(original artwork by Louisa Varalta)

PARLOR MUSIC is a collection of  short pieces of chamber music invoking popular music idioms predominant during the first half of the twentieth century. Some pieces have been composed specifically for this collection, while others are drawn from other existing works (such as Christos' multimedia work CONSTANTINOPLE). Score and parts available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.

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Following is a description of each work in this collection:

AFTERTHOUGHTS 2
LAZY AFTERNOONS BY THE LAKE

THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
CRUEL ELEGANCE
PARLOR MUSIC
OLD PHOTOGRAPHS
DANCE OF THE DICTATORS
AFTERTHOUGHTS 1


AFTERTHOUGHTS 2 for flute, vibraphone and piano. 2007. Duration: 5 minutes.

Afterthoughts II is part of a cycle of chamber music pieces collectively known as Parlor Music, which draw their inspiration from popular music idioms of the first half of the twentieth century. Like its predecessor, Afterthoughts I for piano trio, this particular work was inspired by the music of the jazz era, particularly the fusion of jazz with the Latin American tango.


LAZY AFTERNOONS BY THE LAKE for clarinet, marimba and piano. 2007. Duration: 7 minutes.

Lazy Afternoons by the Lake is part of a cycle of chamber music pieces collectively known as Parlor Music, which draw their inspiration from popular music idioms of the first half of the twentieth century. This particular work was inspired by lazy afternoons spent at Woodlake, in southern Ontario with our friends Nikos and Reggie Evdemon and by the artistry of clarinetist James Campbell and marimbist Beverley Johnston who gave the first performance of the work in August 2007 at the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ontario.


THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY for piano. 2005. Duration: 10:15 minutes.

Borrowing its title from the famous description of worldly versus spiritual vision by St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians (“for now we see through a glass darkly but then face to face”—1 Corinthians 13:12 ), Through a Glass Darkly was composed during the late spring of 2005 after a request by the young virtuoso pianist Jennifer Lim. About a week before embarking on the composition of the work, I had watched the feature film The Notebook by Nick Cassavetes based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, a love story about loss of one’s memory, and it got me thinking about how memory and identity are interconnected, but also about the different kinds of memory and the different kinds of memory retention—physical, mental, spiritual—the latter kind being the only one which I believe survives the grave and becomes part of our continuing journey through the universe. These thoughts in combination with a series of afflictions that affected close and extended family members and friends at about the same time (some of them having to do with memory retention) had put me in an emotional situation, in which I very rarely find myself: one of quiet desperation and helplessness, which has influenced the character of this work significantly.

The original intention was that Through a Glass Darkly would be the concluding piece of a cycle of works based on lighter musical influences collectively titled Parlor Music. Parlor Music is a lighthearted trip down memory lane. True to the uncomplicated nostalgia prevalent in this cycle, Through a Glass Darkly begins in the typical Parlor Music style. Almost as soon as the music starts, however, the listener becomes aware that this trip is not going to be pure indulgence. Wrong harmonic turns at the end of phrases, memory slips, starting a new phrase in the wrong key and then adjusting afterwards; all of these harmonic dysfunctions reveal a failing memory, the failings of which intensify as the work progresses. Sometimes there are unexpected atonal (mostly twelve-tone) outbursts in the midst of what is otherwise tonal music. It is almost as if the ‘wiring’ of physical memory becomes occasionally conspicuous, as opposed to the subjective quality one usually associates with this term. All of this creates musical and dramatic tension and soon the music is in a much darker space than where it began. At one of the climaxes of this tension, the maximal music gives way to a very still, minimal counterpart reminiscent of the music of Philip Glass (the title is also a pun referring to this stylistic indebtness). In the end, after a series of jagged juxtapositions of twelve tone rows, minimalist fragments, and Liszt-like statements of the main theme, the music reaches an abrupt end with a brief (almost too brief) statement of the opening tonality following a violent tone cluster. The pompous ending is in my mind just a different kind of darkness. Even though it ends in D major, just like it started, there is no real conclusion to this work, nor could there be, given the path that was chosen to be traversed.

Most of my music during the late 1990’s and 2000’s is concerned with spirituality, religion and with human beings trying to understand each other and the forces that shape human destiny by searching below the surface of everyday life. In this sense, the works of Parlor Music, popular as many of them have become over the years, are the exception to this rule. As the concluding work in this cycle, Through a Glass Darkly is a critique and a culmination point of the preceding works. It seems to say that earlier, seemingly “innocent” pleasures must be accounted for, physically and/or spiritually, either through the law of Karma or the law of Grace; that the innocent pleasures and indulgencies of our youth become an accumulated debt that must be met individually and collectively somehow; that acknowledgement of the fall is the beginning of Grace. In this latter sense, Through a Glass Darkly is a public acknowledgement on my part—a confession, if you like—of my own spiritual failings through the course of this lifetime.



CRUEL ELEGANCE for string quartet. 2004. Duration: 5 minutes.

