Three of the greatest Greek art music works written during the Interwar period are performed at the Gennadius Library by mezzo-soprano Margarita Syngeniotou, accompanied on the piano by Apostolos Palios. Yannis Konstantinidis’ Songs of Anticipation, Manolis Kalomiris’ song Should I Speak? set to poetry by Kostis Palamas, and Dimitri Mitropoulos’ 10 Inventions, set to poetry by Constantine Cavafy.
The 2nd Online festival titled “Counterpoints”, curated by Giorgos Koumendakis, shed light upon the relationship between Greek art music and architecture. The festival’s videos were prerented from 27 September to 31 October 2020. The festival was made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [www.SNF.org] to enhance the Greek National Opera’s artistic outreach.
At a glance – Synopsis
The common intellectual mindset of Manolis Kalomiris and Kostis Palamas defined the creative work of this great Greek composer. Kalomiris set to music many of Palamas’ poems, and one of his Symphonies, the 3rd, was titled “Palamiki”. The song Should I Speak? is the first from Palamas’ collection From the Five-Syllables.
Originally from Smyrna, just like Manolis Kalomiris, Yannis Konstantinidis went to Germany to study music a while before the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922. In Germany he presented his operetta The Love Bacillus (1927), that was also staged by the Greek National Opera a few years ago. That period (1924) he started to write the music for the Five Songs of Anticipation, set to poetry by Rabindranath Tagore, a project he was involved in until 1980.
Dimitri Mitropoulos ended up to ten Inventions, set to poetry by Constantine Cavafy in 1924, after choosing from a collection of fourteen similar compositions he had created. The pieces were arranged in a cycle consisting of four units [1. Four canons, 2. Two passacaglias, 3. Prelude and Fugue in four voices, 4. Pedale – Coda (Finale)], which first premiered in 1927 at the concert hall of the Athens Conservatoire performed by soprano Popi Sertsiou and the composer himself on the piano.
The building of the Gennadius Library designed by American architects John van Pelt and Stuart Thompson is a late sample of neoclassical architecture. Neoclassicism emerged in Europe in the mid-18th century, principally inspired by the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. It flourished mainly in Munich and it was then introduced to Athens thanks to the Bavarians as the par excellence architectural style that befitted the capital of the newly-founded Greek state. The Gennadius Library was constructed in this style almost a century later, between 1923 and 1925.
Creative team – Cast
Soloist Margarita Syngeniotou mezzo-soprano
Piano Apostolos Palios