Challenge for acts, joy for fans

Fresh initiatives can be counted on to drive the familiar into less-charted territory. An ongoing concert series in Athens, titled «Song Recital Between Two Pianos,» which presents distinguished singers amid the less common musical context of two pianos, ranks as one of the local music scene’s worthier enterprises this winter. The series, organized by the Philippos Nakas Conservatory, and held in its modestly sized concert hall in downtown Athens, was launched last month by popular Greek singer Manolis Lidakis. His more customary setting, like those of most of the other acts that have committed themselves to this low-key concert series, is the more boisterous Greek music club. Three more singers, Alkinoos Ioannidis, Christos Thivaios, and Tania Tsanaklidou, all top-selling acts in Greece, also performed in January. A further 11 performances have been planned through late May with leading Greek vocalists on the agenda, among them Savina Yannatou, Melina Kana, Lizeta Kalimeri, Costas Makedonas and Gerasimos Andreatos. The public’s response, so far, to the initiative, organized by the Greek music magazine Difono, has been overwhelming. Performances at the 300-capacity conservatory concert hall have sold out. For radio listeners, all performances are broadcast live on state radio’s Deftero Programma (Radio 2) on 103.7 FM. Obviously, witnessing an artist perform in an uncommon musical setting is an enticing prospect for both fans of the performing acts, and, more generally, music aficionados. In their attempt to adapt vocal deliveries to the series’ two-pianos, the event is also a demanding challenge for the singers themselves. Lidakis, who has established himself as one of country’s leading singers, lived up to the challenge on opening night, January 10. He was accompanied by two wonderful pianists, Irina Valentinova and Theodoris Kotepanos. For his repertoire, Lidakis culled songs from various eras in Greek music, including songs written by Manos Hadjidakis and Yiannis Spanos. Ioannidis, who followed a week later, impressed with an expressive and subtle vocal delivery that paid heed to the accompanying pianos. His attentive performance as a vocalist served to highlight that Ioannidis, too, is a musician. Forthcoming highlights include Yannatou on March 25. The internationally acclaimed artist and her regular backing band, Primavera en Salonico, have just released a new album, «Sumiglia,» on the high-caliber German label ECM, following 2003’s debut for the label, «Terra Nostra,» a live album recorded in Athens. Kalimeri, who spent the past couple of months performing with seasoned singer-songwriter Nikos Papazoglou at a club in the capital’s Plaka district, has been booked for March 4. Initially a fringe act but nowadays a household name performing at some of the capital’s bigger and more extravagant clubs, Kana will take a step back to her more humble past with a performance at the conservatory’s concert hall on March 18. Kana emerged a decade ago as the singer of material by respected songwriters Socrates Malamas and Thanassis Papaconstantinou but, in more recent times, seems to have taken a direction toward pop. Also on the concert series’s agenda are: Kalliopi Beta (Feb. 28), Gerasimos Andreatos (March 21), Costas Makedonas (March 28), Elli Paspala (April 11), Dimitris Zervoudakis (May 9), Georgia Syllaiou (May 23) and Kaiti Koullia (May 30). Philippos Nakas Conservatory Concert Hall, 41 Ippocratous, Athens. For further information and bookings, tel 210.363.4000. All performances begin at 8.30 p.m.