EMI Classics
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Christos Hatzis / St. Lawrence String Quartet:
AWAKENING

Contents:

String Quartet No. 1 (The Awakening)

String Quartet No. 2 (The Gathering)

Credits:
Performers:
The St. Lawrence String Quartet,
Geoff Nuttal, Barry Shiffman,
violins;
Lesley Robertson,
viola; Christopher Costanza, cello.

Executive producer: The St. Lawrence String Quartet
Project coordinator: Barry Shiffman
Producer: Theresa Leonard
Recording engineer: Mark S. Willsher
Assistant engineer: Jonathon Stevens
Digital editing & mastering: Mark S. Willsher
Recorded 15- 18 December 2004
Produced and recorded using the facilities of the Music & Sound Program at The Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta
Cover photo: Jeff Maion. Design: Sacha Davison
Session photography: Donald Lee/ The Banff Centre
Photos pp 6 & 10: Couvrette/ Ottawa
Translation: Michel Roubinet


The Inuit Throat singing samples in String Quartet No. 1 (The Awakening) were extracted from various recording sessions conducted by CBC Radio producer Keith Horner and the composer in Iqaluit and Cape Dorset, Baffin Island in June 1995. A total of eight throat singers were recorded: Angela Atagootak, Pauline Kyak, Elisha Kilabuk, Koomoo Noveyak, Eligah Maggitak, Napachie Pootoogook, Timagiak Petautassie, Haunak Mikigak. String Quartet No. 1 (The Awakening)  was commissioned by the Smith Quartet with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the London Arts Board (UK) and premiered in 1994 at the Greenwich Festival in London. String Quartet No. 2 (The Gathering) was commissioned by the St Lawrence String Quartet with funding from the Ontario Arts Council. It was premiered in 2000 by the St Lawrence Quartet for Music Toronto. An abridged version of the quartet, My Brother’s Keeper, was commissioned by Stanford Lively Arts at Stanford University in 2003, for a collaboration between the St Lawrence String Quartet and Pilobolus Dance Theater. This recording was made possible through the assistance of the Canada Music Fund and the Music Section of the Canada Council for the Arts. The St Lawrence String Quartet and the composer acknowledge the generous financial contribution of Roger D. Moore, and the administrative assistance of Music Toronto, and offer their deepest gratitude to Brandon Bayer, whose vision and expertise contributed enormously to this project.

Available in classical music CD retail stores. Release dates: March 29, 2005 in Canada and internationally, May 10, 2005 in the United States.

NO. 3—EDITOR'S PICK: SOLO AND CHAMBER MUSIC
NO. 15—TOP 25 EDITOR'S PICKS IN CLASSICAL MUSIC

WINNING RECORDS [No. 2 in Best of 2005]
THE TAMPA TRIBUNE (USA) December 18, 2005.

2006 JUNO AWARD
Classical Composition of the Year
String Quartet No. 1 (The Awakening)
 

AWAKENING nominated for a Juno Award
in the
Classical Album of the Year: Solo or Chamber Ensemble
category

REVIEWS & COMMENTS:

Inuit and Quartet

The Canadian of Greek origin Christos Hatzis (b. 1953)who is among the most important composers of his countryconceives of music not as an art of sound that is distant from reality or an aesthetic end in itself, but rather as a living means of expression, with which he communicates personal messages: his unshakeable Christian spirituality, for example, which even in the face of powerful social conflicts always preserves a belief in humanity. This attitude is also evident in both of the quartets recorded here. Hatzis’s first contribution to the genre, created in 1994 and titled “Awakening,” was inspired by his contact with the endangered culture of Canadian aboriginals. As he weaves tape recordings of Inuit singing into his own post-romantic musical language, the composer shapes a Utopia of peaceful coexistence between man and environment. The second quartet (“The Gathering”), from 2000, is in many respects comparable to its predecessor, with which it also shares motives. This work, though, is concerned with the events of the Balkan war, and joins together quite disparate stylistic influences, from Brazilian Tango to minimalism, into a very colourful, expressive mixture that occasionally sounds a bit like film music. After a powerful culminating moment of brutality, the quartet ends peacefully with an Orthodox-Christian melody. A glimmer of hope for peace in the future. Naturally this all makes for rather strong medicine: an almost placatory, confessional music that is not exactly “modern” in language, about whose aesthetic qualities one could have heated debates. In the hands of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, to whom the works are dedicated, the quartets display ample powers of persuasion.
Music ****

