Thursday, June 23, 2011

5th Avenue

Two of the greatest orchestral albums from two of the major Greek composers: Manos Hatzidakis and Stavros Xarhakos.
Except of the exceptionally beautiful music, the two works share the source of inspiration:

-    Manhattan and 5th Avenue
-    A woman (a stranger for Hatzidakis, his daughter for Xarhakos)

Gioconda’s Smile was written and recorded in US, in 1965 by Manos Hatzidakis with producer Quincy Jones. The US version had 12 orchestral pieces while the Greek one of the same year (1965) had 10.
Gioconda’s Smile ranks among the best orchestral albums in Greece and is considered a classic with many reissues and live performances. 

Hatzidakis explains in his introductory note on the album:

"In the course of a New York City parade, amidst bursts of music and colours and 5th Avenue flooded with people, I found myself one Sunday afternoon in the autumn of 1963. Then and there, I met a little woman walking all alone with a desperate indifference to what was happening around her; nobody noticed her, she noticed nobody; she was desolately alone in the unknown crowd shoving her, passing her by, heedless and hostile, leaving her to drown in the deep flood of the Avenue, inside that sea she was following, inside the wind beginning to blow.

I was riveted there, the only human being who noticed her. I tried to trail after her and follow her till I could get close enough to talk to her, without my knowing what I would say to her; but by the time I 'd made up my mind, I'd lost sight of her. I ran a little way ahead, stood on tiptoe in hopes of catching sight of her again, but the big black sea of people had swallowed her up. Inside me something started throbbing painfully. Without realizing it, I'd come to a stop outside Rizzoli's Bookshop and in the display window, exactly facing me, was a book about da Vinci with the Gioconda on the cover. Incredibly enigmatic, she smiled to me, automatically enlarged to the size of the woman who'd just disappeared down the street.

I don't know why all these elements became strangely tangled inside myself, together with an exquisite motif by Vivaldi, which I had heard several days before this and which had continued ever since plaguing my memory tyrannically.

These ten songs were composed with a blend of despair and reminiscences. The theme is a solitary woman in the big city. Each song is a monologue of hers and all the songs together compose her story. A story which is modern and, yet at the same time, old."

Dance with my shadow

When the clouds come

Stavros XarhakosPandora’s Manhattan was written in 1980 in US but recorded 2 years later in Greece.
Xarhakos explains in his introductory note on the album:

"This music was written in 1980, when my nine-year-old daughter visited me in New York for the first time. Her amazed view of Manhattan enabled me to discover a different side of the city.

Although I had been living there for a whole year, it was only with Pandora that I wandered around Manhattan, seeing places I would never have visited otherwise. By then I was so committed to my studies at Juilliard School of Music that Pandora's ten-day stay was my first real holiday in Manhattan.

I remember it was Sunday when Pandora boarded the plane and left. I found myself walking the ever-so-lonely, deserted 5th Avenue, when my sentiments transformed into sounds and Pandora's Manhattan turned into music.

I returned to Athens in 1982 and one of the first pieces of music I recorded was Pandora's Manhattan."

Pandora’s Manhattan is unfortunately not so famous as Gioconda's Smile, yet the music and arrangement (Xarhakos) are powerful and jazzy with some first class musicians performing:

Nikos Lavranos – keyboards
Giorgos Lavranos – percussion
Filippos Tseberoulis – flute, clarinet, saxophone
Babis Laskarakis – guitar
Giorgos Zikoyiannis - contrabass

5th Avenue on Sunday 5pm

Pandora's Manhattan

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