Release: June 2021
“Seikilos Epitaph’s Fantasy” project explores a rich diversity in compositional styles, ideas, textures, sonorities and archetypes.
It could never become reality without the generous musical contribution of my good friends and great composers of our time Sergio Assad, Gerard Drozd and Simone Iannarelli.
Their inspiring adventurous music, along with J.Rodrigo’s Toccata and A.Barrios’ Sueño en la floresta, create a journey to a unique soundscape where time – as usually perceived- does not exist. The past blends with the present at a common space frame, while memories, stories, emotions, archetypes, emerge to the sunlight of an imaginary ideal time-space surface!
Seikilos (Assad’s reference in this album) may sing and dream in the amazon’s forests (native land of Barrios), Iannarelli’s Fantasia with its intense rhapsodic-elegiac rhetoric can describe Troy’s catastrophe and laments for Hector’s death, while the unquite archaic Toccata (Rodrigo) unites with Drozd’s poetic kaleidoscopic writing to recollect Bach’s restless contrapuntal textures!
About the music:
Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999) was one of the greatest Spanish composers of the 20th century and one of the most prominent and innovative writers for guitar of all time. Although he was a non-guitar-playing composer, Rodrigo is one of a few mainstream writers who left a substantial legacy for the classical guitar repertoire.
Toccata is one of the best examples of Spanish virtuoso tradition on the guitar. Although it was composed back in 1933, remained in the drawer and had never been published or premiered until 2006. Since the time of its recent publication the piece started to gain the reputation -among guitarists- , to be one of the most difficult pieces to perform on the instrument. Toccata is clearly a virtuoso piece that responds to the language of the violin. It possesses an internal structure which, far from almost improvised liberty, responds to the sonata form utilized freely. Its perpetual fast motion in semiquavers combined with tight contrapuntal textures, as well as, broad virtuoso arpeggio sections which extend to the highest pitch register of the instrument, draw the attention of the listener.
Gerard Drozd – born in Gliwice, Poland, is a versatile composer, arranger, guitarist. As a composer has written more than 350 compositions including solo works, chamber music or concertos. His compositions have been appreciated by many well-known performers and have also been presented in more than 35 countries around the globe. Drozd’s innovative writing techniques and idiomatic harmonic language have established him as one of the most renowned and respected composers in the guitar world nowadays.
Two Songs Op. 172 were composed in 2017. The first one called “In a mood” derives from an improvisational aspect. Walking bass line makes this piece a little jazzy-swinging music, but all musical material is a kind of Drozd’s individual musical language which he calls controlled case theory. The second piece just named “A Song” is very lirical, harmonically rich and follows according to the composer a kind of harmonical thinking named “kaleidoscopic harmony.” This song seems to tell a story. Calls to memories that are clearly heard, although it is only a musical-poetic creation born in the imagination.
Two Kaleidoscopic Waltzes Op. 167 were also composed in 2017.
These two, in a sense, abstract waltzes in the very name indicate that they are composed on the basis of “kaleidoscopic harmony.” This kind of composing gives enormous and constantly new potential for musical narration.
Simone Iannarelli (b.1970) is an Italian composer/guitarist born in Rome. During the past 15 years he has been living in Mexico where he teaches guitar at the music department of the University of Colima. His compositions are distinct from the extended use of scordaturas (varied tunings which apply more timbres to the sonorities of the instrument), their desctiptive -programmatic character and rich colorful textures. Simone is a prolific composer who explores the sound-colors of the instrument with a very personal idiomatic way. He has already achieved to be one of the most popular and respected composers of his generation.
Fantasia in Re consists of three main musical ideas:
A rapsodic opening “preludio” with extensive arpeggio’s elements that reminishes the renaissance concept of “tuning search”. The subsequent second subject is built on a free contrapuntal form. This idea recalls the old ricercare. A third musical idea is included in the “Andante cantábile” where chordal writing makes contast with its vigorous pace and extensive use of modal harmony.
Agustín Barrios Mangoré (Paraguay, 1885- San Salvador, 1944). Many consider Barrios one of the greatest guitarists/composers of all time. In view of this fact, it is curious that his music laid undiscovered and unappreciated for over three decades after his death. Today Barrios’ music is frequently performed by major concert artists and is admired by audiences world wide. One can appreciate in Barrios Mangoré a logical expansion of techniques defined by masters as Sor and Tárrega, carried to an even higher level of expressiveness and technical expertise.
