NEW YORK – The Hellenic-American Cultural Foundation (HACF) presents the New York premiere of George Tsontakis’ Portraits by El Greco – Book II, and other selections from Beethoven, Brahms, and Bartók, to be performed by five world-renowned musicians on Wednesday, September 14, 7 PM, at the Kaufman Music Center’s Merkin Concert Hall, 129 West 67th Street in Manhattan.
George Tsontakis, the 2005 recipient of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, was called by Gramophone magazine “a giant of the American music scene.” In his new work, Tsontakis combines projected images of the great painter’s work with a contemporary music setting.
The quintet of performers includes: Greek pianist Maria Asteriadou – an acclaimed soloist and chamber musician, heralded as “an artist with intense personality, virtuosic flair, unusual poise and intimate contact with style” by The New York Times; Grammy Award-winning Zuill Bailey – widely considered one of the premier cellists in the world; Greek clarinetist Spyros Mourikis – winner of the 1997 Carl Nielsen International Clarinet Competition, has played extensively throughout Greece and Europe; violinist Kurt Nikkanen – considered a soloist of the highest order, a graduate of Juilliard and, presently, the Concertmaster of the New York City Ballet Orchestra; and Rita Porfiris – an American violist and arranger of Greek and Chinese descent, who has performed across the globe as a chamber musician, orchestral musician and soloist.
Tsontakis spoke with The National Herald about Portraits by El Greco – Book II, noting that “for a composer the current work in progress is more important than any other works so I’ll start by telling you that I’ve begun an epic sized work for solo piano, a companion piece of sorts to Olivier Messiaen’s great piano work Vingt Regards to the Infant Jesus. It was commissioned by the Greek Karelias Foundation for the marvelous Greek pianist Nikolaos Laaris.”
He continued: “Portraits by El Greco Book II follows the first version which was premiered in 2014 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of El Greco’s death. Subsequently, a Consortium of five musical organizations commission a sequel by popular demand. As a Cretan-blooded composer, I am honored to lay my own musical art alongside of the greatest modern history painter of Greece. The modernism displayed in the great Master’s paintings is centuries ahead of its time and I relished catching up with him through my own work and impulses.”
“For those already familiar with this set of eight paintings that I selected for my Book II, I would hope that they might revisit these amazing images through the spectrum of sound and musical drama that filtered through me during my composing hours,” Tsontakis said. “For those who are being introduced to these profound images I would hope that the music might wash over them and combine with El Greco’s artistry and spiritual depths with a new dimensional I wrote synthesis.”
“This 20 minute work took four or five months to create as combined with other work I had in progress,” Tsontakis told TNH. “In context, the El Greco work preceded my opera drama on Lord Byron, The Air of Greece, which was commissioned and premiered by the Greek National Opera in December. There followed the creation of a Requiem in honor of my mother Argiro, premiered by the Albany Symphony in April. The three works formed a trilogy of pieces of personal importance and profound significance to me.”
Tickets are available online: https://bit.ly/3xdoXyx.
More information about HACF is available online: www.hacfoundation.org.