reviews


Thanassis Moraitis                                                                     
 Pictures for the sadness of the blond girls and of Eleni

Megaron Orchestra, Camerata of the Friends of Music
Alexandros Myrat
| Sonia Theodoridou | Dimitris Kotronakis | Vangelis Christopoulos
Renato Ripo
| New Hellenic Quartet | Ourania Lampropoulou | Sophia Lampropoulou

                            Six contemporary musical works
                         of symphonic structure interpreted by
                    leading performers of the Greek music scene

                     A Song Cycle on poems by Greek poet Kostas Karyotakis
         Elegy for solo violoncello
. String Quartet no 1 . Amsterdam Concerto
                                 Stories of grandma sea
. Fajum


            With the kind support of THE J. F. COSTOPOULOS FOUNDATION

                         Megaron Orchestra, Camerata of the Friends of Music
                      EXCLUSIVE SPONSOR OF THE ORCHESTRA for 2010
                                                Eurobank EFG Group

                                                    Out now by 

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Review in musical magazine JAZZ&TZAZ / Issue March 2012
by Thomas Tamvakos 
(Translated by Demetrios Lekkas)

Thanassis Moraitis
Pictures for the sadness of the blond girls and of Eleni

This public production of two recordings of EMI Classics features the creative labour of Thanassis Moraitis as a composer in the decade of 2000-09. The publication once again has brought to the foreground the issue of quality creation of self-taught composers – in the field of symphonic music – such as Thanassis Moraitis (known however as a singer, writer and researcher).
    The riveting-overwhelming creator’s answer with his music, exceptional in every aspect, replete with countless exciting soundscapes, tips the scale towards affirmation.
    I was not sufficiently acquainted with Th. Moraitis’s composing aptitude, aside from his interpretative avocation with the new Greek art urban song scene (Theodorakis, Hadjidakis) and with traditional music (Arvanitic songs). Yet, after listening to these two sets of recordings, I completely changed my mind, declaring myself stunned by his musical creation. He himself had stressed that these symphonic works (as he calls them) are written by someone who never studied music in a conservatoire but taught himself, interacting with musicians.
    Thus the full and highly pleasant reversal attained with the material at hand has brought forth the image of a genuine and outstanding creation, which is diverse – mostly concerning theme and arrangement – and also never made public.
    In this demanding venture, fortunately, valuable support to the composer came from a considerable number of high grade performers who trusted in him and gave their best self. This harmonious conjunction of both quality creation and interpretation permeates throughout this generous (double) recording, and the listener feels benefited.
    As far as the details are concerned: six assorted yet qualitatively equivalent compositions (three in each recording set). Starting by the staggering five-part song cycle for voice, string and wind orchestra, on poetry by C. Caryotakis, the “Elegy” for solo violoncello and the lyrical “Amsterdam Concerto” for guitar and string orchestra, so technically demanding, we are led through to the next piece, combining traditional and ethnic elements: “Stories of Grandma Sea” for santouri (i.e. dulcimer), harpsichord, violoncello and double bass, to a conclusion with “Fajum” for qanun, Constantinopolitan fiddle, ney, violoncello and double bass.
    Our beloved Camerata-Orchestra of Friends of Music takes part under the baton of Alexandros Myrat (disciplined, faithful to the sense of the manuscript), along with charismatic soprano Sonia Theodoridou (conceivably the best performance ever in a Greek vocal work), guitarist Dimitris Kotronakis (his unparalleled performance gave prominence to the piece as a match to famous pieces of the international repertoire), oboist Vangelis Christopoulos (his performance as always synonymous to guarantee), prominent cellist Renato Ripo, Ourania Lampropoulou on santouri, Sophia Lampropoulou on qanun as well as the New Hellenic Quarter, one of the topmost ensembles of its genre on a European level.

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Review in musical magazine JAZZ&TZAZ, Issue 216, March 2011
by Cornelius Diamantopoulos

(Translated by Demetrios Lekkas)