The majestic tremolo piece Un sueño en la floresta is perhaps the most difficult and complex tremolo piece ever conceived for the guitar. The extremely romantic flavour and soaring melody belie the fact that the technical work required here is formidable, requiring extended left-hand stretches, long musical phrases, intricate independent movement of voices, a virtuosic cadenza and even a high C that requires a twentieth fret on the traditional nineteen-fret classic guitar (Barrios had the Brazilian luthier Romeo DiGiorgio make him a special instrument with twenty frets). Un sueño en la floresta elevates the technique of tremolo to a new level, carrying it well beyond the earlier Francisco Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Sueño. Barrios wrote this piece about 1917 and recorded it in 1929.
Brazilian guitarist/composer Sergio Assad (1952-) is undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the guitar world over the last 50 years. As a member of the famous Assad Duo he performed at every spot on the world map, while his recordings are point of reference for their unsurpassed artistry. Assad’s compositions have a rich harmonic language, a great variation of moods and mostly vivid syncopated rhythms borrowed from the Brazilian music tradition. Most of his works clearly expand the technical limits of the guitar performance and consecutively are considered a “must” in the repertoire of highly skilled performers.
Seikilos Epitaph’s Fantasy (2018) is based on the melodic material of the homonymous ancient Greek (Hellenistic Ionic) song. Seikilos epitaph is the oldest surviving complete musical composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world (dated approx.200 AD).
The song urges for a happy adventurous life:
While you live, shine
have no grief at all
life exists only for a short while
and Time demands his due.
Ancient Greeks believed that melody without rhythm is “disordered, inert and dark” while it was “vigorous, energetic and precise” when rhythm was added. Indeed, sometimes they characterized melody as the female element and rhythm as the male.
Assad really takes advantage of this and lifts off the theme crafting an adventurous Fantasia. Not only he varies the melodic motives, but also borrows plenty of different ancient Greek “Podes” (rhythmic patterns) to build a new descriptive “rhapsody”. Rhythms like Iamb, Trochee, Paeon, Dochmius, Epitrite, Ionian, Tribrach, Enneasemos are masterfully elaborated to create a narration full of colorful moods and vivid images.
Thanos Mitsalas: Thanos is steadily achieving recognition to be one of the leading world-class performers of his generation. His rich musicianship and perfectionism have already credited him with the highest praise from audiences and critics. It is his intense musical intuition, flawless technique and personal style in his interpretations that easily captivate the audience. Through his extended devotion to the study and performance of the idiomatic music of Sergio Assad , Thanos achieved to be regarded by the great Brazilian master as a top interpreter of his works. Sergio Assad, between other comments, writes for Thanos: "...An incredible musician and guitarist!..”,”...Thanos has total control and understanding of my music!...". Classical Guitar Magazine (Blair Jackson-Nov 2017) refers to him: “...a formidable guitarist!...”. American Record Guide (Kenneth Keaton-May 2012) mentioned: “Mitsalas’s playing is excellent…His technical command and sense of invention and expression are impressive!” Sharon Isbin (Head of the guitar department at The Juilliard School) said for him: “Thanos has a brilliant virtuoso technique and an excellent musicianship – truly an extraordinary talent! His playing is of the highest professional caliber…” Reviewer Glyn Pursglove from MusicWeb International Magazine wrote for Thanos’s solo Assad cd release: “Everywhere one senses a vitality of personal commitment and disciplined freedom in his interpretations. Thanos is an impressive soloist!...” Timothy Smith (Oct 2014) at minor7th mentions: “Mitsalas marries all of the elements of great classical guitar playing: enormous and evocative tonal range, world-class command of the instrument, and a unique and defining musical voice….Mitsalas' newest offering, entitled "Contemplation", is quite simply one of the finest recordings I've encountered in my decade of writing reviews.”
He started his international steps at a very early age, being the youngest ever winner in the history of competitions like Volos International Guitar Festival & Competition - Greece (while 15 years old), Silesian Guitar Autumn-Poland (while 16 years old) and Carrefour Mondial de la guitare-Martinique/South America (while 18 years old). Since then he has performed successfully in many major international artistic events and venues (Lincoln Center of NY, Merkin Hall (NY), Hancock Auditorium (Los Angeles), Queen's Grand Theatre of Zhengzhou-China, Athens Megaron of Music, etc) , touring throughout Europe, Asia, North & South America.
Thanos Mitsalas graduated with the greatest honors from New Conservatory of Thessaloniki-Greece (class of Costas Cotsiolis), Hochscule fur Music in Koln/Aachen-Germany (class of Thomas Muller Pering) and finally from the prestigious Juilliard School-NY, where he studied on a full scholarship at Sharon Isbin's class, evaluated as one of the most brilliant talents of the school.
