TROUBADISC Music Production
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TROUBADISC composers

Nikos Skalkottas


“Orpheus tunes his lyre atonally"    Nicolas Slominsky

The Greek composer was born in Khalkis on the island of Ewoia (Chalcis, Euboea) on 8 March 1904.

He received his first music lessons from his uncle Kostas at the age of five. Like the two members of the “Group des Six,” Honegger and Milhaud, he initially learned to play the violin. Skalkottas continued his musical studies from 1921 onwards in Berlin, where he sporadically attended the classes of such opposed theoreticians as Robert Kahn, Paul Juon and Kurt Weill before going on study with a student of Busoni Philipp Jarnach from 1925 to 1927.

Skalkottas deepened and completed his compositional studies between 1927 and 1931 under Arnold Schoenberg at the Prussian Academy of the Arts in Berlin. His friends in Schoenberg’s master class included the brothers Walter and Rudolph Goehr, Norbert von Hannenheim, Wilfried Zillig and his compatriot Dimitri Mitropoulos, who would very soon become famous for his conducting.

At this juncture in his life, however, the hitherto happy and sociable student who had managed to earn a living by playing the violin in coffee houses and cinemas became profoundly depressed, withdrew completely as a result of a deep personal crisis and composed very little.

Skalkottas did not begin to develop again at the creative level until 1935, having returned to Greece and fought against his artistic isolation by composing numerous works.

After a lengthy period as violinist at various state orchestras, he died on September 19, 1949 in Athens, where his atonal music had attracted little attention.

He left more than 150 unpublished works, including several concertos, two symphonic suites and numerous chamber-music works. Many of them manifest how successfully Skalkottas succeeded in combining Greek folk-music with the twelve-note technique he had learned from Schoenberg and expressive elements from Alban Berg.

”In 1933, after six years of rich activity, Skalkottas left Berlin (although in no way compelled, as he was not Jewish) and returned to Athens temporarily, as he thought, leaving his music and manuscripts behind. Most of these compositions disappeared, for he never returned. One can imagine Skalkottas’ feelings in the Athens of 1933, where Brahms and Wagner represented the avant?garde even for serious music lovers, and where he could not possibly hope for any understanding of his work. Under this strain and without the vital background of Berlin, he seemed, for nearly two years, to be possessed by a persecution complex; he withdrew to a darkened room and did not write a single note.”
George Hadjinikos in: The Listener 75, 1966

Judit Alsmeier: "Komponieren mit Tönen",
Nikos Skalkottas und Schönbergs "Komposition mit zwölf Tönen"
PFAU-Verlag, Saarbrücken, 2001. 


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(28.01.2015 - 20:27 Uhr)

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Nikos Skalkottas 1938