Thanassis Moraitis 
Pictures for the sadness of the blond girls and of Eleni 

Every now and then things happen which surprise us sometimes in a positive and sometimes in a negative way. Surprises are in the agenda. They shouldn’t be, though, since, if one excludes large scale disasters (earthquake, pestilence, flood etc.), most of these cases are, deep down, surprises on… prior notice. The signs, auspicious or ominous, gay or gloomy, always predict or prognosticate what a not tuned-in receiver will call a “surprise” the following day. Into this case we can include the latest album of Thanassis Moraitis, (remarkably) our first countryman having a CD released on EMI Classics since the 90’s… His two-disc opus, listened to for the first time – but also a second and a third time – sounds impressive! Nay, more than impressive, if one should take contemporary local analogues into account. Yet it should hardly be viewed thus because, despite the fact that it falls like a megalith into the stagnant waters of art music discography, so to speak, premonitions had been roaring. 
    We had known the composer-singer whom Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis once entrusted, still young and unknown. We were not unfamiliar with his studies (Byzantine music), his collaborations (Markos Dragoumis, Demetrios Lekkas) plus a portion of his so far clean-cut, remarkable and multi-facet involvement in discography. We had not been aware of his research on the anthology of Arvanitic songs, his symphonic – choral projects, his chamber music compositions and Missa Graeca, a Mass. Upon getting acquainted with all those previously unknown things and upon carefully listening to what was already known to us, we could easily have foreseen the coming of a significant musical feat such as Pictures for the sadness of the blond girls and of Eleni. Both the undersigned and others (of the broader field of “art music”) we all felt the surprise of enjoying a densely wrought two hours of lyrical, almost dreamy compositions. And yet, going back to the achievements of Th. M., we can see that he had been apt all along and that it had been just a matter of time and circumstances. It was evident that the seed was already there: upon finding soil, sun and rain, lo and behold it sprouted…
    All six opuses are characterized by austerity, sorrowfulness, nostalgia, introversion, profoundness (subjectively speaking of course), but the two last ones paint unprecedented soundscapes. In Stories of grandma sea we have Ourania Lampropoulou: santouri, Renato Ripo: violoncello, Vassilis Liarmakopoulos: double bass and Takis Farazis: harpsichord and musical direction. A music score of distinctive aesthetic quality, without unwarranted virtuosities, with a frugality of means and with some truly magical moments! A twenty-minute-long work of art! In the epilogue (Fajum) the quintet comprises: qanun, Constantinopolitan fiddle, ney, violoncello and double bass (Sophia Lampropoulou, Socrates Sinopoulos, Haris Lamprakis, Renato Ripo and Vangelis Zografos). The composer conducts. One falls short of words to describe this delicacy; not only is it an exquisite poem of sound but it also constitutes an authoritative proposal of our past and future amidst such a fluid musical present. 

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LIFO, issue 230, December 23, 2010

THE INFUENTIALS 2010
35 outstanding personalities of Athens write in LifO about persons who made a difference in 2010

Thanassis Moraitis
Because he is the first Greek to have an album released on EMI Classics after more than 20 years.

From Alexandros Myrat*
(Translated by Demetrios Lekkas)

He came in. I had never met him. We spoke. “I want you to record my music” he said. Opening the scores, I got the impression that he was confiding his precious offspring to me. It was not as if another composer stood in front of me, as I always have the curiosity to meet one, but a bit as if he was an “other” composer. 
    Upon receiving the sheets of paper printed with musical notes, and before opening them, a feeling crossed my mind, like a flash, that this man, with his pure and clean gaze, as he was looking at me, does not compose just to spend time. These impressions, as I now write them down consuming some natural time to formulate them, were the instant feelings arising almost every time upon the first instants of a new acquaintance. 
    And next what? As I always have done, at least in the last thirty years, I opened the first page, then the last one and after that I opened some random page in the middle. And, once more, as it always has been happening, at least in the last thirty years, this first impression I draw from this ostensibly frivolous evaluation did not disprove me. 

    The man I had in front of me does not compose as a hobby; he does not compose because he is a “professional of the profession” –as my great “master” Jean-Luc Godard would say– but obeying of an imperative necessity.
    The printed paper must come to life. Moves will be made, sounds will come out. We have to understand them, fathom them. In this procedure love –maybe– makes an appearance. Without its presence, we are doomed to remain stuck to matter, to sound in this particular case. But if perchance we feel love, we get a chance to escape the material world and to touch the essence of music. This happened, as far as I’m concerned, already from studying at the table. In the next stage, though, I have to manage to convey this to my musicians. Camerata, an orchestra of ethos and principle, in the most ungracious phase of its twenty-year-long history and because of the brutality of the environment in which it lives and evolves in all these years, instantly embraced these compositions and managed to transcend.

    I shan’t talk about the music because I’m not a musicologist. The touch to the souls of all of us will be heard, I hope, in the recording of your projects. I thank you, the composer, for the opportunity and challenge you gave us to perhaps transcend. I thank you, Thanassis Moraitis.

