Violinist Lisa Archontidi-Tsaldaraki is joined by pianist Panayotis Archontides (one half of the Ivory Duo Piano Ensemble) for Rhapsody, their selection of 20th Century violin masterpieces. Ravel’s popular Tzigane, Karol Szymanoski’s (1882-1937) Nocturne and Tarantella, Op. 28, and Britten’s early Suite, Op. 6, form the latter half of the disc. But it is the two works that come first that are the most revelatory here, both by Greek composers most likely lesser known to most in the UK. Yannis Constantinidis (1903-1984) left his homeland in 1922 and ending up in Berlin, but returned to Greece for good in 1931. He was a composer, pianist and conductor, and also composed in popular genres (film music, musical theatre, etc.) under the alias of Kostas Giannidis. In his Petite Suite sur des airs populaires grecs du Dodécanèse there is immediately a sense of longing and sweet nostalgia in the opening Air de Karpathos, and Archontidi-Tsaldaraki brings a rich tone to this cry for lost love. There are dancing, perky rhythms in the Chant Pastoral de Kalymnos, and a darker mood surrounds a contrasting faster central section in the Chant et Danse de Rhodes. The Danse de Leros has a light swing, then heartfelt longing returns in the Air d’Archangelos, with rich lower string work and sweet singing from Archontidi-Tsaldaraki. The final Chant Nuptial et Danse is gentle and lilting to begin with, but progresses into a wild dance with virtuosic double-stopping and high harmonics echoing the melody.
Manolis Kalomiris (1883-1962) trained in Vienna, where Wagner was a key influence, then taught piano in Ukraine, where he discovered Russian nationalism, and on his return to Athens, he set out to establish an equivalent Greek National School of Music. His Sonata for Violin and Piano is a substantial work, with cyclical use of material throughout its three movements. The 5/8 metre opening movement is full of uneasy, agitated motion and pulsing rhythms, with surging waves from the piano, and sliding chromatic harmonies drive to an emphatic conclusion. The second movement’s 7/8 metre means that its lyrical melodies quickly take on a more playful nature, and despite its darker diminished intervals it has lively energy throughout, with gossamer high notes from the violin to finish. The Vivo finale relentlessly twists and turns, with galloping rhythms, and apart from a sweet lyrical episode from the violin over gentle piano arpeggios, the movement drives to the finish line. Archontidi-Tsaldaraki and Archontides give a strong performance here of this weighty yet richly inventive Sonata.
Britten’s Suite provides a great contrast to both of these richly textured works. Immediately Archontidi-Tsaldaraki establishes this with the dramatic, angular and sustained solo violin opening. A pecking, lumbering March follows with challenging harmonics sounding almost like a breathy flute over the dancing piano part. The instruments take it in turns in the Moto Perpetuo third movement, with rapid motion over low, quiet piano pecks, and then pizzicato from the violin as the piano takes over. The Lullaby in contrast has slow sustained lines for the violin, searing at the climax, making tuning hard to centre in places, although Archontidi-Tsaldaraki maintains this well. Some delightfully watery playing from Archontides over the droning violin double-stops takes the movement towards its eery conclusion. Prokofiev’s influence is most evident in the stomping Waltz that ends the work, with drunken, spiky spiccato and surging double-stops, which could perhaps take a little more abandon, although Archontidi-Tsaldaraki delivers this virtuosic finale with confidence. She also shines in the dramatic, cadenza-like opening of the Ravel, with expressive hints of the rhythms to come, and the swirling wild race to the finish is impressive. Szymanowski’s Nocturne is suitably mysterious and dark, and the Tarantella’s crashing wild opening is followed by a virtuosic display full of drive and energy to finish. A strong debut disc from Archontidi-Tsaldaraki, encouraging more exploration of Constantinidis and Kalomiris.