Composition Reviews

           The present page includes some of Katerina's composition reviews concerning her work.

Composition Reviews: Katerina Stamatelos-A Look At A Modern Atonal Composer.

   Katerina Stamatelos, is an avant-garde composer native to Greece, who has been experimenting in quite a modernist manner with the Twentieth century classical techniques such as atonalism, serialism, and algorithmic-structuralism. She has received far too many degrees and rewards to specifically list, many of them being from The University Of Iowa and Kent State University, these being schools she has attended along with The State Conservatory Of Thessaloniki (Thessaloniki being her home town), The Conservatory Of The City Of Vienna (Konservatorium Der Stadt Wien), and The Pireus Association. During her time with these schools she was taught by many significant teachers, attended composition master classes, received her MM in piano performance, MA and PHD in composition, Piano Teaching Certificate, Piano Soloist Diploma, along with other things. Having achieved these things along side her busy career primarily as a piano professor, being an extraordinary painter, and diligent composer who has had several performances as a solo pianist, had her compositions premiered several times, and to date has released three albums in which she painted the artwork for. We can rest easily on the fact that she is quite an astonishing and accomplished musician and composer.

   Her work to me in my personal listening experience, never directly applied to the minimalist form of composition though taking and employing what she seen as relevant influences from it, or to the older and more ‘classical’ forms of composition similar to that of the first and second Viennese school though again taking and employing what she seen as relevant influences from them. She never seemed to have that kind of egotistical mentality that many composers seem to have where they wish to dominate the contemporary music world and re-shape it as we know it be. This is not to say that she is not an extremely original composer, she simply composes her music because it is what she loves to do, this seems to come across whilst listening to her compositions which usually appear as poetic sound pieces acting to describe to the listeners ears what she is trying to express in conjunction of the titles and the notes chosen for description. This is a quality that I cherish in any musical genre, whether it be a contemporary form of music or good old rock and roll. She is a composer that’s generally listenable simply for the listeners pleasure, a quality which isn’t always abundant in the world of contemporary music.

   In the electronic tape piece entitled Moods that appears on her first album, Threnos and Other Chamber Stories, one might hear a very Edgar Varese styled piece of musique concrete that seems to be interrupted by eccentric trumpet samples and silences. To me this composer has a very contemporaneous sound of what we know to be classical music, in the sense that in her compositions you will notice influences for the traditional forms of classical alongside the more experimental influence, and she does a very splendid job to say the least. Let’s, for example, take her composition Four Love Songs, appearing on her second album We Who Would Be Great And Kind , you will notice that the vocals seem to musically lead and guide these themes as compositions to the terminus of reason.

   I have listened to to all three of her albums, I find it rare today to see relevant and listenable avant-garde, however this is with the exception of Katerina Stamatelos. In her music I hear the influence of Bela Bartok in the way that she incorporates folk music by using Greek scales. I hear the influence of Ludwig Von Beethoven and Johan Sebastian Bach in her careful choosing of notes in order to find what she feels are precisely according to what the composition is, also from these I hear a deal of dynamics which is sometimes rapid in change in variation. Even along with the older Viennese influences, I hear the algorithmic, minimal, and indeterminacy of John Cage, which really evens things out and gives her music a lot of it’s listenability, especially with the fusing of her traditional influences and her style in doing so. I also hear a vast influence of Iannis Xenakis and Edgar Varese, on many different facets and levels, a lot of this being with timing and melody and often the combination of the two and how they evolve in each piece.

   Katerina Stamatelos is an incredible composer, painter, pianist, and, in-turn, I believe that not only makes her competent of being called an incredible artist, but I believe it truly has made her more than that not just by title, but by mind and soul, that is so to speak from the very roots in which the plants of art are born. I would take advantage of these links I am about to bequeath to you in this article in order to become more acquainted with her work, in particularly I recommend her PhD thesis and most recent album Cantata The Insane Mother.  For anyone interested in any form of classical music, I highly suggest checking into this composer.

Ian Williams

Composition Reviews: Love And Terror.

SHADES OF LOVE • John Muriello (bar); David Gompper (pn) • ALBANY TROY1256 (58:22)

GOMPPER Shades of Love. J. D. ROBERTS In the Same Space. STAMATELOS Love and Terror. R. P. THOMAS Far Off

Baritone John Muriello and composer/pianist David Gompper are faculty colleagues at University of Iowa. This CD contains four song cycles on texts by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (1863–1933). Cavafy’s poetry addresses many themes, especially Greek history and patriotism, Christianity, and love (including a number of poems with gay themes). His poems are almost always terse, yet deeply evocative. As a result, all but a few of these songs are under four minutes in length. While some song cycles are more like suites of songs in which each song could stand on its own, each of these four cycles is an integral work with each song leading directly into the next one (occasionally without the transitions even being noticeable). Katerina Stamatelos sets the poems in their original Greek; the others set English translations.

Jeremy Dale Roberts (b.1934) served for many years as the head of composition at the Royal College of Music in London. Roberts first discovered the poetry of Cavafy as a young man while browsing in a bookstore in Cyprus. However, he did not compose his cycle In the Same Space (1976) until some 20 years later. Roberts states that he was attracted to the texts because they are prosaic, not lyrical. The resulting settings always allow the poetry to unfold very clearly in a non-tonal recitative-like manner (with a particular focus on the voice’s low register), accompanied by piano textures that are filled with subtle resonance.

Gompper was a student of Roberts at the Royal College, and it was Roberts who first introduced him to Cavafy’s writing. Shades of Love (2003) is both sinuous and dramatic, setting five of Cavafy’s poems in three focused movements.

