I. The harvest. Moderato
II. The seeding. Andante
III. The vintage. Allegro
IV. The wine – press. Molto vivace
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Nikos Christodoulou conductor
The Four Images were written in 1948, In his last four years (1945-49) Skalkottas composed almost exclusively tonal works, in a markedly different idiom, more neo-classical than that of his previous tonal works (only in his last year did he return to twelve-tone composition in chamber works). The work’s original title was Little Dance Suite – Four Ballet Dances but, shortly after its composition, it was performed by the Athens State Orchestra (of which Skalkottas was a member) as an independent orchestral work under the eventual title Four Images. Skalkottas had a continuous association with the ballet in Athens. No ballet company in Athens at that time could afford to collaborate with a symphony orchestra, however, the work’s origins are thus not related to a ballet production.
The idiom of the Four Images is substantially different from that of Skalkottas’s important collection of 36 Greek Dances. The dance movements of the Four Images employ simpler forms than the formally inventive Greek Dances. The exploratory relationship of the Greek Dances to folk-song is not found in the Four Images; instead there is an occasional reference to more recent, popular (not folk) Greek songs.
The jovial main theme that starts the first movement, The harvest, is heard in four horns (two of the horns doubling in an unusual, very deep register). This theme is unrelated to Greek popular music; Greek echoes appear, however, in the second theme, in the movement’s middle section. Occasional bitonal, dissonant clashes – appearing also in the following movements – create a particular harmonic colouring. The movement, starting from the horns’ theme, has a gradually ascending melodic arch, whose apex leads into the exuberant recapitulation of the first theme (three octaves higher).
In the second movement, The seeding, in ternary form, a tender melodic line in 6/8 rhythm (with a dotted motif, like a siciliana), often in polyphonic combination with countermelodies, unfolds in an expressive, in places darkened, harmonic motion in E minor. As Skalkottas himself observed, the movement’s pastoral character is combined with a religious feeling, as suggested by the bells that accompany the trumpets’ song in the middle section. This movement’s themes bear no relation to Greek music.
The third movement, The vintage is a relentless, animated dance in ternary form. Its folk-inspired themes are not exclusively related to Greek music. The middle section starts with a moto perpetuo in the strings. The ensuing energetic theme starts in a bitonal dissonance, over an ostinato bass, coloured by the xylophone.
Harmonic clashes, ostinati and orchestral effects mark the bacchic festivity of the culminating last movement, The wine-press. Its second idea, referred to by Skalkottas as a ‘refrain’, has the distinct contour of Greek popular songs; after a scherzando middle section and the varied reappearance of the first theme, the refrain, combined with a motif from the first theme, triumphantly closes the movement,
© Nikos Christodoulou 2004
Geoffrey Douglas Madge was born in Adelaide, Australia, and studied under Clemens Leske at the Elder Conservatorium. After winning first prize in thee ABC’s piano competition in Sydney in 1963, he came to Europe to study under Géza Anda in Lucerne and Eduardo del Pueyo in Brussels. He settled in the Netherlands, where he is professor of piano at the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague. His many recitals, television and radio broadcasts and appearances at major festivals throughout the world have established his reputation. Madge has also composed a considerable amount of music including string quartets, songs, works for piano solo, the ballet Monkeys, in a cage (premiered at the Sydney Opera House in 1977) and a piano concerto (premiered in Amsterdam in 1985).
Through his connections with lannis Xenakis, Geoffrey Douglas Madge came into contact with the Greek music world and the Skalkottas Society in Athens. He was asked by the president of the Skalkottas Society to give the first performance of Skalkottas’s 32 Plano Pieces during the 1979 ISCM Festival, held in Athens that year. These were the first of many performances and of a longstanding relationship with the music of Skalkottas.