*Alexandros Myrat is the resident conductor of Megaron Orchestra, Camerata of the Friends of Music (Concert hall of Athens)

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Review in musical magazine Diphono, December 2010, 
by Liana Malandrenioti

(Translated by Demetrios Lekkas)

ALBUM REVIEW / CLASSICAL MUSIC
Pictures for the sadness of the blond girls and of Eleni


This record release comes as a pleasant surprise, not because of the fact that Thanassis Moraitis, a composer, singer and researcher, presents here six musical works of symphonic music, but for the mere fact that we have six instances of high quality composing creation, jumping in to enrich the list of works of contemporary Greek musical creation. Also, it is a pleasant surprise that top factors of Greek music (the national team, someone remarked during the presentation of the album) perform these beautiful but demanding compositions. He himself states that he is self-taught in Western European music but who is going to believe him? Who is going to believe that this intricate melodic fabric of solo instruments is not a result of academic studies of composition, next to famous teachers yet? If not, what we have here is a rare talent of a composer’s writing: a writing that is clearly poetic and has internality, submission and rich in musical ideas and pictures. The first opus, The Song Cycle in poems by Costas Caryotakis, is scored for voice, string orchestra and wind. Caryotakis’s poetic essence, immersed in that divine substance transfiguring language to make it into poetry, is met with the sensitivity of the composer and it turns into music. Priestess in this mass is soprano Sonia Theodoridou, who, thoroughly tuned in with the poet’s deeper internal dimension, delivers unparalleled instances of interpretation.
    All six works of the composer are built round a poetic vein, twined round a poetic centre clutching the original inspiration and tying together all its parts harmonically. Meticulously wrought, the instrumental fabric and the melodic lines of each instrument contribute to righteously rendering the poetic style. The soloists give outstanding performances; Vangelis Christopoulos on oboe in Elegy on poem “Spring”, Dimitris Kotronakis on guitar in Amsterdam Concerto, Renato Ripo on violoncello in Elegy for solo violoncello.
    Also featured are Ourania Lampropoulou on santouri, Socrates Sinopoulos on Constantinopolitan fiddle, Xaris Lamprakis on ney, Vangelis Zografos and Vassilis Liarmakopoulos on double bass, Sofia Lampropoulou on qanun and Takis Farazis on the harpsichord. The contribution of the New Hellenic Quarter and of the Camerata – Orchestra of Friends of Music led by conductor Alexandros Myrat has been paramount in achieving the final superlative outcome.
    The production comes with a sixteen-page booklet (English and Greek); the painting on the cover is a tableau by Spyros Vassiliou.
    An album – gift to Greek discography by composer Thanassis Moraitis. 

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http://www.classical.net/ music/recs/reviews/e/ emi07553a.php / February 2011

Thanassis Moraitis

Pictures for the sadness of the blond girls and of Eleni

by Raymond Tuttle

A Cycle of Songs on Poems by Greek Poet Kostas Karyotakis1/ Elegy for solo violoncello2 / String Quartet No. 13 / Amsterdam Concerto4 / Stories of Grandma Sea5 / Fajum6

Sonia Theodoridou, soprano1 / Vangelis Christopoulos, oboe1 / Megaron Orchestra/Alexandros Myrat1,4 / Renato Ripo, cello2,5,6 / New Hellenic Quartet3 / Dimitris Kotronakis, guitar4 / Ourania Lampropoulou, dulcimer (santouri)5 / Takis Farazis, harpsichord and conductor5 / Vassilis Liarmakopoulos, double bass5 / Sofia Lampropoulos, quanun6 / Socrates Sinopoulos, lira of Istanbul6 / Charis Lambrakis, ney6 / Vangelis Zografos, double bass6 / Thanassis Moraitis, conductor6

