Let’s hear it for the classical Greek

Let’s hear it for the classical Greek


norman lebrecht

May 01, 2020

From this week’s Lebrecht Album of the Week:


The modernist Greek composer Skalkottas left Berlin in 1933 and returned to Athens, where he lived in poverty and poor health. When the Germans occupied his country, he was placed in an internment camp. Though he found love and finally married in 1946, he died three years later of what is said to have been an untreated ruptured hernia.

He was by a long chalk the foremost Greek composer of…

Read on here.

And here.



  • V.Lind says:

    Well, there’s someone I had never heard of and am delighted to be introduced to. I popped on his Concertino in C major for Piano and Orchestra and it is a treat on a dark rainy afternoon.

    Thank you! I will spend the next hour on some more of his work.

    It’s reasons like this I come on this site.

  • Larry says:

    A wonderful composer, almost forgotten today. I performed a set of “Five Greek Dances” for orchestra, back in my student days at New England Conservatory (early ’70s.) Of course, Mitropolous championed his music and recorded some with the New York Philharmonic in the ’50s. There are some recording of his chamber music on the BIS label, too. (Maybe they’re out of print now??)

    • A very large part of our Skalkottas recordings are orchestral music, and, Larry, this is BIS!
      We’re basically the only major label with a total non-deletion policy. All BIS products are constantly available from our own warehouse – and, of course, digitally everywhere.


      • Petros Linardos says:

        Yay for BIS! Great recording company!

      • Saxon Broken says:

        I am curious. Why do record labels delete things from their catalogue. Is it just too expensive for them to hold the stock, and too expensive to do really short print runs of new CDs?

  • Larry says:

    Norman, didn’t he have some sort of “connection” with Varese, or am I completely wrong? (Wouldn’t be the first time!)

    • Alex Rigas says:

      Larry, no connection whatsoever. Maybe you may consider the other Greek, Xenakis for such connection.

  • John Borstlap says:

    This is great folky fun:


    But his Schoenbergian music sound merely strange: neoclassical mould filled with the wrong notes:


    More of this type of music:



    Here are a couple of piano concerti:



    It all sounds wrong, frustrated, forced, twisted, like Picasso portraits with the nose at the place of the ear and the other way around.

    And then, in 1949, just before he died, he wrote this:


    A return to normal, and in this case truly beautiful and strong music with real thematic ideas, and beautifully made. As if suddenly the real soul pops-out. My suspicion is that such composers actually want to write the music they do really feel inside, but feel obliged to suppress to be able to be ‘of their time’ and ‘avantgarde’, and they are taken-in by the nonsense of Schoenberg and his followers. A tragedy….

    By the way, the neglect that Skalkottas experienced, in spite of being up-to-date internationally, is typical of small nations.

  • Sabrinensis says:

    His Concerto for Violin, Viola, and Wind Orchestra is excellent. Gunther Schuller was enthusiastic about Skalkottas and I obtained a lot of scores and live performance recordings from his Margun Music.

  • Dear Norman,

    OK, I really need to say this – I am cruelly disappointed.
    BIS have released no less than twenty-one (yes, 21!!) discs of music by Skalkottas – by far the most of any label, before or since. As a matter of fact, we’re quite close to having a Skalkottas Complete Edition. To very great critical acclaim, and close to no sales.

    The “Return of Ulysses”, which you said has not been recorded, was released on BIS-1333 in 2003 (together with the 36 (not 12) Greek Dances), and has been available since, in the huge orchestral fashion, not a piano reduction.

    The Suite for Violin and Chamber Orchestra was released on BIS-2343 this year, recorded prior to the one you advertise.

    To record Skalkottas is about the least profitable things we have ever done – we’re 7 figures from breaking even, but, like you, we feel that this is deserving music, and we’ve kept at it since 1997, when we started. To see you, then, hail a competitor, who has done one CD of it (in itself: bravo), and not even acknowledging BIS’s ground-breaking efforts for this composer, really, but REALLY hurts!

    Robert (von Bahr, CEO, BIS Records, Sweden)

    • John Borstlap says:

      BIS is the only international record company where people consider the music itself as such.

    • Alex Rigas says:

      In BIS we trust. We thank you for your Skalkottas recordings. Really grateful. By far the best.