Sound ****

Marcus Stäbler
, FONO FORUM (Germany), December 2005. (Translation: Robin Elliot)

Christos Hatzis' life and music have been shaped by several cultural strains. Born in Greece in 1953, now living in Canada, where he teaches at the University of Toronto, his compositions have been influenced by his Byzantine heritage and "proto-Christian spirituality", American minimalism, and Canada's native Inuit "chanting and vocal games." The style is eclectic, what he calls "transnational and transdogmatic," tonal, modal, harmonically and rhythmically static, but with many build-ups and climaxes and surging and receding dynamics. There is much repetition of brief motives and longer phrases; sound effects include harmonics, erhu-like slides, wails, whispers, slashing chords, and sudden explosions. In quartet No. 1, a soundtrack representing Inuit throat singing and the noise of railway locomotives plays alongside the strings. Quartet No. 2 was inspired by the horrors of the war in former Yugoslavia, as well as that between Iran and Iraq, and includes Islamic, Middle Eastern, and Eastern Orthodox musical elements. Hatzis says that his music is "an affirmation of his faith in the divine" and a "form of exorcism against the absurdity of war and senseless violence." Hence, lengthy, calm passages of really beautiful quartet writing appear like oases amid the chaos, with lovely melodies soaring into the stratosphere on one or two instruments, often over an agitated, multilayered counterpoint. The St. Lawrence Quartet, ever-adventurous champions of living composers who commissioned the Second Quartet, plays this fiendishly difficult music superbly, with consummate technical mastery, a gorgeous tone, and total emotional commitment. Edith Eisler, STRINGS magazine August/September 2005, No. 131. 

Wonderful quartets by Greek-born Canadian composer Hatzis are given performances of compelling conviction. The first incorporates Inuit singing and locomotive sounds for a powerful statement about cultural conflict. The second, responds to the Balkans conflict, drawing on diverse musical cultures for inspiration. Engrossing and electric; highly recommended. John O'Donnell, QANTAS IN-FLIGHT MAGAZINE (Australia) December 2005.

One of the most evocative classical recordings of the year, thus far. This is immensely expressive music by a fascinating and deeply poetic Greek/Canadian composer. The string Quartet No. 1 for Quartet and Prepared Tape is full of Inuit throat singing and locomotive sounds — "A personal awakening to the richness of Canada's native cultures and how immigrant cultures like my own confronted and nearly destroyed them." It's haunting, full of rich melodic lament. No less impressive is the post-minimalist second quartet called "The Gathering." And the playing by the St. Lawrence Quartet is exceptional. J. S., CD LISTENING POST, THE BUFFALO NEWS, May 22, 2005 (USA).

Winning Records [No. 2 in Best of 2005]

Just when you think the classical recording industry has exhausted itself, reissuing Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" ad nauseam, a batch of invigorating new releases opens the ears. So today, we offer eight favorites from 2005's rich crop of compact discs, ideal stocking stuffers for the curious listener... Christos Hatzis—Awakening; St. Lawrence String Quartet (EMI). A violin paints a lament against the sound of a rumbling train, while someone utters coarse chants in the background. Hatzis' Awakening for string quartet and taped sound takes listeners on a haunting journey that juxtaposes themes of creation and destruction. The music feels like a passing thunderstorm, drenching everything before returning the world to light. Kurt Loft, THE TAMPA TRIBUNE (USA) December 18, 2005.