A versatile guitarist, Mitsalas performs both as a soloist and in chamber music ensembles and has performed with orchestras conducted by such important personalities like Leo Brouwer, Josif Conta, Theodoros Antoniou, Jan Wincenty Hawel, Emir Saul among others.
Important contemporary composers (S.Assad , G.Drozd , S.Iannarelli - to name a few) have dedicated works to Thanos. He has also performed several International and National ‘premieres’ of guitar compositions by major composers of our time (works by Assad, L.Brouwer, G.Drozd, R.Dyens, S.Iannarelli, J.Clerch,etc) and repeatedly recorded for Greek and foreign International Radio and TV networks.
Beside his performing activities he teaches at the State Conservatory of Greece (Thessaloniki), and as a guest professor at many international music festivals, conservatories-universities or summer music academies. For ten years he held the position of the artistic director at the Municipal Conservatory of Naoussa (Greece). Many of his students have followed successful careers as performers or pedagogists of the guitar.
Since 2008 he has intensively devoted himself to the music of the great guitarist – composer Sergio Assad. During the IGF of Volos - Greece (2019), Thanos was honored to participate – as a specialist in S.Assad's music- together with the legendary Assad Brothers at a unique Gala Concert dedicated to the famous Duo and the music of Sergio Assad. During the same year he was also hosted by the composer in the Brazilian TV (SESC TV & Movimento Violao), for a recording and broadcast tribute to his solo guitar compositions. Additively, it is worth to mention that within the next months (in 2021) Thanos will premiere “Naousa Concerto” for Guitar & Symphony Orchestra, which Sergio Assad recently composed and especially dedicated to him. Mitsalas' recordings include solo guitar music, as well as chamber music works with guitar by the Grammy awarded Brazilian master. Among other pieces, he has presented world premieres of such important and enchanting compositions like Concerto Fantasia “Mikis” for Guitar and Strings, “Eli's portrait”,“Sandy's portrait” and “Seikilos Epitaph's Fantasy”.
Seikilos Epitaph's Fantasy project is Thanos' first album to be published in cooperation with Da Vinci label (Japan). So far he has recorded 5 more CDs with ClearNote (USA). All his recordings have got outstanding reviews by great personalities of the music world and the press.
Mitsalas' recording projects, until now, have included works by J.S.Bach, S.Assad, A.Barrios, N.D'Angelo, C.Domeniconi, G.Drozd, E.Gismonti, S.Iannarelli, L.Legnani, M.Llobet, A.Piazzolla, A.Tansman, F.Tarrega, M.C.Tedesco, J.Rodrigo, G.Regondi and A.York.
Thanos is a D’Addario Artist/Ambassador. He uses EJ46FF Pro-Arte (Dyna/Carbon) strings on his 1999 Thomas Humphrey Guitar (Millenniun Model/Spruce-top).
Agustin Barrios: (b San Juan Bautista de las Misiones, 5 May 1885; d San Salvador, 7 Aug 1944). Paraguayan guitarist and composer. In his youth in Asunción he studied the guitar with Gustavo Sosa Escalada and composition with Nicolo Pellegrini, and practised his compositional skills by transcribing works by Bach, Beethoven and Chopin. In 1910 he left Paraguay intending to give a week of concerts in Argentina, but such was his success that he was away for 14 years, playing in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay (where he studied with Antonio Giménez Manjón). He found a patron in the diplomat Tomás Salomini, who arranged recitals for him in Mexico and Cuba. His first real successes date from about 1919, when he played for the President of Brazil. In 1930 he adopted the pseudonym Mangoré (after a legendary Guaraní chieftain), and in 1934 he went to Europe with Salomini, living in Berlin and visiting Belgium and Spain. In 1936 he returned to Latin America, and taught at the conservatory in San Salvador from 1939 to 1944. Critics compared Barrios Mangoré with Segovia as an interpreter and with Paganini as a virtuoso. He was the first Latin-American guitarist of stature to be heard in Europe, and made numerous recordings between 1913 and 1929.
Although he lacked a formal musical education, Barrios Mangoré wrote guitar music of high quality that combined many of the characteristics of his predecessors, Sor and Tárrega. He reputedly composed about 300 works for solo guitar, of which over a third have been located either in manuscripts or from his recordings. These include La catedral, Danza paraguaya, Un sueño en la floresta, Preludio, op.5 no.1, Julia Florida, Una limosna por el amor de dios, Mazurka apasionata, Vals, op.8 nos.3 and 4, and Variations on a Theme of Tárrega, all of which have become part of the repertory.
