BETH

Panagiotis Ant. Andriopoulos- Preface to recording

The recording BETH, with works for solo flute performed by soloist Iwona Glinka, was recorded in March 2016 and includes works by 11 contemporary Greek composers.

Compositions for solo flute are by: Christos Sp. Anastasiou, Aris Carastathis, Dimitris Kostopoulos, Manos Panayiotakis, George Papamitrou, Elena Papari, Athina Pavlaki – Pirounia, Haralambos Platanou, Panagiotis Theodossiou, Dimitris Tsimpanos, Yiorgos Vassilandonakis. Many of these works are entirely new creations, since they were written between 2012 and 2015, while four of them are dedicated to Iwona Glinka.


Two of the compositions, Tweet, by Aris Carastathis, and Songbird, by Dimitris Tsimpanos, are inspired by the world of birds, as the flute is an instrument that favors – also in timbre - the rendering of the rhythmic and melodic variety of bird sounds.

The works Mirrors, by Elena Papari, and Lament, by Athina Pavlaki – Pirounia, the two female composers of the disc, are an attempt to look at reality through different looking glasses and a mourning for life’s unfulfilled dreams.

The composition Litany Seven Variations on a Theme, by Panagiotis Theodossiou, is the only work in the disc inspired by religion. It is the experience of a prayer, during the litany of the relic of Saint Dionysius in Zakynthos. A manifestation of orthodox worship and life.

Plan Bb, by George Papamitrou, was written in Greece during the economic crisis, in particular during July 2015, when the “alternative rescue plan” had become part of the Greeks’ everyday life vocabulary. In the end, the Plan B for the Greek economy was unnecessary but, luckily, we have the composition by G. Papamitrou which, thanks to the frequent presence of B flat, reminds us that Greek economy is still flat…

Given that the title of Manos Panayiotakis’ work Along the Cygnus Wall is borrowed from the astrophography created by Jimmy Walker and published by NASA in March 2016, we could say that the work is an acoustic astrography, since the composer uses a wide range of timbres that the flute can produce in its high, middle and low register.

Games of Light, by young composer Dimitris Kostopoulos, is a work that could have been constantly played in 2015, the International Year of Light. Its theme and its processing assures us that music too is nothing but a game between light and darkness.

In Stochasmos, by Christos Sp. Anastasiou, symmetry is the most important element of the composition. A symmetry that stems from the architectural, almost mathematical, conception of the work.

Nice Aegean Sea, by Haralambos Platanou, is a work of skillful character, which echoes the splashing waves of the Aegean in a purely musical way – just in 4’35’ – which makes it even more interesting.

The composition Prosody, by Yiorgos Vassilandonakis, is the first part of a cycle of short, solo compositions for orchestral instruments, which follow the tradition of Luciano Berio’s Sequenzas. It is important that Berio started this cycle with a sequenza for flute and then proceeded to the other instruments. In linguistics, prosody is the rhythm, the stress and the intonation of the speech. In Vassilandonakis’ work there is also the element of Babel, which makes the whole composition more attractive.

With BETH, Iwona Glinka achieves yet another feat. She induced and performs entirely contemporary compositions for flute, which capture the atmosphere of today, in society, in the intellectual scene, as well as in art.

BETH is the continuation of ALEPH. Iwona Glinka has definitely a lot of work ahead of her until the Hebrew alphabet is completed. But we also need time to assimilate this precious work, which is already being tested by time.

Premiere 09/2016 

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.