Christos Hatzis is what in older days would be called an “engaged artist”, a term that nowadays would raise eyebrows rather than generate unconditional support...As a Greek immigrant who ended up in Canada via the USA, Hatzis knows the feeling of homelessness like no other. In his new country he is attracted to the plea of the Inuit, whose culture is threatened with extinction. His String Quartet No. 1 (The Awakening) embodies a tormented pitting of the modern world in a devastating confrontation with the throat songs of the Inuit. The sound of a locomotive train engine not only refers to Hatzis’ youth—his father was railway engineer—but also invokes the eternal circle of progress and decline. String Quartet No. 2 (The Gathering) was inspired by the war in former Yugoslavia and incorporates Balkan melodies in a western minimalist idiom. Both quartets contain also lyrical passages, which invoke Hatzis’ belief in a more harmonious world. The musicians of the St. Lawrence String Quartet play with razor sharp intensity, and Hatzis could wish for no better interpreters of his sumptuous, passionate sound world. Thea Derks, KLASSIEKE ZAKEN Magazine (Netherlands).

In the 1980s, Steve Reich wrote a piece called Different Trains, in which the sampled voices of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and the sounds of trains – taking them to the concentration camps, or taking them to freedom – were combined with a string quartet, which sometimes imitated the samples. In the first string quartet by Christos Hatzis (b. 1953), the composer does something rather similar, albeit with different results. Hatzis, who came to Canada from Greece, was impressed by the sound of Inuit chanting and throat singing, and incorporated it into several of his works. As a child, he often rode on a locomotive – his father was a railway engineer. Both of these influences can be heard in "The Awakening." The string players are joined by a prepared tape containing both locomotive sounds and Inuit singing. The live musicians play a sort of commentary to the tape . . . or is it the tape that is commenting on the performance of the live musicians? At times, the music is motoric and harsh; it other times it is reassuring, even inspiring. It is always dramatic. At one point early in the piece, the cello "sings" a melody which Hatzis identifies as his affirmation of his faith in the Divine, "and its ability to bring balance, resolution and simplicity in the midst of the overwhelming complexity we have brought upon ourselves and others." Lest one think that "The Awakening" is a gimmick or a stunt, the second quartet "The Gathering" is for string quartet alone, and is no less powerful. Hatzis's motivation for writing this quartet was his distress over the situation in Kosovo, and of the fate of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia in general. The four movements are titled, "Awakenings," "Fleeting Moments," "Nadir" (a kind ofTotentanz initiated by shouts from the quartet's members), and "Metamorphosis." Throughout the quartet, there are allusions to musical styles typical of the Balkans and of the Middle East – a reflection of the region's diverse influences. Much of the quartet is angry and impassioned; the destructive powers of hatred and warfare are never far away. Nevertheless, Hatzis extends an olive branch at the end of the work by quoting an Eastern Orthodox melody referring to the transfiguration of Christ. Hatzis knows how the world is, but he also knows how the world could be. The second quartet was dedicated to the St. Lawrence String Quartet, an ensemble formed in 1989 in Canada. Currently, they are the ensemble in residence at Stanford University. The passion of their playing on this CD makes unfamiliar music achingly familiar. Hatzis is fortunate to have such polished and communicative players performing his music. The recording venue was the Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta, and the sound is first-rate.Raymond Tuttle, CLASSICAL NET REVIEW (USA)

Greek-born Canadian composer Christos Hatzis seems to be fairly prominent in his home country, but his music has not been heard much here. On the evidence of this engaging new disc, Hatzis' voice is muscular, probing, a little sentimental and all-embracing—there's very little in the musical landscape that he doesn't enfold into his music. In the String Quartet No. 1 (The Awakening), Hatzis joins rich string harmonies with a recorded tape of Inuit throat singers and locomotive engines; the String Quartet No. 2 (The Gathering), goes even further afield to encompass everything from Philip Glass to Balkan dance music. The result would probably sound hopelessly diffuse if not for the steely assurance with which Hatzis weaves together the disparate threads, and if not for the lush, forthright playing of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, which lends the music an irresistible sonic depth. Joshua Kosman, THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, May 22, 2005 (USA).