EMI Classics 50999 07553 2 3 DDD 2 discs: 68:48, 67:54

    Judging from his photograph, Thanassis Moraitis is a relatively young man. Biographical information is hard to come by, but I gather that, in addition to being a composer, he is a singer (associated, for example, with works by his more famous countrymen Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis), and also a scholar of Greek Demotic and Byzantine music. I had no idea what to expect from this CD, when it was sent to me by guitarist Dimitris Kotronakis, who is one of the performers. It turns out that I was very pleasantly surprised by Moraitiss music, which bears some resemblances to that of Giya Kancheli and the late Henryk Górecki. (ECM New Series, take note!)
    This set
s omnibus title is “Pictures for the sadness of the blond girls and of Eleni.” A great title, that, although it doesnt seem to refer directly to any of the works included here. The first and most substantial offering, however, is the song cycle, which is over 45 minutes long and in five sections. My guess is that this collections title also comes from poet Kostas Karyotakis – the cycles texts are steeped in similar melancholy. This is autumnal music, a sort of Das Lied von der Erde with a slightly more “pop” sensibility, and with the drunkards wine replaced by ouzo. Soprano Sonia Theodoridou has a gorgeous voice, and she unstintingly conveys the texts grief-laden content. (The booklet provides English translations.)
    Next up is the eight-minute Elegy for solo cello, and a String Quartet in two connected movements. It requires just 12 minutes. These are similarly intense works, although the String Quartet is lightened a little by the inclusion of what sounds like folk-inspired material. These too are very well performed. The closeness of the microphoning emphasizes the grit in cellist Renato Ripo
s tone, but the effect is more expressive than frankly unpleasant.
    The second CD opens with the Amsterdam Concerto for guitar and orchestra, so called because Moraitis composed the bulk of it in that city in 2000, while on tour as a performer. This is an honest-to-goodness classical concerto for guitar and strings, composed in a modern style, but sufficiently tonal and tuneful to keep even skeptical listeners engaged. The slashing rhythms of the third movement, which alternate with restlessly wandering melodies from both the strings and the soloist, are particularly attractive. I
d say this concerto is ready for export. The same holds true for Kotronakiss playing; as I noted in an earlier review here on Classical Net
(www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/c/cle60999a.php), Kotronakis is deserving of international attention as well, with his rock-solid technique and musicality. Here, though, the string orchestra sounds a little shrill and dry; I can't tell if this is a function of the engineering, or part of their actual sound.
    The last two works incorporate folk instruments to good effect. The mysterious and atmospheric Stories of grandma sea retains its interest over the course of 22 subtly variegated minutes, which build to a fine and moving climax, thanks in large part to the interesting timbral interactions between the santouri (a Greek version of the hammered dulcimer) and the harpsichord. Unfortunately, I don
t know for sure who or what Fajum is, but I think the title might allude to the Egyptian city of Faiyum noted for its waterwheels and mummies. The instrumentation suggests that this might be the case. The quanun is related to the zither, the ney is a kind of flute, and the “lira of Istanbul” (or “lyra”) is not currency, I think, but a small bowed instrument with a plaintive timbre. The soulful Fajum allows these three instruments to shine individually and to interact with one another, supported by cello and double bass. The musics gentle and sensuous insinuations suggest the soundtrack to a film not yet made by director Atom Egoyan!
   This collection might be difficult to find, but according to Kotronakis
s website, you can download it via iTunes. I believe it would be well worth your effort to do so!

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Newspaper “Eleutherotypia”, October 2010
The Miracle of Thanássis Moraítis
by Yórgos Chronás
poet
Translated by Yannis Goumas

For some time now, as I sit writing at my desk, I am accompanied by the two CDs of Thanássis Moraítis’ music, titled Pictures for the sadness of the blond girls and of Eleni, released by EMI Classics. Most people believe that writers and poets, don’t listen to music but simply write and read! That’s all.  Not even Kant, I reckon. Or perhaps only he lived as such.  Not true. Sophocles in Oedipus the King refers to the Sphinx as “the wild singer”. I can just imagine her delivering her oracle angrily. Melodiously. That she might be more perceptible. Sacred. Music is not defined. It is listened to. It immerses. It elevates. It presents the phenomenon of flood and ebb tide. With comparative, identical or successive conditions. 
   
In one of his poems, Pasolini defines music as “ambiguous”. Under the murdered poet’s “ambiguous” sky, I shall describe to you what I feel when I listen to this music, composed by this serious-minded man, Thanássis Moraítis.    
    In the first CD, Kóstas Karyotákis comes to our ears, the composer’s musical preparation having cleansed us of having heard any other music, sounds and voices.  Poems written in 1919 and 1921, and so chosen by Moraítis, bring to mind lyrics by John Lenon, Paul McCartney, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchel, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Landscapes of nature and the soul. The composer’s Elegy in the poem “Spring” (10.36’) is akin to an oasis, a stroll in a landscape which Tarkovski shoots for the poet. Fatal the look. Fatal the knowledge. Mourning over the look of things, the poet’s self-portraits.  Then, having prepared us much like the Egyptian priests, he leaves us in the poems’ dark garden. As though showing us the Black Sea. Karyotákis’ bracing gloom is harmoniously concordant and uniquely distinguished in the songs Sónia Theodorídou begins to unfold in the dark of our mind and hearing. She laments and leaves her voice to scorch us. The following two works, although mentioned as written in 2009 and Karyotákis in 2001, echo the first part, as though complementing lyrically the poet’s load.            
    The second CD, Amsterdam Concerto, for guitar and string orchestra, in three parts, resembles an entry of people from Lorca, North African art, the Far East, the Low Countries and civilized Holland. The famous port of Amsterdam. Jacques Brel. David Bowie’s austere execution.
    The other two pieces in the second CD converse with the Sea and the Fajum.  Like restoration of identity. Whatever identity. The dulcimer flirts, it joins the
cembalo, the cello and the contrabass. The quanun, the lira of Istanbul, the ney.
    Thanássis Moraítis was fortunate in having such collaborators, and we with him. The result is masterly and we owe everything to him.