Joaquin Rodrigo: (b Sagunto, 22 Nov 1901; d Madrid, 6 July 1999). Spanish composer. Blind from the age of three, he began his musical education at an early age and took lessons in composition with Francisco Antich in Valencia. In 1927 he moved to Paris as a pupil of Dukas at the Ecole Normale. After his marriage in Valencia in 1933 to the Turkish pianist Victoria Kamhi, he returned to Paris for further study at the Conservatoire and the Sorbonne. He lived and worked in France and Germany during the Spanish Civil War, and returned finally to Madrid in 1939. Soon after the première in 1940 of his first concerto, the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar, he began to be recognized as one of the leading composers in Spain. Apart from writing a great deal of music during the following years, he was active as an academic and music critic, writing for several newspapers and publishing articles on a wide range of topics. He also worked in the music department of Radio Nacional and for the Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE). In 1947 he was appointed to the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music at Complutense University, Madrid, created especially for him, and in 1950 he was elected to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de S Fernando.
During these and subsequent years he made several tours throughout Spain, Europe, the Americas and Japan, teaching, giving piano recitals and lectures, and attending concerts and festivals of his own music. Amongst the most important of these were Argentina (1949), Turkey (1953 and 1972), Japan (1973), Mexico (1975) and London (1986). Distinctions awarded to Rodrigo included the Gran Cruz de Alfonso X el Sabio (1953), the Légion d’Honneur (1963), election as a member of the Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts of Belgium (1978) to the place left vacant on the death of Benjamin Britten, and honorary doctorates from the University of Salamanca (1964), the University of Southern California (1982), the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (1988), and the Universities of Alicante, Madrid (both 1989) and Exeter (1990). A series of concerts and recitals to celebrate his 90th birthday took place throughout the world during 1991 and 1992. Two significant distinctions of Rodrigo’s old age were the conferment of the hereditary titles ‘Marqueses de los Jardines de Aranjuez’ on the composer and his wife Victoria by King Juan Carlos I in 1992, and the award of the Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Artes in 1996.
During the second half of the 20th century Rodrigo came to occupy a position in Spanish musical life close to that of Manuel de Falla in the first. Like his mentor, he cultivated a style far removed from the major currents of European musical development and, as with Falla, his music needs to be judged in the context of Spain’s classical and traditional music, art and literature. His compositions number around 170, including 11 concertos, numerous orchestral and choral works, 60 songs, some two dozen pieces each for piano and guitar, and music for the ballet, theatre and cinema. His published writings (1999) also demonstrate a remarkable breadth of knowledge of music and the arts. Rodrigo’s music attracted favourable attention from both critics and performers from the start of his career, first in Valencia and Paris and subsequently worldwide. His first two guitar concertos, Concierto de Aranjuez and Fantasía para un gentilhombre, also achieved remarkable popularity. From the late 1970s onwards, however, appreciation of his music began to broaden. Wider knowledge of his music demonstrated that the charge that Rodrigo merely repeated the formula of his first concerto in later ones could no longer be substantiated, and recordings showed the quality of such works as the symphonic poem Ausencias de Dulcinea (1948), the Scarlatti-inspired piano suite Cinco sonatas de Castilla (1950–51), the Invocación y danza for solo guitar, written in homage to Falla (1961), the austere Himnos de los neófitos de Qumrán (1965), the brilliant Concierto madrigal for two guitars (1966), based on a Renaissance love-song, or the serenely beautiful Cántico de San Francisco de Asís (1982). Happily the composer’s 90th birthday was also the occasion for thoughtful and appreciative critical re-evaluations of Rodrigo’s music.
Rodrigo’s music was fundamentally conservative, ‘neocasticista’, or ‘faithful to a tradition’, to use the composer’s own words. His first works revealed the influence of composers such as Granados, Ravel and Stravinsky, but his individual musical voice was soon heard in the songs, piano works and orchestral pieces composed during the 1920s and 30s. As he matured, his wide knowledge of and sympathy with the music and culture of earlier times bore fruit. His forms were traditional, but appropriate for his purposes, and his musical language, drawn from both Classical and nationalist sources, underpinned a melodic gift of remarkable eloquence. He made many of the finest settings of classical Spanish poetry, his guitar pieces are in the central repertory, and his concertos are the most significant such works composed in Spain.