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 L'Académie du Disque Lyrique a décerné le 21 Avril à l'Opéra Bastille, lors des cérémonies du 50e anniversaire, pour les prix 2008, sous la présidence de Monsieur Pierre Bergé (Président d'honneur de l'Opéra de Paris), l' ORPHEE D'OR - PRIX GERALD MOORE pour l'enregistrement des 16 Melodies de Skalkottas (BIS-CD-1464) interprétées par Angelica Cathariou et Nikolaos Samaltanos.


 Nikolaos Samaltanos recoit le prix Gerald Moore des mains du pianiste Stéphane Blet, sous les regards du Président d'honneur de l'Opera National de Paris Pierre Bergé, et du Président de l'Academie Lyrique Clym.


 Nikolaos Samaltanos, en remerciement pour cette grande distinction, a interprété au piano des extraits du cycle des 32 pieces de Skalkottas, recevant l'accueil enthousiaste du public.



  The 16 songs (melodies) /1941 on texts by Hrissos Esperas - World premiere recording - Angelica Cathariou, mezzo-soprano

15 little variations for piano (1927)

Sonatina (1927) / Echo (1946) / Berceuse (1941) - world premiere recording - Nikolaos Samaltanos, piano


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Nikos Skalkottas:
Concerto for Two Violins (with ‘Rembetiko’ theme); Quartet for Oboe, Trumpet, Bassoon and Piano; Concertino for Oboe and Piano; Concertino for Trumpet and Piano; Tango and Fox-trot for Oboe, Trumpet, Bassoon and Piano; Sonata Concertante for Bassoon and Piano

Eiichi Chijiiwa and Nina Zymbalist, violins; Alexeï Ogrintchouk, oboe; Eric Aubier, trumpet; Marc Trenel, bassoon; Nikolaos Samaltanos and Christophe Sirodeau, piano

Text taken from BIS internet site:

"BIS's Skalkottas cycle gets better with every release and it started very well" was the Gramophone opinion of one of our previous discs and this new installment will surely confirm them in this view. Until we started this ambitious cycle, Nikos Skalkottas (1904-1949) was a name known to a small circle of people, most of whom had actually had little opportunity of hearing the enigmatic composer's music. (Not only did most of his early music disappear in Berlin when his passport was withdrawn while he was on holiday in Greece but, as the vast majority of his scores had never been performed, a great deal of editorial work has gone into produce performing scores and parts.) Two years ago Nikos Samaltanos put everybody in his debt with a double album of the piano music of Skalkottas - "A timely release, urgently recommended" in the opinion of Gramophone. Samaltanos returns here with a fascinating disc of concertos for various instruments - a previously unrecorded concerto for two violins as well as concertos for trumpet, oboe and bassoon or combinations of these - and piano. This music gives full reign to the adventurous and individual sonorities that we have learnt to associate with Skalkottas. Another BIS/Skalkottas landmark


About BIS 1564 - [...] The Concerto for Two Violins "will leave listeners in a contagion of good mood", says Christopher Sirodeau. That sums up my feeling too, and about this whole CD, 80 minutes of close packed music by a composer who tends towards the succinct. A great deal of music, often fast and breathless, may be concentrated into a few minutes, as with several of the works given here.The unique concerto for two violins and piano duet (one piano) makes this an imperative must-buy release. [...]

Sirodeau explains why this major work has remained as 'monochrome photo' but is all the better for that; the richly coloured violin parts and ideas bubbling out with such prolixity make thought of any limitations soon to be forgotten. I would endorse this and go further; balance problems vanish and the piano score is so exciting in its own right that younger professional duettists should be badgering the best violinists around to join them to perform the concerto everywhere [...] It is enormously invigorating and hear-lifting music, by a composer who brought Mediterranean warmth into rigorous and complex serial procedures of his own.

The chamber music with wind makes a delightful sequence of varied music, showing that Skalkottas had a rare flair for displaying instruments at their best. Eric Aubier's trumpet is tamed for a domestic environment; Alexeï Ogrintchouk's oboe is suave and mellow, and bassoonist Marc Trenel has a substantial 22 mins work that confirms how few chamber works for their instruments can compete with those of Skalkottas.

About BIS 1244 [...] The group of piano pieces, mostly early ones, include the delicious and marvellously concise Little Variations, which I thought I'd mastered at the keyboard until I heard how swiftly Nikolaos Samaltanos despatches the faster ones. There are also two short pieces which show that Skalkottas (like Schönberg) was perfectly capable of writing listener-friendly tonal music for Greek audiences who hadn't caught up with modernism.

