CONSTANTINIDES Violin Concertos No. 1,1 2,2 33 • 1Simos Papanas, 2Espen Lilleslåtten, 3Yova Milanova (vn); 1, 2Dinos Constantinides, 3Carlos Riazuelo, cond; 1, 2Louisiana Snf; 3LSU Philharmonia • MAGNI 21004 (50:14)
Several discs of the music of Dinos Constantinides have brought forth positive critical comment from the present writer: This one is no exception. The First Violin Concerto (premiered in 1995) holds an expressive first movement, (“Patterns I”) with long cantabile lines given with passion and beauty of tone by Simos Papanas. This movement was composed for the 1989–90 Promenade Concert Series by the Montgomery Performing Arts Company; the finale (“Patterns II”) was composed in 1995, the central “Idyll” in 1994. Intentionally of Romantic bent, the concerto appears gratefully written for the soloist. Thessaloniki-born violinist Papanas shows his mettle in the “Idyll,” where he is very aware that this is no mere pastoral scene. There are distinct threatening undercurrents, held in check perhaps but always there, and it is this friction that gives the music its effectiveness. The shadows become more explicit in “Patterns II.” There seems a close connection between Papanas and the composer/conductor. The ensemble, especially in the finale, is notably tight. A recording of this piece by these participants listed as “live” in Fanfare 34:4; this is a studio recording made at Louisiana State University (the present disc was put down during 2012–13).
The Second Concerto is described by the composer as “a fun piece” set in four movements (“Prologue,” Swift, Tranquil, and Lively). There are tantalizing “near quotes” of Romantic pieces to titillate the listener, but there is more to this music than that, particularly the simply gorgeous slow movement (Tranquil). A different soloist (Espen Lilleslåtten) has all the expressive power required here, and he seems to be even more attuned to the shadowy side of Constantinides than Papanas was.
The Third Concerto is slightly confusingly billed as “Kafantaris Violin Concerto No. 3,” so that it almost looks like Constantinides is sharing disc space with another composer. None of it: Stelios Kafantaris is a Greek violinst and colleague early on of Constantinides and it is for him that this short one-movement concerto is written, as an homage. Constantinides derives themes from Kafantaris’s name, along with those of two other musicians who conducted the Little Orchestra of Athens, Hatzidakis and Theodorakis. The work is dark and expressive, a mere 13:33 in length and split into four sections (Introduction, “Moto perpetuo,” “Song,” “Finale”). Yova Milanova boasts an appropriately dark tone. In terms of depth of expression, this is certainly the finest work by Constantinides the present writer has so far encountered. Colin Clarke
This article originally appeared in Issue 38:3 (Jan/Feb 2015) of Fanfare Magazine.