Greece’s best kept musical secret

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

 The Greek composer Nikos 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 for Mediterranean melody. This collection…

 

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  • Barenboim is one of very few leading musicians to champion his music, having recently played the composer’s Little Suite for Strings (1942) with the Staatskapelle Berlin. But then he studied this work in a conducting masterclass in the 1950s. Perhaps advocacy of Skalkottas’ music needs to begin at an early age!

  • I cannot recall which piece of Skalkottas’ it was, but I played something for full orchestra of his, and it was superbly written. But it was over 30 years ago, the name escapes me, but the composer was memorable.

  • A few years back several of his works appeared on the BIS label in excellent, authoritative recordings. Apart from his serial works, there is a fine set of variations (The Sea),which he wrote as a ballet score – highly recommended as an introduction to his music.

  • Mitropoulos programmed works by this composer Skalkottas during the 1950’s when M. was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. Really interesting and great to hear. I wish we could do some of his compositions in a future season.

  • We played the “Five Greek Dances” when I was a student at the New England Conservatory many, many years ago. Gunther Schuller, conductor. Wonderful stuff!

  • “his health broken by internment in a camp during the German occupation”: really? He was captive for a month and a half, according to multiple secondary sources and died five years after the retreat of the German forces.

    The ruptured hernia was reportedly a consequence of his neglect of his physical health. His morale was very low. He enjoyed little recognition in Greece as a composer and made a modest living as an orchestral violinist.

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