Cellist/Cretan Lyra Performer Yiorgos Kaloudis Talks to TNH about His Music

Yiorgos Kaloudis playing the Cretan lyra. Photo by Lambros Papanikolatos

NEW YORK – Yiorgos Kaloudis is a cellist, Cretan lyra performer, improviser, composer, cello professor at the Athenaeum Conservatory in Athens, and producer at the DNA Classical Label. He spoke with The National Herald about his innovative work and how performing J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites on Cretan lyra allows a reconnection with the way the Cello Suites were originally played and how they sounded in Bach’s time.

Kaloudis created a new interpretive approach, adding a fourth string (low C), on the traditional Cretan lyra, and transcribing this work of Bach in the authentic tonalities of the composer.

He said, “I have lived a long, 12-year journey exploring the freedom, the inspiration, the spontaneous improvisation, the truth and joy while studying and practicing all the Cello Suites.

“I trusted a strong instinct leading me in the right direction, drawn by the music and the beauty of the instrument.

“The sound, the vibrations, the depth of the rich harmonics, the melodic lines, the chords and the timbres of the sound of the senses Cretan lyra revealed a divine beauty, exposed through J.S. Bach’s work, bringing an ancient quality of sound and a precious silence of the Aegean Sea to my senses.”

Kaloudis performs his recitals “Innovating Tradition” and the “J.S.Bach: Cello Suites on the Cretan Lyra,” in concert halls, archaeological monuments, churches and museums around the world.

A close-up of Yiorgos Kaloudis playing the Cretan lyra with the placement of the nail against the strings. Photo by Lambros Papanikolatos

Born in Athens, Greece in 1973 into a musical family, Kaloudis’ first language of expression has always been music. He started playing the Cretan lyra at a very early age, and continued the family tradition, as the fourth generation of native Cretan lyra players.

His classical studies of the cello were completed, with Claire Demeulenaere, at the Athenaeum Conservatory in Athens where he graduated with honors. Kaloudis was awarded a scholarship from the Fulbright Foundation, providing him with the opportunity to continue his studies in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Ted Greene in composition and improvisation.

He has also collaborated with international orchestras including the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Lege Artis Chamber Choir in St. Petersburg, the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Thessaloniki.

Listening to Kaloudis’ CD, J.S.Bach: Cello Suites on the Cretan Lyra, you are immediately impressed by his extraordinary talent and skill in interpreting this beautiful music, making the most familiar of Bach’s Cello Suites sound fresh and vibrant through Kaloudis’ unmistakeable energy and connection with the music and the instrument.

The dedication of the artist to his music is clear in the depth and meaning he communicates through these pieces.

Yiorgos Kaloudis playing the Cretan lyra at the Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall. Photo by Lambros Papanikolatos

He told TNH that the rhythm and pace of life today, since the Industrial Revolution, has sped up to such an extent that even the way music is played, which was always connected in the past with human rhythms, the beat and pulse of the human heart, is too fast, trying to keep up with the speed and rhythms of machines. Playing classical pieces faster and faster has become a mark of skill or talent, but in fact, the music was historically played at a slower pace, its transcendent effect, calming and re-connecting people with the natural rhythms of life.

Kaloudis’ knowledge of music history is also impressive, as he explained to TNH the development of stringed instruments played with the bow, the connection between the Cretan lyra and the cello, and the differences. He told TNH, “Cretan lyra technique is totally different from other bowed instruments in that the player has to play every other note with the nails of the left hand touching the side of the string with constant jumps in the fingering rather than press the string down on the fret board. Study of the five original versions of the suites, treasured in museums in France and Germany, was mandatory to enable the arrangement, practice, and recording of the complete work. Thus a unique version made specifically for the four-stringed Cretan Lyra, came alive.”

The gifted musician has also collaborated with many well-known artists, including Alkinoos Ioannides, Karine Polwart, Steve Tavaglione, Kostas Makedonas, and Periklis Kanaris.

From 1988-1997, Kaloudis was also a member of the National Greek Track and Field Team for racewalking. His national record in the 20 km walk (Juniors category) held up for 22 years.

Kaloudis’ music is available online: yiorgoskaloudismusic.com.

While music fans around the world enjoy his impressive work through his recordings, seeing him perform live is a special treat. Many fans, especially in the U.S., are eager to see Kaloudis perform Bach live as soon as possible.

We wish him all the best.

The cover of Yiorgos Kaloudis’ CD, J.S.Bach: Cello Suites on the Cretan Lyra. Photo by Lambros Papanikolatos
This photo shows a close-up of Yiorgos Kaloudis playing the Cretan lyra with the placement of the nail against the strings. Photo by Lambros Papanikolatos