Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents The Music of Dinos Constantinides in Review

Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents The Music of Dinos Constantinides in Review

Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents The Music of Dinos Constantinides
Featured Artists: Yova Milanova, Mariana Todorova, violins; Sandra Moon, soprano; Maria Asteriadou, piano; Athanasios Zervas, Jeremy Justeson, saxophones
Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
February 21, 2017

 

Greek-born Dinos Constantinides is the head of Composition and Music Director of the Louisiana Sinfonietta at Louisiana State University. He is presently Boyd Professor, the highest academic rank at LSU.   Mr. Constantinides has composed over 300 works, including six symphonies, two operas, and music for a wide variety of instruments and voices, and has a long list of prizes won and excellent reviews worldwide. His writing style is all-encompassing, from the simplest of forms to the ultra-complex, and from the strictly tonal to the acerbically atonal and serial. He is especially adept in his use of Greek influences, such as Greek poetry from both ancient and modern sources, and Greek modal harmony. With the help of six exceptionally talented colleagues, his audience was privy to a broad survey of his varied style, in nine works. This concert was the ninth occasion that Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) has presented the music of Mr. Constantinides.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way. Very often, concerts of this type (survey of a composer with a long career), try to offer as many works as possible to cover all periods, etc. The net effect is a concert that is overly long, an unfortunate thing, as those persons without the stamina to endure often miss out on works they probably would have enjoyed. In today’s world, with people’s shortened attention spans, it is imperative to consider this in programming works.

Now, let’s move on to positive things. Mr. Constantinides is a master of form, and I am sure his composition students benefit greatly from his expertise. In particular, it is his Greek-influenced works that stand above the rest, as if they are a natural extension of his being. It was those works that took from Greek themes that this listener found to be the most compelling.

The six featured artists were all superb interpreters of Mr. Constantinides’s compositions. We heard violinists Yova Milanova and Mariana Todorova, soprano Sandra Moon, pianist Maria Asteriadou, and saxophonists Athanasios Zervas and Jeremy Justeson. While it would be beyond the scope of this review to speak of each piece, I would like to offer highlights of each performer. Ms. Milanova offered a nuanced reading of Four Interludes for Violin Alone, LRC 136. Lazy Jack and His Fiddle, LRC 199, with its virtuosic demands, was tossed off by Ms. Todorova with panache. Ms. Milanova and Ms. Todorova joined together in a light-hearted reading of the charming Family Triptych for Two Violins, LRC 182I. Ms. Moon was a force in Listenings and Silences for Voice Alone, LRC111, with text from the prominent African-American poet Pinkie Gordon Lane (1923-2008). Ms. Asteriadou played the 2016 arrangement of Dreams, Earth, and Heaven, LRC101, with great understanding, bringing out the various Greek influences, ancient and modern, with devotion. The clever interplay of Music for Two Saxophones, LRC 173d was realized with consummate skill by Mr. Zervas (soprano sax) and Mr. Justeson (tenor sax), in what was a fun end to the concert.

 

At the end, Mr. Constantinides joined his colleagues on the stage to offer them his congratulations. He spoke in a humble fashion to the audience, thanking all, including LSU officials, for their support. It was quite touching to witness. It was then announced by one of the LSU officials in attendance that the composer and his wife had endowed a Dinos Constantinides New Music Ensemble, a continuing legacy of his fifty-three years (and counting- he’s still going strong at age 87!) at LSU. Congratulations, Mr. Constantinides, and may you have another fifty-three years of music making!

 


Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents “The Oracle at Delphi”: The Music of Dinos Constantinides in Review

Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents “The Oracle at Delphi”: The Music of Dinos Constantinides in Review

Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents “The Oracle at Delphi”: The Music of Dinos Constantinides
Margaret O’Connell, mezzo-soprano; Lin He, violin; Robert DiLutis, clarinet; Michael Gurt, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
November 22, 2014
 

If my Greek philosophy serves me right, the inscription over the entrance to the oracle at Delphi proclaimed its most important maxim before the seeker even entered to ask his real question. That saying, “Know thyself,” aptly describes Greek-American composer Dinos Constantinides. He knows his heritage, style, and compositional craft very well. In this all-Constantinides program, he was privileged to have four extremely capable, committed, and evidently enthusiastically involved artists to bring his works to life. They are all faculty members of Louisiana State University, where he is Boyd Professor, the highest academic rank.

Constantinides’ work is conservative, approachable, and generally tonal. He exemplifies Hindemith’s saying “There are only twelve tones, we must treat them with care.” It is gratifying to find a composer in academia who is not writing serially, but is mining the simple expressive power of the twelve half-tones of our traditional chromatic scale. His hallmarks are: motific unity and good, audible counterpoint, pleasing instrumental sonorities, and a mix of lyricism and jauntiness, even humor. The novice listener can follow the discourse immediately without disorientation.

