The nine songs and one choral work on a Divine Art recording of works by Lydia Kakabadse (born 1955) are in English and are more musically varied than those [on the Greek inspired Divine Art release DA 21233] by Petridou. 

And the sources of the texts clearly show Kakabadse’s many interests: there are words by Charlotte Brontë, Arthur Hugh Clough, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Amelia Earhart, Kakabadse herself, Thomas Hood, Thomas Hardy, John Clare, Rudyard Kipling, plus the Latin Sancte Ioseph.  These are individual songs, not a cycle, but they display certain themes that interest Kakabadse, including ghostly tales (Longfellow’s Haunted Houses and Kipling’s The Way Through the Woods); memories of long ago as another kind of ghostliness (Brontë’s The House Where I Was Born and Hood’s I Remember); and the somewhat sullied pleasures of material things (Clough’s As I Sat at the Café and Hardy’s The Ruined Maid).

Indeed, Kakabadse’s wide-ranging interests are made even clearer in Odyssey, which is a cycle, and a fascinating one, drawing not only on Homer’s tale of Odysseus’ wanderings after the Trojan War but also on material from many times in Greek history.  The seven movements of this work trace Greece from Homer’s era to today, and Kakabadse’s music reflects, to at least some extent, the forms of music in each of the seven eras: monophonic and unharmonized in “Archaic,” dramatic and intense in “Classical,” and so through “Hellenistic,” “Roman” (which uses elements of Greek Orthodox liturgy), “Byzantine,” “Post-Byzantine,” and finally “Modern” (which opens with Greece’s national anthem). 

The material of Odyssey is more specialized than that of Kakabadse’s songs and perhaps not as widely appealing: the work is a 2018 commission for the 25th anniversary of the Hellenic Institute at Royal Holloway University of London. But even listeners who are not steeped in Greek history and may not be familiar with all the texts in Kakabadse’s Odyssey will find much of the musical material intriguing, and the work as a whole does a very fine job of taking an audience through thousands of years of experience in not much more than half an hour.

Mark J Estren: Greek Heritage (December 2019)


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