Lydia Kakabadse (b.1955 and living in London) is a special case of musical creativity that interests us directly because of her Greek origin (her grandmother came from Smyrna and settled in Athens, where her daughter – the mother of the composer – also lived) and her close relationship with our country. She speaks and writes in Greek and her compositions are influenced by folk tradition.
While her catalogue of works is limited, those of her works which appear in this recording have nevertheless provoked interest. Some of her works are conventional, others bring new and innovative ideas, whilst – mastering counterpoint perfectly – she makes wonderful use of her material by means of a high quality structure, giving a sense of the new and vibrant and captivating the listener. She places much importance on melody and rhythm. Her interests lie in musical theatre, setting music to an anthology of poems of bygone centuries, as well as choral and chamber music.
This Naxos recording includes samples of her compositions and its release was greeted with favorable comments. It contains five works, which are brilliant in respect of writing and musical ideas and are also well interpreted and recorded.
The musical drama, “The Mermaid“, is a lovely three-part work for narrator, mezzo-soprano (in the role of “Persephone”), piano and chamber ensemble (2008) based on a text by the composer and which acts as a perfect introduction to this recording.
This is followed by the descriptive “Russian Tableaux” for string quartet (2009), which sets out to depict an image of this vast country (where her father and his family originated) in the pre-revolutionary period. It accomplishes this perfectly with references to Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff.
The 4 minute only song “The Song of the Shirt” for voice and piano is a little masterpiece, written when she was a teenager (February 1971). The melancholic mood of the poem by T. Hood is ideally suited to the minor scale and use of open fifths.
The “Arabian Rhapsody Suite” for string quartet (2008) is also descriptive in character and consists of an exciting 10 minute musical journey to Morocco, influenced by Greek and oriental rhythms.
The best work of all is the magnificent 40-minute musical drama/theatre “The Phantom Listeners” for soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone only, narrator, organ, percussion and strings (2005-07), based on a poem by WaIter de la Mare. It is made up of 4 scenes and an epilogue. The intense drama dominates (organ – Christian Wilson), while the voices emotionally charge the atmosphere and the narrator keeps the connection between the musical parts. Perhaps one can identify a correlation with similar works of Elgar (“The Dream of Gerontius”), but the way it is written gives a sense of something different and modern.
I do not detect any flaws at any level and I declare immeasurable admiration for the compositions of Lydia, who does not forget her homeland, her grandmother and her mother, regardless of whether Greece has turned its back.