Legend has it that Christos Hatzis was a wandering soul until arriving in Toronto. It is undeniable that his work here in past decades has been nothing short of stupendous in beauty and sheer audacity. After Constantinople and Orbiting Garden, a lesser man might have rested on well-earned laurels. But here is the St. Lawrence Quartet's new CD on EMI and I just want to listen to it repeatedly. Quartet No. 1 (The Awakening) is powerfully connected to Canada's indigenous cultures. This evident from the opening where the four players are accompanied by a recorded accompaniment of sounds from a steam locomotive and native throat-singing. Somewhat out of step with his contemporaries, Hatzis stays in one key signature throughout the 22 minutes of this work. The mood is one of exaltation and lamentation and it achieves a great deal in the process. Quartet No. 2 (The Gathering) is also a lament, in this instance directed at the conflict in Kosovo. The notes tell us that part of this was written during the Iran-Iraq war and subsequently re-worked during the horrific bombardment of Belgrade. The quartet members show themselves masters of the scores, with fiery verve....Top marks! John S. Gray, THE WHOLE NOTE MAGAZINE,  May 1 - June 7, 2005 (Toronto-Canada)

By now, the St. Lawrence String Quartet has developed an enviable series of such relationships with such eminent composers as [R. Murray] Schafer, Osvaldo Golijov and Christos Hatzis. The quartet's latest EMI album, scheduled for release at the beginning of April, is devoted to Hatzis' String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2, the second of them commissioned by the foursome. The mere fact that such an album is appearing in these days of reduced classical recording represents both a tribute to the quartet's belief in the University of Toronto professor and a tribute as well to a great international record company's belief in the St. Lawrence Quartet....With his roots in proto-Christian spirituality, interest in world cultures and ability to mix and match musical styles, Hatzis is very much a composer of and for our time. Both quartets are multicultural musical odysseys, full of fascinating observations on the troubled age in which we live. William Littler, THE TORONTO STAR, March 26, 2005 (Canada).

Quartet No. 1 requires some explanation. Composer Christos Hatzis says of his work, "... it was composed (1994) at a time in my life which might best be described as a crossroads, musical and otherwise, and was influenced by my own personal awakening to the richness of Canada's native cultures, and to how immigrant cultures like my own (Greek) confronted and nearly destroyed them." He continues "... this encounter of civilizations is depicted in two sounds on the soundtrack that plays alongside the quartet: Inuit throat singing and railway locomotives." Of course it is necessary to know this, else the sounds one hears would be puzzling and would seem to detract rather than add to the composer's invention. His invention, I hurry to add, is quite beautiful. This is expressed most feelingly when the solo cello is heard after the opening section of the piece. Hatzis says cello's ensuing sections "are a musical affirmation of my faith in the divine and its ability to bring balance, resolution and simplicity to in the midst of the overwhelming complexity of have brought upon ourselves and others." Quartet No. 2 (premiered in 2000) was inspired by the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. And as in Quartet No. 1, we must appeal to the composer for a greater depth of meaning. He tells us, "The presence of heterogeneous stylistic elements in this piece also acts as a form of exorcism against the absurdity of war and senseless violence." One should read all of the composer's own explanations of his works that are in the liner notes with this disc. I need only add that, as usual, the splendid St. Lawrence String Quartet responds most eloquently to the demands of this sometimes-difficult music This certainly is no surprise coming from this splendid ensemble, now in residence at Stanford University in California, that, since its organization in 1989, has quickly risen to become one of the premier string quartets in North America. King Durkee, COPLEY NEWS SERVICE (USA) June 14 2005.

 

 

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