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Skalkottas: Greek Dances, Etc / Christodoulou, Bbc So


Release Date: 02/28/2006 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1333/4   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Nikos Skalkottas
Conductor:  Nikos Christodoulou
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 27 Mins. 

Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews


Nikos Skalkottas was a genius, and like so many geniuses he died young (45) and unacknowledged. Recognition is slowly coming, largely thanks to this series of recordings from BIS (heaven knows it's not because his music gets played regularly in concert), and for a number of reasons none of the releases will be more important than this one. First is the fact that the 36 Greek Dances remains Skalkottas' most approachable work. Not that these folksong (both real and custom made) settings are in any way facile or "cute"--far from it! In fact, most of them are guided by the same principles that inform the composer's gnarliest 12-tone pieces: avoidance of literal repetitions, vivid scoring with
Read more a decided emphasis on "low" instruments (bassoons, trombones, cellos, and basses), and total harmonic freedom.


The result sounds something like Bartók both in its astringency and also in its unfailing rightness of texture and tone. There are passages throughout all three sets of dances (12 in each set) that will haunt your memory for long after an initial hearing. Many of the settings are quite extended, running five minutes or more, and for a taste of what Skalkottas was all about, turn to the central dances of the second set (tracks 17-20 on Disc 1). The music is a celebration of simple ideas treated in unexpected and startling ways so as to keep each number consistently fresh and engaging. Constant Lambert once famously said: "The problem with music based on folksong is that all one can do with a folksong is play it louder." He was wrong.


Typically, Skalkottas never heard the complete set of dances performed, though composition occupied him his entire life. This performance, from scores prepared for this recording, presents each of these little polished diamonds in its most beguiling version, and even includes three alternatives for purposes of comparison.


The Return of Ulysses belongs to Skalkottas' 12-tone stable of compositions, so it will never become popular. At 28 minutes, it's his longest and most ambitious single movement, and it's recognizably the work of the same composer as the Dances (yes, his musical personality was that strong). In fact, while thematically based on tone-rows, the music is organized melodically with tremendous clarity, consisting of a slow introduction leading to a traditional sonata-allegro with a marvelously impulsive fugue in the middle. It comes off resembling Berg on a diet: there's the same emotional directness and brooding melancholy, but the textures are leaner and less plush. Unlike so much atonal or serial music, time passes quickly here, and Skalkottas generates an impressive cumulative momentum that he sustains right up to the whirlwind close.


It's impossible to exaggerate the impressive work that Nikos Christodoulou and the BBC Symphony Orchestra do in bringing this music to life. Occasional very minor ensemble lapses in the strings and a smeared passage now and again in the brass (the writing for trombones is somewhat impractical) count for nothing amid the confident projection of the music's rhythmic vitality and timbral ingenuity. It should be remembered that Skalkottas heard virtually none of this music, and so lacked the useful experience gained by trying it out in performance (though the fact the he orchestrates so well is a tribute to his genius and to his years of practical musicianship as a violinist in the Athens Symphony Orchestra). This project clearly has been a labor of love for all concerned, and BIS puts the syrup on the baklava (as it were) by offering state of the art sonics. Make no mistake; this is one of the great recordings, and an investment that will reward all of the attention you care to give it. [4/12/2003]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Greek Dances (36), A/K 11 by Nikos Skalkottas
Conductor:  Nikos Christodoulou
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936/1949; Greece 
Length: 106 Minutes 29 Secs. 
2.
The Return of Ulysses, A/K 5 by Nikos Skalkottas
Conductor:  Nikos Christodoulou
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943-1944; Greece 
Length: 28 Minutes 23 Secs. 
3.
Greek Dances (36), A/K 11: Chiot Dance "A ship from Chios" by Nikos Skalkottas
Conductor:  Nikos Christodoulou
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936/1949; Greece 
Length: 2 Minutes 46 Secs. 
4.
Greek Dances (36), A/K 11: Tsamikos Dance II "Down at the large plain" by Nikos Skalkottas
Conductor:  Nikos Christodoulou
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936/1949; Greece 
Length: 2 Minutes 30 Secs. 
5.
Greek Dances (36), A/K 11: Macedonian III by Nikos Skalkottas
Conductor:  Nikos Christodoulou
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936/1949; Greece 
Length: 1 Minutes 22 Secs. 

Featured Sound Samples

Greek Dances, Series I: No 3: Ipirotikos
Greek Dances, Series III: No 3: Kleftikos
Greek Dances, Series III: No 12: Mazochtos - I shall become a swallow

Sound Samples

36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: I. Tsamikos, "An Eagle"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: II. Critikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: III. Ipirotikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: IV. Peloponnissiakos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: V. Critikos, "I enjoy no other dance"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: VI. Kleftikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: VII. Sifneikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: VIII. Kalamatianos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: IX. "Dance of Zalongo"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: X. Macedonikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: XI. "Oh friends, who threw this apple?"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series I: XII. Thessalikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: I. Syrtos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: II. Sifneikos, "At Saint Marcella"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: III. Critikos, "Early at dawn I will rise"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: IV. Nissiotikos, "A woman from Mylopotamos"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: V. Vlachikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: VI. "Black Sash"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: VII. Kathistos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: VIII. Chiotikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: IX. Tsamikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: X. Epitrapezios (Critikos)
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: XI. Macedonikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series II: XII. Peloponnissiakos, "The brave Lyngos"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: I. Hostianos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: II. Ipirotikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: III. Kleftikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: IV. "Mariori"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: V. "Down there, at the villages of Valtos"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: VI. Macedonikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: VII. Chiotikos, "Down there at the seashore"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: VIII. Kleftikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: IX. "Kiss under a bitter-orange tree"
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: X. Arcadikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: XI. Messolongitikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11, Series 1: Series III: XII. Mazochtos, "I will become a swallow"
The Return of Ulysses, AK 5
36 Greek Dances, AK 11 (alternative versions): Series II: VIII. Chiotikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11 (alternative versions): Series II: IX. Tsamikos
36 Greek Dances, AK 11 (alternative versions): Series III: VI. Macedonikos

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