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ClassicsOnline Home » MARGARITIS, L.: Etude No. 1 / Greek Rhapsody / Youth / Verses / Piano Sonatina / PETYREK, F.: 6 Greek Rhapsodies (Palios)
Loris (Lykourgos) Margaritis was a distinguished Greek composer, performer and music-educator. He cultivated a spirit of ‘music-universalism’, reinvestigating the delicate balance between German Romanticism, French Impressionism and Modernism in his multi-layered music. The varied, highly individual pieces on this recording often possess a dreamlike, nostalgic, timeless quality which Schumann or Debussy would have appreciated. An enthusiastic advocate of Margaritis’s music, Felix Petyrek composed many piano works, including the Six Greek Rhapsodies, which use local scales and structural principles.
Greek Piano Music
Loris (Lykourgos) Margaritis (1895–1953)
Loris (Lykourgos) Margaritis was born in Aigion, Achaia, Greece. He was a distinguished Greek composer, performer and music-educator. As an infant prodigy he won fame playing his own piano compositions at the age of nine in the Richard Wagner Concert Hall in Munich. Thomas Mann was also present during this concert and wrote on this occasion his romance Das Wunderkind. Margaritis studied in Berlin and Munich and had associations with important personalities of the time, including Bernhard Stavenhagen, Joseph Joachim, Felix Mottl, Robert Kahn and Bruno Walter. After his return to Greece around 1915 Margaritis collaborated in Thessaloniki with Aimilios Riades, a pupil of Maurice Ravel, in the consolidation of the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki and its Symphony Orchestra. Margaritis cultivated a new spirit of music-universalism, reinvestigating the delicate balance between German romanticism, impressionism, and a disengaged modernism in a multilayered sound context.
Felix Petyrek visited Margaritis in Thessaloniki and reported his positive impressions in a local newspaper. He decided also as concertmaster to perform Margaritis’s piano works at the Mozarteum. In 1925 Margaritis married his student Ida Rosenkranz in Thessaloniki, an orphan Austrian-Jewish girl. Together they created a piano duo and performed to great acclaim across Europe. Their house in Thessaloniki was the centre of contemporary musical activities and the host of inspirational musical events. In 1928 Loris Margaritis taught the piano at the Mozart Summer Academy in Salzburg and later became a jury-member of the Fryderyk Chopin, Vienna Music Academy and Geneva International Piano Competitions. In 1930 he received recognition with a prestigious award from the Vienna Welt Musik und Sangesbundes for his commitment as a composer, performer and educator.
In 1931 Margaritis’s Epic Symphony, based on Homer’s Odyssey, was performed at the Vienna Opera, conducted by Hugo Reichenberger. Six months before Kristalnacht in April 1938 Margaritis’s courses at the Mozarteum were officially abolished. After the Nazi invasion of Thessaloniki on 9 April 1941 Margaritis and his wife faced serious problems with the Gestapo, accused of having contacts with the Greek partisans. In 1942 they escaped to Athens. There they found protection from prominent intellectuals. After the end of the war Loris and Ida never returned to live permanently in Thessaloniki. In 1948 Bernhard Paumgartner invited Margaritis to the Mozarteum Summer Academy again. This last fruitful period until his death in 1953 was dedicated to music education, piano pedagogy and music philosophy.
The two pieces chosen from some 27 childhood compositions illustrate the imagination of a nine-year-old child who tries to bring to life something lost and obscure.
In his first collected educational piano volume Youth, composed circa 1915, Margaritis wished to regenerate Schumann’s vision for music and technique. The imaginary narration as an element in a puzzle correlates with ten musical episodes of real life with different melodic reminiscences.
In Sonatina Op. 5 a composition that was composed in 1922, Margaritis builds a higher structured abbreviated sonata which is based on three different groups of melodic rows with three different references and intimations. Between the variations of these main melodies he puts brief bridge passages with reminiscences of the main rhythmical elements and melodic allusions.
In his next composition Verses for Piano, Op. 10, written a year later, Margaritis worked hard with his Austrian friend, the poet and choreographer J. Scheider, to transform his poetry into music without setting the words to music. Margaritis, who was very familiar with the German tradition of the tone-poem, went more deeply into the musical transfer of poetic meaning, creating abstract musical images in which one may suppose they represent the borderlines between the external world and the emotions.
In the two Greek Pastorals, Op. 18 No. 1 and No. 2, Margaritis projects the bucolic transparency of the Arcadian world inspired by Debussy. The polyrhythmic structure and the coloristic effects arise from a different world reflecting the sounds of a lost ideal topos, a kind of mystical Humanism. Et in Arcadia ego.
– Konstantinos D Kakavelakis
Felix Petyrek (1892–1951): Six Greek Rhapsodies
Felix Petyrek was born in the city of Brno, then in Austria, on 14 May 1892, and grew up in Vienna. He received his basic musical training from his father, August, a concert organist. He studied at the Vienna Music Academy under Leopold Godowsky and Emil von Sauer (piano), Franz Schreker (composition), and at the Philosophy Department of Vienna University with Guido Adler. During his military service (1915–1918) as a guard in a prisoner-of-war camp he collected folksongs from different East European traditions, published by Universal Edition. After his graduation with honours in 1919 he became a teacher at the Salzburg Mozarteum Music Academy. After moving in 1921 to Berlin and later to Aclesheim in Switzerland, Petyrek moved to Abbazia (Opatija, Croatia) and founded there and in Salzburg summer courses for piano and composition. There he met Loris Margaritis, with whom he developed a deep friendship.
Petyrek had already composed many works for piano, chamber music, stage works and compositions for vocal ensembles, and until 1926 he gave many concerts in Germany, where he was associated with the musical avant-garde. In summer 1926 he was invited to teach piano and composition at Athens Conservatory. With his friend from his Berlin days, Dimitri Mitropoulos, he organized various concerts in Athens and Salzburg in the following years. From 1930 to 1950, after his Greek adventure, Petyrek taught successively at the Music Academies of Stuttgart, Leipzig and Vienna. In 1950 he was awarded the Austria State Prize of Music. He died on 1 December 1951.
On 1 June 1927 Petyrek wrote to his friend Hans Reinhart: “I composed at the end of May six Greek piano pieces in a quite modern style by using local scales and structural principles. Some people describe them as my best work. I would like them to be published very soon”. The world première took place with the composer himself as pianist in September 1927 at Dornach in Switzerland. In Germany the Greek Rhapsodies were first performed in Berlin on 9 April 1930 by the Greek pianist Marika Papaioanou. In Athens these new compositions had been already presented at the Conservatory concert hall in December 1929. The Greek music press described the work as ‘extremely interesting’: “His new composition is based on Greek and Russian themes, but on the other hand they sound very modern” (Chronics).
– Lisa Mahn
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