A Greek composer charms London with the poetry of Kalvos, Elytis and Seferis

London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall will be presenting a concert of works by the Greek composer Ilias Andriopoulos titled Trilogy on January 28. Performed by the English Players and the English Chamber Choir, and conducted by Guy Protheroe, the concert features Greek vocalists Maria Farandouri, Manolis Mitsias and Ioanna Forti interpreting songs set to the poetry of Andreas Kalvos, Giorgos Seferis and Odysseas Elytis. The ties that bind the three eminent Greek poets to London are several. Kalvos and Seferis both lived in the city for much of their lives, while Seferis and Elytis, both Nobel Prize winners for poetry, are widely translated in the UK. The directors of the Queen Elizabeth Hall heard and accepted to present Andriopoulos’s work upon the suggestion of the education attache at the Greek Embassy in London, Vana Solomonidou, who also organized several recitals of the composer’s works at a number of British universities. Trilogy contains two better-known works by Andriopoulos and a new composition. The first two are Elytis’s Orientations, adapted for orchestra and choir, and Seferis’s Argonauts, a work presented at the Athens Concert Hall in last year’s celebration of the poet’s work. The new piece, which will be presented for the first time in London, is based on Kalvos’s Odes. Although ‘Odes’ refers to the Greek struggle for independence, I chose those parts that show Kalvos’s lyrical side – that is the side that moved me, explains Andriopoulos. This is the side that reveals Kalvos as a great poet; this is where his courage and imagination are found. Kalvos’s language, however, is somewhat complex, and the composer had to find a way to balance his music with it. This is not a song, he argues. It is a more classical form that is based on song… in the sense that I have kept the melodies. Each of these melodies, I think, ought to surprise and fascinate. It should not be sung, but heard. I had no intention of making things any harder with Kalvos’s already difficult language, but to show its lyrical beauty through music; a beauty that has been undermined by an emphasis on the heroic elements of his works. My music is, of course, influenced by the folk music of the Ionian. It is not cerebral music. It is the music of the heart and folk in its essence, explains Andriopoulos. Andriopoulos was also inspired by Manos Hadjidakis’s work with Kalvos’s poetry, plus, he says, I was unable to find a modern verse that would express rather than explain a situation. This absence of fine writing is one of the reasons why Andriopoulos has stopped writing songs. Everything leads to a song for the stage and not a song of expression, he says. It is futile for someone to try and be heard in this din. Ever since I was a young boy, I felt the need to lean on the words of the poets. They support and mobilize me. I hold the ancient Greek opinion about songs, the way Hadjidakis brought them back after the war; song is the marriage of poetry to music. Unfortunately, this is something that does not exist any more because young people are not doing it.

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