A “very gifted and accessible composer” with “a mastery of counterpoint and a richness of ideas” (MusicWeb International), Lydia Kakabadse was born in Southport, England on 2nd September 1955 to a Russian/Georgian father and a Greek/Austrian mother and grew up in Altrincham, Cheshire. She was brought up in the Greek/Russian Orthodox faith and inherited a love of languages from her multi-lingual parents as well as a love of different genres of Western and non-Western music.
Lydia started composing at the age of thirteen and her works fall mainly into the category of chamber and choral music and include string quartets and a string duet, songs, musical dramas, a cantata, a choral work for children’s choir, a concert Requiem Mass and song cycles/hymns for unaccompanied male voices. The double bass features in nearly all of Lydia’s chamber works and her string quartets are scored for violin, viola, cello and double bass. Included in the “Archive of Classical Greek Composers” as a Greek heritage classical composer, her distinctive style “brilliant in respect of writing and musical ideas” (Jazz & Tzaz) – combines open triads and Gothic features with Middle Eastern traits and rich melody.
Beginning piano lessons at the age of five, she later studied the double bass under the late Ida Carroll OBE, Principal of the former Northern School of Music, Manchester. Lydia was educated at Altrincham County Grammar School for Girls – where a contemporary pupil was the concert pianist Penelope Roskell – and went on to read music at Royal Holloway College, University of London. She then spent several years studying, teaching (at Adult Education Centres) and performing Greek and Middle Eastern dancing, the rhythmic and melodic features of which permeate her creative writing. This is evidenced in a number of her works, most notably the Arabian Rhapsody Suite – “its rhythms and phrasing evoked the exotic sounds of Marrakesh” (Eastern Daily Press). In the summer of 1985, Lydia made brief appearances on TV as a dancer (as well as a comedy related appearance) on LWT’s “The Six O’Clock Show”.
“Clearly a compulsive overachiever” (The Chronicle), Lydia decided in the early 1990’s to finance her compositions, concerts and many music/dance projects by working as a lawyer. She felt that law and composition were compatible, insofar as both are prescribed and creative in their own way. After qualifying as a solicitor, gaining a Master of Law degree (with distinction) in the process, she worked mainly part-time as a commercial solicitor. The only legal work, which Lydia carries out these days, is very occasional pro bono work for charities and music/education establishments.
Inspiration for her compositions has been drawn from a number of diverse sources such as mediaeval and Middle Eastern music, Greek & Russian Orthodox liturgical traditions as well as mysteries and poets of the Romantic era (1800 – 1850). Her earlier vocal works are generally set to texts which are emotionally rich, dramatic, or contain an air of mystery. Texts to The Mermaid and an earlier song Recitativo Arioso (later adapted for string quartet) were written by Lydia herself, as was the Latin text to The Phantom Listeners. Latin was one of the “A” level subjects, which Lydia took at school and her love of Latin language/literature has continued throughout her adult life. Her later vocal works, which are set to sacred Latin texts, include The Spectre of the Maiden Scorned, Cantica Sacra (which also includes a sacred Greek text), Kontakia and Theotokia. In Spectre of the Maiden Scorned, Lydia made grammatical and antonymous changes to the Latin text of Dies Irae in order to achieve the dramatic story line. The Greek & Russian Orthodox liturgical traditions are a major influence on these sacred choral works.
Of Lydia’s early compositions, only The Song of the Shirt “a little masterpiece” (Jazz & Tzaz) written when she was 15 for her younger sister Juliet, is still performed today in its original form. All other early compositions have either been revised, adapted or disregarded.
Her CD, entitled The Phantom Listeners – “music is so instantly appealing” (Music Web International) – containing a selection of her chamber works, was released in May 2011 under the Naxos label and was well received.
In recent years, a selection of Lydia’s works has been performed at Ely Cathedral, St. John’s Smith Square London, Grosvenor House London, Norwich Cathedral – “Composer is present to hear her work played to perfection” (Eastern Daily Press) – and the Chapel of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge. Her choral work Cantica Sacra was premiered in February 2014 by the Choir of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge under the directorship of Dr Geoffrey Webber.
Her music is played on BBC Radio 3 and her string quartet Russian Tableaux was included in BBC Radio 3’s playlist to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March 2015. This work was also played at the Third Hildegard Festival of Women in the Arts (26 – 29 March 2015) at California State University. In the same month, Lydia was commissioned by Forest School (Altrincham) to write a short choral work (I Remember) for the Bellevue Education Northern Music Festival 2016, held at the Royal Northern College of Music. I Remember was premiered there in April 2016 by the Forest School Choir.
In early August 2015 Lydia completed an album of sacred/liturgical choral works – entitled Cantica Sacra – made up of Spectre of the Maiden Scorned (concert Requiem Mass), Cantica Sacra (liturgical song cycle), Kontakia (Lenten hymns)and Theotokia (Marian hymns). This album was recorded the following month at St Jude-on-the-Hill, London by the Alumni of the Choir of Clare College Cambridge under the directorship of Graham Ross and was released under the Divine Art label in May 2016. This “highly recommended disc” (Music for Several Instruments) has been critically acclaimed – “Lydia Kakabadse is a phenomenon and a virtual reincarnation of an early music master” (Gapplegate Classical Modern Music).
A new album of Lydia’s chamber works – entitled Concertato – was recorded at St. Paul’s Church, New Southgate, London on 27th – 29th June 2016 by the chamber ensemble sound collective together with Jess Dandy (mezzo soprano) and was released by Divine Art on 17th February 2017. The album is made up of string quartets (The Coachman’s Terror, Dance Sketches, Cantus Planus and Recitativo Arioso + Variations), a duet for cello and double bass (Concertato) and two songs for mezzo-soprano and string quartet (Spellbound and Eldorado).
As well as working on a new choral album, Lydia has been commissioned by the Hellenic Institute at Royal Holloway (University of London) to write a choral work for mixed choir in celebration of the Hellenic Institute’s 25th anniversary in 2018. Her work will be performed by The Choir of Royal Holloway in the College Chapel on 27th October 2018.