The first work, Mountains of Epirus, dedicated to the memory of his mother and father, established his general processes, with clear counterpoint in the “At the Village” movement, and a lively motoric seven meter in the “Country Fair” second movement. It was beautifully played, by violinist Lin He and pianist Michael Gurt. Glimpses of modal melodies peek through, though they are probably not quotes, but original outgrowths of his immersion in native folklore. Next came the Midnight Fantasy II for clarinet and piano, whose genesis owes to a small cluster of notes from a Nat King Cole song. The brilliant clarinetist Robert DeLutis, again partnered by Mr. Gurt, conveyed the “musiques nocturnes” feeling well.

Lazy Jack and His Fiddle for unaccompanied violin has the air of a children’s piece, indeed it is based on a children’s tale, but few children would ever be able to negotiate its virtuosic demands. Here, the motific unity lends strength to what might be a lighter, “occasional” sort of piece. The slothful fiddler amuses us by mistaking A-Flat for the last note of a piece in G, then the other way around, before conclusively resolving in G. Transformations for clarinet and piano showed an uncanny unanimity of ensemble between the two players; they were no longer separate, but “one instrument” in thought, execution, and feeling. The endings of movements were transfixing.

Listenings and Silences was the concluding work on the first half, sung unaccompanied by the expressive mezzo-soprano Margaret O’Connell. It is based on poems or poem fragments by the former Poet Laureate of Louisiana, Pinkie Gordon Lane (1923-2008). Ms. Lane’s quietly expressive take on race issues (which earned her no favors with the more militant black community) was evident in the first section “A Quiet Poem,” which was sung with just enough gesture by Ms. O’Connell. “Poem Extract” and “Listenings” were also delivered well, though an unaccompanied voice is so very exposed, a few of the words were lost as she ascended into the upper reaches of her otherwise rich voice.

After intermission, Ms. O’Connell returned for another solo work Delphic Hymn, whose origin was incidental music for a production of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. This was a wordless vocalise, and since no one really knows what Greek music from the second century BC actually sounded like, the claim that it incorporates fragments from the actual antique Delphic Hymn can’t be substantiated. But the work does have atmosphere, although its dimensions were too slight to contain the full horror and anguish of the Oedipus drama.

Music for Violin and Clarinet contained rapid interchanges between the instruments, as they negotiated Prologue, Dialogue, Monologues I and II, and an Epilogue. There was humor here, as the clarinet got the “last word” in during the Dialogue. Fantasia for Solo Clarinet showcased the tonal color range of the marvelous Mr. DiLutis. Idyll, for violin and piano, followed. In my understanding, an idyll is an extremely happy, peaceful, or picturesque episode or scene, often an idealized, unsustainable one. This work seemed rather unhappy, meandering through a number of minor keys before finding some sense of resolution.

The final work, The Oracle at Delphi, is scored for the unusual trio combination of violin, clarinet, and piano. The work is based on a modal Greek “folk-like” tune which is developed among the players, reflecting Constantinides’ heritage. His music does not shout at you. It is sensitive, and this work tended to “withdraw” at the end, making a somewhat somber ending for a very honorable afternoon.


The Music of Dinos Constantinides in Review

The Music of Dinos Constantinides
Louisiana State University Soloists
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
Presented by DCINY
November 30, 2012

 

The music of the Greek-American composer Dinos Constantinides is outstanding. He is truly original, in that he combines a Greek folk music or tradition with 20th century influences. “Theme and Variations for Piano on a Greek Tune” is one such example. Michael Gurt, pianist, played with both precision and affection. “Fantasia for Stelios and Yiannis” for violin and viola, LRC 244 was also lovingly played—and with real virtuosity by Renata Arado, violinist, and Espen Lilleslatten, violist. “Delphic Hymn” made for another wonderful contrast by Constantinides. The sound of the saxophone and guitar was a unique combination to begin with, but the writing was unusually colorful and expressive. Griffin Campbell on saxophone and Ronaldo Cadeu on guitar were a remarkable pairing. The percussive knocks on the guitar added a unique flavor—almost like a third instrument—and the saxophone’s soaring melodies made for an impressive contrast.

 Other notable listings on the program were “Mutability Fantasy” –this time scored for alto saxophone and piano, and “Hellenic Musings” for violin, soprano sax and piano. “Sappho Songs” were unique in the way Sappho’s poetry was set to music. It is simply amazing that the Greek poetess, Sappho, was born so many years ago–on the island of Lesbos in the 7th century BC. She is often considered the greatest lyric poet of antiquity, writing on such subjects as love, nature and friendship. Her work survives in fragments, yet Constantinides found a way to make it work.

Constantinides’ compositions have been performed throughout the US, Europe and Asia by prestigious ensembles including the American Symphony Orchestra in New York, the Memphis and New Orleans Symphony, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic and the Athens State Orchestra. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including several Meet the Composer grants, as well as yearly ASCAP Standard Awards. In 1994, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars honored him with a Distinguished Teacher Award. He has written over 250 compositions, most of them published. He has been the Director of the Louisiana State University Festival of Contemporary Music for 22 years, and he earned Artist of the Year Award of Louisiana. He is presently Boyd Professor, the highest academic rank at Louisiana State University, head of the Composition area, and Music Director of the Louisiana Sinfonietta. His music deserves to be heard often—and in important cities and arenas.