Four young, distinguished soloists, specialists in contemporary music with a number of Greek premieres under their belts, perform two of the 20th century’s most important chamber works. Both contain extensive solo parts which make them exceptionally demanding to play. Béla Bartók
and Olivier Messiaen
’s Quartet for the End of Time
were both written in the pre-war period, in 1938 and 1940 respectively. Although technically different, they deal with the same subject-matter: musical time.
Contrasts is a trio for violin, clarinet and piano commissioned by the “king of swing”, the clarinettist Bennie Goodman, and owes its title to its movements’ contrasting tempos. Like other of the composer’s works, it contains melodies based on Hungarian and Romanian folk dances, which the composer regularly visited the countryside to record. Messiaen composed his quartet while imprisoned in a concentration camp in Silesia.
The unusual combination of instruments (piano, violin, cello, clarinet) reflects the musicians available among his fellow prisoners. The work was premiered to an audience of hundreds of prisoners. The composer would later admit that he had never been listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension. In this symbolic work, which laid the foundations for innovations that would influence contemporary music after 1950, the composer successfully melded religious and experiential music in his quest for the technical means required to render one of the work’s core concepts: the abolition of time through a fleeting glance at eternity. Messiaen showed that Man can retain his dignity in even the most extreme conditions and liberate himself from a terrible present.
Antonis Sousamoglou: violin, project co-ordinator
Αngelos Liakakis: cello
Titos Gouvelis: piano
Kontrasztok [Constrasts] (1938)
Quatuor pour la fin du temps [Quartet for the End of Time] (1940)