Geoffrey Douglas Madge’s recital programmes are a wide-ranging mixture of baroque, classical, romantic and contemporary works preferably combining well-known and unknown compositions – for instance a performance of the Berlioz/ Liszt Symphonie fantastique combined with Schumann’s Konzert ohne Orchester or Bach’s complete Well-Tempered Clavier, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations and ‘Hummerklavier’ Sonata, Reger’s Bach Variations and the Debussy
Études have always been major highlights in his concert programmes.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra has played a central role at the heart of British musical life for over 70 years and as the flagship orchestra of the BBC, is the backbone of the BBC Proms. The BBC Symphony Orchestra has a strong commitment to new music and has given the premieres of over 1,000 works by composers such as Bartok, Stravinsky and Shostakovich. Each year it gives world premieres of BBC commissions by today’s leading composers. The BBC Symphony Orchestra is associate orchestra of the Barbican in London and performs an annual season of concerts there, including a January Composer Weekend of events focusing upon a single composer from the 20th or21st century.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra gives frequent performances under its principal guest conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste and conductor laureate Sir Andrew Davis, and enjoys a close relationship with its artist in association, the American composer and conductor John Adams. All concerts are broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and online, and a number are televised. The BBC Symphony Orchestra performs at a number of national and international music festivals and undertakes regular major overseas tours. Community and outreach work involves the orchestra in a number of adventurous projects, working with schools and members of the local community and also overseas when the orchestra is on tour.
Nikos Christodoulou (b. 1959) is music director of the City of Athens Symphony Orchestra and Choir. He studied composition (under J. A. Papaioannou) and the piano in Athens. He continued his composition studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich, and studied conducting at the Royal College of Music in London. In the period 1977-81 he was an associate composer and adviser at Greek National Radio. He has composed orchestral, chamber and choral works, songs and incidental music, and has received commissions from several institutions and festivals. He has taught composition at the Hellenic Conservatory
Nikos Christodoulou has been musical director of the Athens New Symphony Orchestra and the all-European Euro Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. He regularly appears with the major Greek orchestras and with the Greek National Opera. He led the first Helios Festival – a Carl Nielsen Celebration in Athens – and the Nikos Skalkottas Tage at the Berlin Konzerthaus. He has given the world premiere performances of several new works including the First Symphony by Lars Graugaard at the Music Harvest Festival in Odense, and the opera The Possessed by Haris Vrontos at the Greek National Opera.
He has worked with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, Aalborg Symphony Orchestra, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Malmö Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Bach Centre Orchestra, Odense Symphony Orchestra, Serenade Chamber Orchestra, Yerevan Symphony Orchestra and the Bolshoi Opera. His series of world premiere recordings of symphonic music by Skalkottas for BIS has met with international critical acclaim.
From the cd’s booklet.
Οι Τέσσερις Εικόνες γράφτηκαν το 1948. Στα τέσσερα τελευταία χρόνια της ζωής του ο Σκαλκώτας συνέθεσε σχεδόν αποκλειστικά τονικά έργα, σε ιδίωμα «νεοκλασικό», Ο αρχικός τίτλος του έργου ήταν Μικρή Χορευτική Σουίτα- Τέσσερις Χοροί για Μπαλέτο, αλλά λίγο μετά την ολοκλήρωση του παίχτηκε ως ανεξάρτητο έργο από την Κρατική Ορχήστρα Αθηνών (1948) με τον τελικό τίτλο Τέσσερις Εικόνες. Το έργο χαρακτηρίζεται από την ευφορία των ιδεών και την πλούσια, ζωηρή ενορχήστρωση του. Παρά το ύφος και το θέμα του, ορισμένα μόνον από τα θέματά του έχουν καθαρή σχέση με την ελληνική λαϊκή μουσική, όπως στο τελευταίο μέρος. Περιστασιακές έντονες διφωνίες και πολυτονικές συγκρούσεις δημιουργούν ιδιαίτερο αρμονικό χρώμα.
Το πρώτο μέρος, Ο θερισμός (Μoderato), σε τριμερή μορφή, ξεκινά με ένα χαρούμενο θέμα σε χαμηλά κόρνα και έχει ένα σταδιακά ανερχόμενο μελωδικό τόξο που φτάνει στην κορυφή του με την θριαμβευτική επανέκθεση αυτής της ιδέας (τρεις οκτάβες ψηλότερα). Το δεύτερο μέρος Η Σπορά. (Αndante) έχει μια τρυφερή μελωδική γραμμή σαν «σιτσιλιάνα» με πολυφωνικούς συνδυασμούς και εκφραστική αρμονική κίνηση. Το τρίτο, Ο Τρύγος (Αllegro), είναι ένας αδιάλειπτα ζωηρός, τρίμερης χορός. ενώ η βακχική ατμόσφαιρα, που υπογραμμίζουν αρμονικές συγκρούσεις, κορυφώνεται στο τελευταίο μέρος. Το Πατητήρι (Μοlto Vivace).
©Nίκος Χριστοδούλου 2004
Από το booklet του cd.