GREEK GUITAR MUSIC OF THE 21st CENTURY By Nikos Zarkos
The British guitarist Julian Bream (b. 1933) has been the strongest link between the classical guitar-world and the developments of musical modernism for the second half of the 20th century. Only after his inspirational presence and guidance has it been possible for composers of the stature of Benjamin Britten, Hans Werner Henze, Toru Takemitsu and William Walton to enter this unknown land, put aside the hard-to-die-Spanish-oriented core of the repertoire and write for the instrument. Henze, while working on his Royal Winter Music (First Sonata on Shakespearean Characters for Guitar) after a commission by Bream, commented that a composer interested in writing for the guitar “has to start from silence”.
Today, in the beginning of the 21st century, the path is attractively paved and a growing number of composers find working with guitarists and for the classical guitar rewarding. Theodore Antoniou (b. 1935), president of the Greek Composers Union for the last two decades, wrote Fantasia in Memoriam in 1996 to celebrate the memory of Manos Hadjidakis (1925-1994), an emblematic figure of modern Greek cultural life and an Oscar-winning composer (awarded in 1960, for the song Ta paidia tou Peiraia from the Jules Dassin’s film Never on Sunday). The piece is a spacious and free paraphrase – in an ABA fantasia form – of the famous song Paper Moon (Hartino to Feggaraki), from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire staged by Karolos Koun’s Art Theatre of Athens. The song is taken as a point of departure and as the basis of the ensuing musical development. The Fantasia in Memoriam serves as a remembrance of Hadjidakis and at the same time poses a question mark about his highly enigmatic personality.
Christina Athinodorou was born in Cyprus in 1981 and has been pursuing a career in London both as a composer and conductor. Wasted Window (2006-07) – her second piece for the guitar, the first being Iris (2005) – is a work full of drama and desire to escape from the “hindered windows” of reality, both artistic and mundane. The first and fourth movements are surprisingly tiny queries indicating, as the composer puts it, the need for breath, a need that only finds partial satisfaction in the Allegro appassionato finale with the frantically repeated fortissimo arpeggio chords.
Ioannis Kalantzis (b. 1966) is a multi-faceted composer trained in Lyons, France. He is at home with the MaxMSP, the bassoon and the guitar to the same intricate extent. He laconically describes Visitor as an “account of a young visitor’s experiences and reactions to an unexplored desolate landscape”.
Nickos Harizanos (b. 1969) composed Stasichordon in 2007 for a memorial concert dedicated to the guitarist and teacher Dimitri Fampas (1921-1996). Packed with bluesy elements and an almost floating feeling of movement, his work explores the sustain of the guitar and its harmonic possibilities to an unusually lavish extent.
Georgia Kalodiki (b. 1975) creates the kaleidoscopic environment of her work Aihmes through the juxtaposition of short declamatory phrases of two or three rapidly sharp notes against the femininely delicate harp-like harmonic textures that always follow. The music reaches its climax with a fortissimo development of the aggressive side of the work that leads to a long rasgueado chord, and soon finds its decompression with a circular ending familiar with the beginning.
William Antoniou (b. 1987, Boston, Massachusetts), son of the composer Theodore Antoniou and the soprano Susan Lambert, was raised in an environment thriving on musical activity and showed his gift for composing at an early age – in 2005 he was the youngest composer to partake in the “New Composer/Librettist Studio” in New York. Aphierosis (Greek for Dedication) is written in memoriam of his lost aunt Sofia in the summer of 2004 and remains his first work for the solo guitar.
Leonidas Kanaris (b. 1963), a well-known pedagogue and composer among the Greek guitar aficionados, wrote his eloquently long Sonata, op. 14 in 2000. In its three distinctive movements he explores widely the possibilities of the instrument, managing to write music that sounds highly idiomatic and at the same time to use a language full of lyricism and glowing inwardness.