ANTONIOU Complete Piano Works
Despite his prolific creative output and long-held prominence as the founder and conductor of important new music ensembles, Theodore Antoniou has not been well represented on disc. All the more reason to welcome Grand Piano’s complete edition of his piano music. In preparation for these recordings, the young Greek pianist Konstantinos Destounis worked closely with the composer, who was present during the sessions.
In his booklet notes, Destounis succinctly states how Antoniou ‘integrates Greek traditional elements within a wide range of post-war musical styles, always approached in an intuitive, personal way’. What is more, Antoniou’s confident and exuberant piano-writing and protean inventive powers consistently hold interest.
The opening work, Entrata (1983), comprises Antoniou’s largest single-movement piano work. It’s a rhapsodic yet judiciously paced procession of massively resonating cluster chords, threnodies on the piano strings, free-floating single-line melodies supported by slow-moving bass ostinatos in fifths and rapid-fire virtuoso flourishes going up and down the keyboard. Many of these gestures return in a more concentrated and forceful guise throughout the shorter Synaphes (2001). By contrast, the 10 brief pieces encompassing Aquarelle (1958) might be considered to be freewheeling updates of Bartók’s more advanced Mikrokosmos.
So might the 1959 Sonata’s four brief movements, especially the Adagio’s intriguing dialogue between detached left-hand octaves and sustained right-hand chords. The Op 4 pieces follow similar lines, yet are relatively dry in content.
However, the extended inside-the-piano techniques and wide dynamic palette characterising the six short Syllables (1965) wander into Luciano Berio territory while still going their own way, and unpredictable rhythmic detours keep you guessing in the Prelude and Toccata (1982). Antoniou’s Seven Rhythmic Dances (2000) remain within traditional tonal bounds yet are full of delightful canonic asymmetry, and doesn’t No 6’s main theme sound like the Rondo from Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata on a bender?
Destounis’s ardent, vivid and colourful pianism only enhances my positive response to Antoniou’s music, together with the composer’s justifiably enthusiastic endorsement.