Beautiful music for a lyrical writer

Even though Alexandros Papadiamantis’s writings are very lyrical, few of them have been combined with music into compositions. To the chagrin of many of his admirers, the great Skiathos-born author has inspired only a handful of compositions written for film or theater adaptions of his work or some songs dedicated to him. But now, two recently released albums offer plenty of appreciation for Papadiamantis’s lyricism with language and emotion. The album «Aliki Kayaloglou Reads and Sings Papadiamantis» (by Kinissis) includes extracts from five of Papadiamantis’s short stories, parts of which were set to music by conductor and composer Alkis Baltas. Kayaloglou is accompanied by a quintet of very skilled musicians. Kayaloglou said Papadiamantis’s tenderness, understanding and tolerance of human weakness in his works moved her greatly. «Above all, he is consoling,» she said. «His words are soothing. Another thing I love about him is the way he describes nature and that in just one sentence of his you can find humor, sarcasm, political commentaries, emotions – everything. I have wanted to enter Papadiamantis’s world for a long time and I am happy it finally happened.» The occasion came up when she was asked to participate in Patmos’s Religious Music Festival. After giving it a lot of thought, she decided on Papadiamantis, along with Baltas. «The skillful language and the images that can be found in Papadiamantis’s short stories have an exceptional musical quality,» said Baltas. «There are many parts where the leading characters sing, whether they are in love, in a melancholy mood or even when taken by the beauty of nature… The composition tried to follow this unique mixture of secular and religious elements that we encounter in his writing.» The Patmos premiere, which took place in front of a mixed audience, was a triumph. «The recording from that evening reflects a powerful energy, but I decided not to release it as it was,» she said. «I suddenly felt I needed more time to get in touch with Papadiamantis. So I started to study [his work] from the beginning.» To that end, director Dimos Abdeliodis helped Kayaloglou tremendously. But she had trouble selling the work to record companies, she said. «Since no company showed any interest, I decided to cover the costs of its release myself,» she said. «But I was saddened that nobody thought of inviting me to present it, only Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios. After Patmos’s success, he called me and I presented it in Istanbul, but he was the only one. Still, it is something that made me move forward and I am very happy I did it.» Compared to this reverential take by Kayaloglou, the second album inspired by the writer, «Alexandros Papadiamantis – To skoteino trigoni» (The Dark Turtle Dove) by MBI is a surprise. This album contains songs that three young people from Ierapetra in Crete, mainly Nikos Mastorakis, wrote using the prose of Papadiamantis. The songs are interpreted by Socrates Malamas, Lizeta Kalimeri, Psarantonis, Niki Tsaireli, Niki Xylouri, Maria Koti, Manolis Liapatakis and Harilaos Papadakis. This project had its roots in the theater. «Director Antonis Diamantis was staging Papadiamantis’s ‘Murderess’ with the Ierapetra Municipal Theater Company and he asked me to write the music,» said Mastorakis. «I then suggested to Manolis Liapatakis and Costas Pantazis to collaborate and that is how this thing – which ended up as an album – started.» The director was the one who chose Papadiamantis’s lyrics for the songs. «I had never read any Papadiamantis,» said Mastorakis, «but the material felt very accessible, although it is in katharevousa. I liked it so much that in just one-and-a-half months I had written all the songs.» The rehearsals and discussions with the director then helped shape the performance, he added. When Mastorakis set Papadiamantis’s work to music, he focused on its dark aspects. «What struck me was the multitude of images [in the work],» he said. «When we went to Skiathos and played our final performance there I was shocked; it was as if we had written the music especially for that island. We visited the places mentioned by Papadiamantis and sang there.» Also, he said, the record label did not pursue the well-known vocalists that appeared on the album. «It is our production, we did the recording and then sought a company,» Mastorakis said. «When Malamas, whom I like a lot, came to Ierapetra for a concert, I found the courage to go up to him because I wanted his opinion. He told me he would get back to me in a month and in just four days he called me up, congratulated me and said he wanted to participate. I went crazy. He said we should include a woman, which we did, then we got in touch with Psarantonis – whom we had wanted from the start – and he was enthusiastic. It took us almost two years, because we also had our jobs. We then looked for a record label. I thought it would be much harder. I was lucky.»

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