming continually to seek some unnamed unknown. Themelis’s Marsyas Song of 1982 for flute and piano was inspired by the myth of the flutist Marsyas who entered into a contest with Apollo, lost, and was subsequently flayed alive. Based on an 11-note motif and couched in generally atonal musical language, this is a piece that speaks of narrative, with an often active surface. Incidentally, both of Themelis’s pieces have booklet notes excellently translated into English by Irini Tzanetoulakou. 

This is a most fascinating trip into the byways of the contemporary Greek flute repertoire. I wonder why the disc is called Aleph (Hebrew) and not “Alpha” (Greek); similarly, its companion disc (reviewed elsewhere) is entitled Beth, not “Beta.” Colin Clarke 

This article originally appeared in Issue 41:2 (Nov/Dec 2017) of Fanfare Magazine.