ECM New Series Releases Konstantia Gourzi - Anájikon - on April 30, 2021

Hommage à Mozart three dialogues for viola and piano: Nils Mönkemeyer, viola; William Youn, piano

Ny-él, Two Angels in the White Garden for Orchestra: Lucerne Academy Orchestra, Konstantia Gourzi, conductor

Anájikon, The Angel in the Blue Garden String Quartet No. 3:

Minguet Quartett: Ulrich Isfort, violin; Annette Reisinger, violin; Tony Nys, viola; Matthias Diener, violoncello


ECM New Series 2545 Release Date: April 30, 2021

Anájikon, the second ECM album by Athens-born and Munich-based Konstantia Gourzi, incorporates her chamber and orchestral music of the past decade. The composer also conducts the Lucerne Academy Orchestra here: "I see composing and conducting as a whole, as an inseparable relationship," she says. Gourzi is particularly concerned with making connections between the arts, which also relates to the question of her own artistic identity and the influence of her origins. In Gourzi's sound language, elements of different musical traditions repeatedly merge, and East and West enter into a dialogue.

In two of the featured works there are connections to the visual arts: her Third String Quartet Anájikon and her orchestral piece Ny-él are part of a series of works on the theme of angels. Inspired by artworks by friends, they seek not to interpret them musically, but to approach them sonically, to bring them to life. Most of Gourzi’s angel compositions have freely invented names as well as a colour assigned to them, reflecting the sound energy of the piece. Anájikon, the Angel in the Blue Garden, was written in 2015 for the Minguet Quartet and as the first composition in this series of works. It was inspired by the bronze sculpture Angel I by Berlin artist Alexander Polzin.

The three movements (The Blue Rose, The Blue Bird, The Blue Moon), seem to span a wide space. This impression is created by a music at peace with itself, which consciously distances itself from the "usual contemporary sound sequences and patterns" (Gourzi) and instead relies on consonance and concise melodies and exerts an almost hypnotic pull. In the first movement, with its chorale-like sections, the four instruments can sing themselves out soloistically over a steady eighth-note pulse. The second movement is characterized by solos from the viola and cello, until finally individual motif splinters are woven into a rhythmically free sound field of the entire quartet. In the final The Blue Moon, the sounds evoke the bright and the dark sides of the earth's satellite (The bright side - The turning - The dark side).

Konstantia Gourzi premiered her orchestral piece Ny-él, two Angels in the White Garden, commissioned by the Lucerne Festival, in August 2016 with the orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy, founded by Pierre Boulez. The score is dedicated to the memory of Boulez and Claudio Abbado. The vanishing point of the four short movements, which form a narrative unity and were also inspired by a work by Alexander Polzin (Double Angel, 2014), is the final White Garden with its quintessential final chords bathed, as it were, in radiant white ("religious, very warm" is the score instruction). This is reached via the stations Eviction, Exodus and Longing.

In contrast to Anájikon, an extensive percussion section provides strong rhythmic impulses, especially at the beginning with its conflict between archaic percussion and the plaintive cantilenas of the strings and woodwinds. The shimmering, atmospherically dense orchestral colors also result from the use of unusual playing techniques (from strong exhalations and flutter-tonguing in the wind instruments to the use of rubber balls played on the body of the string instruments) and from aleatoric elements through which the instrumentalists "find their way into an individual tonal design."

A very different connection between "the past and the now" is explored in Hommage à Mozart, three Dialogues, a 2014 commission for Nils Mönkemeyer and William Youn. The composition seems tailor-made for Mönkemeyer's sonorous, sometimes shadowy, sometimes radiant, but always singing viola tone. The three meditative "dialogues" trace Gourzi's relationship to Mozart without making use of individual direct quotations or allusions to Mozart's music. The single motif of the theme, initially performed by the viola solo, is developed in variations, and the viola's floating cantilenas, sometimes sounding as if improvised, are accompanied by weightlessly dabbed piano sounds, up to dancing eighth notes by the pianist. The composer is concerned with moods explored in the dialogue between the two instruments, with "a feeling, a certain aura - what Mozart triggers in me sonically at the moment," says Gourzi. "[...] I feel Mozart and his music as energy and let it guide me."

Konstantia Gourzi studied piano, composition and conducting in Athens and Berlin. Always searching for new performance concepts for contemporary music, Gourzi initiated new concert series and founded various ensembles such as attacca berlin, ensemble echo, ensemble oktopus and opus21musikplus. She writes commissioned compositions for renowned soloists, ensembles and festivals, such as Lucerne Festival, Grafenegg Festival, hr-Sinfonieorchester, Bamberger Symphoniker, Bavarian State Opera, Athens State Orchestra and many more. She lives in Munich, where she has been a professor at the Munich University of Music and Theatre since 2002.

Anájikon is preceded by the album Music for piano and string quartet (ECM New Series 2309), which presented the composer's work for the first time. UK magazine Gramophone described the album as "An absorbing introduction to an eminently worthwhile composer."

CD booklet includes liner notes by Paul Griffiths.

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