The 16 songs [...] form an important facet of Skalkottas's oeuvre and are put across convincingly by Angelica Cathariou and the ever-astonishing Nikolaos Samaltanos. Presentation is fine, with Greek originals and parallel English translations.

© Peter Grahame Woolf / Classical.Net


[...] I realize even more than I did in the 1980s that Skalkottas is no forgotten second-rater (a curious cross between Schoenberg - his teacher- and a Greek folk song collector) but a prolific genius whose music grows in stature the more you get to know it. I feel that I could write reams about him, but, you will be glad to hear,
I will restrict myself to this new release. The disc appears to be the brain-child of the Greek pianist Nikolaos Samaltanos who plays throughout [while Christophe Sirodeau] wrote the extensive booklet notes. The series has been marked by some outstanding if arguably, overly detailed booklet notes.

It begins with the thirty-five minute 'Concerto for two Violins', which was never orchestrated, sadly, by Skalkottas, but is played in the version for two pianos and two violins. It is a scintillating three movement composition with a terrifically virtuosic ten minute rondo finale. I ended up breathless and full of admiration for the composer and especially the performers for whom this music cannot have been familiar. It doesn't take long to get into Skalkottas's language. Twelve tone yes but melodic and full of Greek dance rhythms as the first movement demonstrates. A unique blend.

[...] Generally speaking the tempi on the Bis recording are faster than on the Philips. I can only say that if they had not been the music would not have fitted onto one CD. Seventy-nine minutes and a bit is about as generous as a disc can be. These livelier tempi are generally right except with the 'Oboe Concertino' where for once Heinz Holliger is not relaxed enough and fails to enjoy the beauty of the line. On the new disc Alexei Ogrintochouk revels in the melody and draws from it more than I realized was there. Quite moving. The 'Trumpet Concertino' goes at quite a lick in the hands of Aubier who knocks one minute off Hardenberger without any loss of detail.

The Bis recording is warmer and welcomes the listener into its ambience. The Philips is perfectly reasonable but fails to balance the winds against the piano quite as convincingly in the two quartets. To listen to Skalkottas is a unique experience perhaps a little hairshirt at times but like a glass of Retsina there is nothing else quite as memorable or as addictive.

Gary Higginson / MusicWeb


An admirable series reaches a high-point with a late, great concerto

BIS’s exploration of the music of Nikos Skalkottas has yielded nothing more fascinating than the Concerto for Two Violins, completed in 1945 but unorchestrated at his death four years later. In an perceptive booklet note, Christophe Sirodeau speculates that Skalkottas was attempting something different from his large-scale works – and, compared to the multi-layered textures of The Return of Ulysses (8/03) and Largo Sinfonico (6/98), its clear-cut formal divisions and Classical momentum do suggest a redefining, though not a simplification, of expressive means. Indeed, its emotional breadth makes it an unmistakable product of the composer’s stylistic maturity.
Despite its Allegro giocoso marking, the first movement is among Skalkottas’s most bracing sonata structures, with a development-cum-accompanied cadenza of real intensity. The Andante consists of five variations on a ‘Rembetiko’ – a melodic fusion of Greek folk and popular music – treated with rare fantasy and eloquence (even in piano score, the tutti writing is alive with imaginative ‘orchestral’ touches). The energetic rondo finale is not without humour, and its central cadenza draws together thematic elements in a maelstrom of activity, making demands which soloists Eiichi Chijiiwa and Nina Zymbalist meet head on. The elaborate, contrapuntal piano writing is dispatched with equal panache by Sirodeau and Nikolaos Samaltanos (their recording of the two-piano transcription of Ulysses on Agora is worth seeking out), so that, even were the orchestral part to be realised – musicologist Kostas Demertzis has apparently attempted such – the overall musical impact would probably not be that much greater.

The remainder of the disc consists of the so-called (though not by the composer) ‘Concert Cycle’, five pieces written during 1939-43 and forming a diverting sequence suitable as the second half of a concert. As it happens, this is the only Skalkottas work to have enjoyed a really first-rate recording before (Heinz Holliger et al on Philips, 10/95 – nla); the new accounts, though yielding marginally in sheer technical consistency, have greater character and interpretative finesse. Alexeï Ogrintchouk is elegantly plangent, and Eric Aubier pungently athletic in the Oboe and Trumpet Concertinos respectively, while Marc Trenel finds pathos and quirky charm amid the relative expanse of the Sonata Concertante. Two brief quartets frame the cycle with a jazzy nonchalance as unexpected as it is appealing. Commendably natural BIS sound, and a significant release.

Richard Whitehouse / Gramophone

More reviews to be added soon