Eleni Karaindrou: David (ECM New Series 2221)


Eleni Karaindrou

Kim Kashkashian viola
Irini Karagianni mezzo-soprano
Tassis Christoyannopoulos baritone
Vangelis Christopoulos oboe
Stella Gadedi flute
Marie-Cécile Boulard clarinet
Sonia Pisk bassoon
Vangelis Skouras French horn
Sokratis Anthis trumpet
Maria Bildea harp
Katerina Ktona harpsichord
ERT Choir
Antonis Kontogeorgiou choirmaster
Camerata Orchestra
Alexandros Myrat conductor
Concert production: The Athens Concert Hall
Recorded live November 19, 2010 at Megaron (Hall of the Friends of Music), Athens
Recording engineer: Nikos Espialidis
Assistants: Bobby Blazoudakis, Alex Aretaios, and George Mathioudakis
Edited and mixed March 2016 by Manfred Eicher and Nikos Espialidis
Mastering engineer: Peter DePian
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: November 18, 2016

The theatrical text of Davidcomes to us by way of an anonymous poet from Chios Island. After its rediscovery, it was published in 1979 in a critical edition by Thomas Papadopoulos of the Bibliotheca Vallicelliana, and premiered with music by Eleni Karaindrou the following year. Here it is documented in full from a performance in November 2010, given as part of a three-day celebration in honor of Karaindrou and her work.

Despite a Catholic sheen, Davidis sprinkled with comic touches, popular locutions, and lyricism, as many such stage dramas would have been in the 18th century when it was written. The “Overture” opens the door into a characteristically three-dimensional world. Between the pointillist harp (Maria Bildea) and legato viola (Kim Kashkashian), it describes enough space for the orchestra, flute, harpsichord, and oboe to leave their traces across the sky in a message—as yet wordless—that renders the world beneath it a tesseract for moral transfigurations. From this garden emerges the instrumental flowers of “Repentance” and “Compassion,” which together reveal a pasture dotted with the footsteps of our titular protagonist. The first blush of song comes in the form of “Devils.” In this indulgent tune, baritoneTassis Christoyannopolous frolics through an itinerary of exuberant accomplishments, thus shoring up a house of words against the winds of change about to blow. Through deft use of choir, which magnifies his self-inflation, Karaindrou mirrors the feel of an opera buffa, rifling through scenes as if in an emotional flipbook.

“David’s Entrance” softens the landing of mezzo-soprano Irini Karagianni, whose rounded tone offers solace by contrast in “The Good Things in Life,” a somber reflection on the fleeting nature of our existence. Of all the good that passes by, she sings, may hearts latch on the residue and other virtues let go so calm and slow. This is followed by the beauties of “When I See,” in which Karagianni’s voice reveals a deeper, more dramatic palette that eerily recalls the soundtracks of Zbigniew Preisner. Equally concerned with ephemeral things, its tenderness reverberates in “David’s Lament,” wherein Christoyannopolous and choir link a chain of calls and responses, dripping with regret: Hear my dirge, o woods, listen and sorrow. And at my funeral, trees, grieve and wilt.

In “Psaltes,” the climate darkens into a vesper. Sounding like a Gregorian chant, its concern with wonders balances the depressions that precede it: May these fires burn the spirits; may the arrogance of fear now cease. After a trumpeted “Procession,” we find ourselves swaddled in the beauty of “Angel,” wherein divinely personified virtue takes flight in harp and strings: May your sweet trills make mortals awaken and studiously your company take pains to follow. Even more processional, however, is the grand “Finale.” Here the Holy Trinity is invoked as the choir marches to Jerusalem in search of grace and calmer breezes.

Although one needn’t have the translations at their disposal to enjoy its pastiche, David is best appreciated with the CD booklet in hand, so that its finer nuances leap forthright into the very place where its sounds begin and end: the center of the heart.

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