Greek composer Katerina Stamatelos (b.1951) studied with Gompper at University of Iowa and is also active as a pianist. Muriello and Gompper commissioned her cycle Love and Terror (2009). The poem “Terror” is split into three separate songs throughout the cycle, functioning as a sort of emotional ritornello. Several songs involve extensive playing inside the piano, creating evocative folk harp-like sounds.

The songs of Richard Pearson Thomas (b.1957) are a beloved part of many singers’ repertoire. Far Off (1991) was written for baritone Tom Bogdan. Thomas’s language in his vocal works employs a cross between American tonal art song (Barber, Rorem, Hoiby) and Broadway theater song. In this cycle, he adds some evocations of Greek folk modality. Thomas’s lovely settings provide a fitting conclusion to the disc.

Collecting settings by several composers of texts by a single poet provides a very welcome way to explore the varied ways a poet’s voice can be expressed through music. Unfortunately, only one of the poems is included in the CD booklet. Performances and sound are excellent.

FANFARE: Carson Cooman

Composition Reviews: Katerina Stamatelos-Interview.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Composition Reviews: Katerina Stamatelos - Interview

Q: You have a list of awards etc. as long as my arm, do you think you have had a privileged transition through your career or do you think it has been an extremely hard journey?

A: I had a normal musical life: studied at Conservatories and Universities for many years. I had a "strict" schooling and excellent teachers. In this, I do feel "privileged". But I also had to work very hard for that. I started as a pianist and continued as a piano teacher/professor for many years, concertizing at the same time. My transition to composition was abrupt: I wrote a choral piece in Greece and it was chosen to be performed at the greatest concert hall of Thessaloniki (my home town) next to Mozart's "Requiem" and Haydn's "Symphonie Concertante". That was a shock! Having my first composition performed in front of an audience of 1,200 people!

After this, all seemed to 'flow' very naturally. I received a fellowship for the DMA degree in piano (from The University of Iowa) and started composition lessons at the same time (under a double-degree program). I changed my degree to a PhD for composition right before the comps!

Q: Your points of reference appear (to my uneducated ear) to be from the 20th Century (Dadaesque, maybe - maybe not). Would you consider yourself to belong to that 20th Century tradition or do your influences go further back?

A: My influences are very distinct: Beethoven, Bartok, Xenakis, Christou (in terms of "structural" techniques). Further influences go back to the Pythagorean theories and the tonal system of the Ancient Greeks (with the extended development of it by the Byzantine musicians).

Q: I have always felt uneasy when 'composers' try to merge traditional instrumentation with electronic synthesis, most fail (embarrassingly). How do you walk that thin line and manage not to fall off? How would you go about creating a piece that still managed to maintain a positive credibility?

A: I have only written two electronic compositions: both of them are on the CD I just released. The first one (Moods) is strictly electronic. The second one (Threnos) is a mixture of two performers (soprano-coloratura and flute) with electronic tape. I believe that the answer to your question is: "create a solid structure". To me composition is like architecture: without the "floor plans" an architect would not dare even start the design of any building-small or large. The same is true about composition (at least for me): if I do not create the structure first, I do not even attempt to write a single note.

Q: Listening to your pieces has been an absolute joy for me are they available commercially?

A: Yes, my first CD release will soon be available through itunes, Amazon, Rhapsody and Napster. The CD is titled: Threnos and Other Chamber Stories. In the meanwhile though, it is also available through my online store right now:

Threnos And Other Chamber Stories

Q: Do you have any other performances or projects in the pipeline?

A: In January 2010 a new trio (THAWST I) for flute, guitar, and violoncello will be premiered in Brazil. Then, in March, a song cycle-Love and Terror (based on poetry by Constantin Cavafy)-will be premiered at the University of Iowa. In April, a new quintet (THAWST III) for four guitars and charango will be performed in Chile. And in May, a new duo (THAWST IV) for marimba and violin will be premiered in Miami.

Update: I just wanted to "add" some info concerning my future performances: I just heard today that THAWST II (for saxophone quartet) will be performed by the AU (American University) saxophone quartet in January at the International Saxophone Symposium in Washington D.C. Actually, the info says it will be performed at the International Saxophone Symposium in January 2010-by the AU saxophone. The place might NOT be Washington, though.

Article source:

Composition Reviews On Nocturn No. 1

   If you are unfamiliar with the work of Stamatelos the Nocturns are a wonderful introduction to her work. Let me offer a brief description of no.1. The piece is an A B A’ form for cello and piano. It opens with solo cello weaving a long, languorous low register line which swells from pp to an anticlimactic pause at mf. To some degree the writing is reminiscent of Messiaen yet more subdued and less impressionistic. Enter piano in gentle harmonies around a steady axis pedal point in a neutral rhythmic setting. It will be accompanied by cello in a tremolo sul ponticello gesture in blatant disregard of its earlier melodic role. However, our composer is wise and realizes that history will not be so easily negated. In a fitting move the cello is returned to its station yet is not made to do so gently. The struggle that began so inconspicuously at the beginning of the movement is now clearly made manifest in the strained tones of the high register A string.

The forces of conciliation and rejection that had previously been distinct are now made to collide in the movements B section. There is no longer a clear separation of melody and accompaniment. Each character struggles and is by turn a variable amalgam of aggressor and subdued. Gestures are recalled, transformed but never negated. Stamatelos understands full well that she must honor the integrity of each if the struggle is to have meaning. The closing section of the work is a returning in appropriately Nietzschean fashion. Origins are briefly recalled but never literally, avoiding any sense of nostalgia. It is a quiet affirmation of the necessity of struggle for the realization of the work of art.

A wonderful work!

Edited by fpc4 on 6 Oct 2009, 14:47

Nocturn No.1: a Wiki Page on 

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