    The Muses were at his side.

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Newspaper “Eleutherotypia”, September 2010

by George Papadakis, composer-researcher

 High aesthetic in days of misery

    The song cycle on poems by the Greek poet Kostas Karyotakis and the “Amsterdam Concerto” for guitar and string orchestra –two works by Thanassis Moraitis recently released by EMI Classics– both give us the opportunity to rejoice as they show that deeply felt music is still produced in our country.
   
That such works are being created here in the present gloomy atmosphere we are experiencing is a comforting fact. And even more so as they contain signs of spiritual uplift elements having for the moment disappeared in this part of the world.

    Similar virtues characterize the remaining four works included in the two CD’s devoted to Moraitis’ compositions. Being exceptionally original and faithfully respecting our timeless traditions, they too display similar admirable virtues.
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By Markos F. Dragoumis,
musicologist, October 2010

Pictures for the sadness of the blond girls and of Eleni (2 CD’s) contain both vocal and instrumental music. The album opens with four songs on poems by Kostas Karyotakis (1896-1928) preceded by an instrumental introduction outlining the prevailing mood of the cycle. The pessimism of Karyotakis’ verse is given here an ideal rendering. Moraitis with unique sensibility identifies with the dark colours of the words and his music sounds as if dictated by the poet himself.

The remaining works are instrumental. In order to be appreciated they demand intense concentration. Several hearings are necessary for them to be properly understood.
    The song cycle is followed by an “Elegy” for cello solo and a String Quartet in two movements abounding with fresh and original ideas.

    Equally extended and ambitious are the Concerto for guitar and string orchestra and the two originally orchestrated chamber works of the second CD. In both, the bass and the cello are surrounded by “exotic” instruments such as the dulcimer and the harpsichord (“Quartet”, “Stories of grandma sea”) or the quanun, the lira of Istanbul and ney in the “Fajum Quintet”. The sonorities produced by these combinations point towards a new and interesting direction.
        
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Amsterdam
Concerto
by Dimitris Kotronakis, Guitar player / June 2010

At first glance, the writing of the Amsterdam Concerto is not considered particularly “guitaristic”; the dense texture of the polyphony and the apparent complexity, place it on the top edge of the guitar technique, making it almost impossible to be performed. A more cautious approach, however, should be enough to convince us for its ultimate compatibility with the guitar idiom.
    The comprehension of the character of the instrument is perfect; the composition exploits a large part of the palette of its technical capabilities. Further more, it enriches the traditional range of techniques, with particularly interesting new features.
   
Not limiting himself to basic techniques such as linear arpeggios and scales, the composer uses and enlarges these techniques into a new form, which sometimes reminds us of Villa Lobos or Leo Brower, (yet without imitating any of them). This is because Moraitis is not concerned about the convenience of the performer, but aims at serving and promoting the music.
    Simultaneously, one of the major advantages of his music is the use of the polyphonic capabilities of the guitar. Unlike many well-known concertos where the soloist's part could be performed by monophonic instruments, here, extensive two and three voices parts are scattered all over the concerto.
    The guitar becomes a protagonist of the musical material; it neither accompanies nor participates as another member of the orchestra; it definitely leads the development of the music. Breathless, from first to last measure, there are phrases that could stand out even without the orchestra, as a standalone piece of music for solo guitar. With three cadenzas at the beginning of all three movements and at least three other smaller ones, the composer highlights the virtuosic and timbral possibilities of this instrument.

    This is a new and extremely
exciting work, a real challenge for any soloist who dares to carry out the difficult and demanding passages. It is clearly one of the very few Greek concertos that are worth of worldwide fame and a place in the pantheon of music masterpieces of the late 20th century.

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Amsterdam
Concerto

by Al Kunze 
Magazine SOUNDBOARD
, May 2011