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John Psathas at the NZ International Arts Festival

John Psathas at the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts

27 February, 2006

Two works by the celebrated New Zealand composer John Psathas are to be performed at the 2006 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts, New Zealand’s premier artistic showcase. Both works show the great influence that Psathas’ Greek heritage has had on his work.

On 3 March Zeibekiko (2003) will have its first performance outside of Europe. The work was commissioned by the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, who heard Psathas’ music during their visit to the 2003 Festival. On this occasion, Zeibekiko is to be performed by Wellington’s Stroma contemporary music ensemble, with the traditional Greek musicians Manos Achalinotopoulos (clarino), and Vagelis Karypis (percussion).

Conceived as an entire programme of music celebrating the heritage of Greek music from antiquity and the present day, Zeibekiko is scored for larger wind ensemble, vocalists and two traditional instrumentalists. It comprises works and arrangements by John Psathas alongside compositions by Christos Hatzis and improvisations by Achalinotopoulos, Karypis and the ensemble.

The reviewer at the UK premiere of Zeibekiko at the Bath Festival wrote that it was ‘an intoxicating collaboration…. Psathas’ own pieces balanced nostalgia with celebration.’ (The Guardian, UK)

A free pre-concert dialogue with Psathas immediately preceding the performance offers the audience a wonderful chance to hear this major international artist discuss his work.

On 10 March the New Zealand String Quartet perform Kartsigar (2004), which in fact came about as a result of the composer’s experiences during the rehearsals for Zeibekiko. Commissioned by the Wellington Chamber Music Society to write a new work, Psathas returned to recordings he had made of one of the improvised sections of Zeibekiko, during which Achalinotopoulos and Karypis performed a traditional taximi entitled Kartsigar. The subtle variations by both players of the simple underlying theme fascinated him to the extent that he took these as the basis for the two-movement quartet. The result is a work of deceptive accessibility whose rhapsodic freedom belies the challenging writing for the instrumentalists.

The New Zealand String Quartet gave the world premiere of Kartsigar in May 2005. In this Festival performance, the programme also includes works by James McMillan, Arvo Pärt and Gareth Farr.
For both performances of Kartsigar both the New Zealand String Quartet and Promethean Editions would like to acknowledge the support of the Wellington Chamber Music Society and Creative New Zealand.


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