Nikos Skalkottas: Piano works (Bis)

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The Greek composer Skalkottas died of a ruptured hernia in 1949, shortly after the birth of his second son. He was 45 and completely unknown, his health broken by internment in a camp during the German occupation.

Possessed of a questing mind, Skalkottas enrolled in Arnold Schoenberg’s Berlin class from 1927 to 1932, learning how to write ultra-modern serialism and balancing it with his own instinct forMediterranean melody. This collection of piano pieces by the Greek scholar Lorenda Ramou contains three world premieres, all of considerable curiosity.

In the Greek Suite of 1924, Ramou draws bouzouki-like sounds from her piano, plangent little dances that would have not sounded out of place on the Zorba film set. A second suite from the same year has Jazz Age rhythms reminiscent of the Parisian Les Six. When Skalkottas turns serial he does so with a charming lightness, fingers flying across the black keys, wispy wavelets kissing the island shore. I particularly like the suite of 1941 when, with the world crashing around him, Skalkottas conjures up polkas and tangos in strict 12-note order, frisky with restless hope and a sense of fun. If you’re into 20th century piano music,  this should be high on your wishlist.

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Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review // Norman Lebrecht est un rédacteur prolifique couvrant les événements musicaux et Slipped Disc, est un des plus populaires sites de nouvelles culturelles. Il anime The Lebrecht Interview sur la BBC Radio 3 et collabore à plusieurs publications, dont The Wall Street Journal et The Standpoint. Vous pouvez lire ses critiques de disques chaque vendredi.

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