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Nikos SKALKOTTAS (1904-1949)
Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra (1944-45) (orch. Kostis Demertzis)  [37:51]
Concertino for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1935) [12:31]
Characteristic Piece - Nocturnal Amusement for xylophone and orchestra (1949) [3:33]
Georgios Demertzis (violin); Simos Papanas (violin); Maria Asteradou (piano); Nikolaos Samatanos (piano); Dimitris Desyllas (xylophone)
Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra/Vassilis Christopoulos
rec. June-July 2005, Moni Lazariston Hall, Thessaloniki, Greece. DDD
BIS BISCD1554 [55:02]
Experience Classicsonline

The major work here is the Concerto for Two Violins as orchestrated by Kostas Demertzis. It's in three very substantial movements and, unusually for a Double Violin Concerto, plays for approaching 38 minutes. It's a peppy and peppery work - quite serious and sensationally dissonant. The stamping Allegro giocoso resembles Stravinsky in its punchy and acrid acidity. A similarly pummelled and driven face is presented by the finale with the two soloists goading each other onwards. In the central movement a foggily bleak stasis meanders in a powerfully asserted miasma. It's a potent work overall with nothing of the divertimento about it. An intensely serious double violin concerto.
 
The compact little Concertino for Two Pianos is more dissonant still. It stings with sustained rhythmic intrigue. This work may well be from the same decade as the Greek Dances but in the Concertino Skalkottas had his serious hat on. We can hear this especially in the central Andante.

As a complete contrast we are treated to a cheeky-cheery vaudeville novelty: Nocturnal Amusement. This is even lighter than the Greek Dances. It's a very brief and rambunctious piece of queasy joviality for xylophone and orchestra. I challenge you to have identified this as the work of Skalkottas. It is a most improbable and zany piece from this often unremittingly serious and salty composer. Ever seen The Two Ronnies sketch where dressed as Mrs Mops they play up an impromptu storm of cleaning-tools percussion. Well – you know what to expect.
 
This is a fine disc of contrasting music. It is distinguished by a deeply impressive Double Violin Concerto which defies the conventions of the genre.
 
The CD is completed by a most welcome and detailed annotation written by Kostiz Demertzis.
 
Rob Barnett
 


 


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