Skalkottas: Piano Concerto No. 2; Tema con variazioni; Little Suite; Four Images

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COMPOSERS: Skalkottas
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Skalkottas
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2; Tema con variazioni; Little Suite; Four Images
PERFORMER: Geoffrey Douglas Madge (piano); BBC SO/Nikos Christodoulou
CATALOGUE NO: SACD-1484
Another major milestone in BIS’s revelatory Skalkottas series. The Second Piano Concerto (1937), unperformed during his lifetime like almost all his major (and minor) compositions, is a big, dialectically complex 12-note work, virtuosically conceived for both orchestra and piano, and deeply, powerfully expressive. It takes on directly – though of course in the Greek composer’s personal idiom and techniques – from his erstwhile master Schoenberg’s works of the late 1920s and early 1930s, continuing at that level of seriousness and emotional commitment.

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Geoffrey Douglas Madge seems pretty well equal to its multifarious challenges, and under Nikos Christodolou’s direction he shapes the large forms of the three movements very convincingly. This is assuredly not a work that reveals all its secrets on one hearing: but the effort to come to grips with its richness is well worth making, and this performance is an excellent way in. The three other, later, pieces are briefer, more immediately attractive: the Four Images, grounded in popular songs, are as tonal as the Greek Dances, and the almost neo-classical Tema con variazioni is the last music Skalkottas wrote. Calum MacDonald