Cruel Elegance is part of a collection of short, light, chamber music works collectively titled Parlor Music. These works are meant to be performed either as part of a regular chamber music concert or as ‘encore’ pieces. They are gifts to friends who over the years have performed my music extensively and the St. Lawrence Quartet is such a group. Even though most of these pieces are tangos or are based on dance forms similar to the tango, they are also means of exploring ideas about idiomatic writing for particular instrumental combinations. Invariably they are virtuosic and challenging to the players while at the same time very accessible for the listeners.

The title of the present piece refers to the relentless—almost inhuman—investment of energy on stage in order to reveal the kind of beauty that is not possible any other way, a quality that is increasingly associated with St. Lawrence String Quartet performances worldwide. The title also refers to vague memories from my childhood, a world ruled by a ruthless dictatorship and populated with adults who spoke and danced elegantly but whose thinly veiled predatory urges and exchanges within and without the dance filled me with fascination and fear. Even to the present day, tango has remained for me this mix of elegance and cruelty; attraction and repulsion; desire and exploitation. It is a dance that embodies the best and the worse in us and as such it is a microcosm of life itself.

Premiere performance: May 30, 2007, 7:00 PM. The Super Nova Quartet (Mark Fewer, Jonathan Crow, violins; Douglas McNabney, viola; Denise Djokic, cello). Scotia Festival of Music. Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia.


PARLOR MUSIC for vibraphone, clarinet, cello, piano. 2004. Duration: 7 minutes.

Created for percussionist Beverley Johnston and the Amici ensemble (Joaquin Valdepeñas, clarinet; David Hetherington, cello; Patricia Parr, piano), Parlor Music is a dance piece with clear references to Astor Piazzola and mid-twentieth century jazz, among other things. There are two predominant moods in the piece. In the first half there is melancholy and introspection, like with the woman in the beautiful drawing by Louisa Varalta by the same title. Here the dance movement becomes at times almost completely internalized, particularly where the vibraphone with its evocative pitch bends and the accompanying music draw the listener inwards. At other times the soft dance rhythms, instead of drawing the dancer on her feet only help to add to the loneliness and stillness of the moment. In the second half, there is a very short musical "invitation" and the dance suddenly begins. It is still driven by a manic energy rather than pleasure and it ends as abruptly as it began.

Premiere performance: November 26 2004, 8:00 PM. Beverley Johnston, vibraphone; The Amici Ensemble (Joaquin Valdepeñas, clarinet; David Hetherington, cello; Patricia Parr, piano). Amici Concerts; Glenn Gould Studio; Toronto, ON.


OLD PHOTOGRAPHS for violin, cello piano. 2000. Duration: 10:30 minutes.

0ld Photographs is a movement for piano trio alone from the multimedia music theatre work Constantinople, scored for mezzo~soprano, Middle Eastern singer (alto) violin, violoncello, piano and digital audio and visual media. Commissioned by the Gryphon Trio with support from Music Canada 2000, the Woodlawn Foundation and the Laidlaw Foundation, the music component of the work was premiered at Music TORONTO on October 17, 2000. Within the context of Constantinople, 0ld Photographs provides an antidote to the heartrending intensity of several of the work's other movements. Unlike the rest of the movements in Constantinople, Old Photographs is totally based on western musical idioms and starts with an introspective theme for solo piano stylistically reminiscent of the music of Robert Schumann. As the work progresses the violin and cello enter and the music begins to slowly drift stylistically away from the classical/romantic mould of the opening and towards early 20th century popular idioms reminiscent of Astor Piazzola's music. As a stand-alone work, Old Photographs has enjoyed a life of its own, independent from the larger work to which it belongs: The Gryphon Trio has performed it either as a regular program item or as an encore in most of their concert performances since its premiere and audiences have responded to it spontaneously and enthusiastically ever since. During a Gryphon Trio tour in Key West, Florida, audiences traveled from one concert venue to the next for an opportunity to hear the work again, a rare phenomenon in contemporary music. Thanks to the Gryphon Trio's commitment, Old Photographs is one of my most frequently performed works.

Old Photographs has also been arranged for two pianos by composer Erik Ross for the Anagnoson-Kinton duo, and for flute, cello and piano by Christian Meininger for the Meininger Trio.

Premiere performance: October 17 2000, 8:00 PM. The Gryphon Trio (Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin; Roman Borys, cello; Jamie Parker, piano). Music Toronto. Jane Mallett Theatre; St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts; Toronto, ON.


DANCE OF THE DICTATORS for violin, cello piano. 2003. Duration: 7 minutes.

Like 0ld Photographs, Dance of the Dictators is a movement for piano trio alone from the multimedia music theatre work Constantinople. In the context of the larger work, this movement was an afterthought: it was written three years after the rest of the music of Constantinople was completed. It is a tango similar to the second half of Old Photographs that follows a couple of movements later. It was included partly to balance Old Photographs—a stylistically "odd" movement in the original version of the work—but also to bridge a semantic gap between Ah Kalleli and On Death and Dying, the place where originally was to be an intermission in the performance. Dance of the Dictators was inspired by my own memories of adolescence (members of the ruling junta preaching cultural nationalism and then dancing tangos during leisure time) and by the "dancing" strategies of attempting to sway public opinion by Sadam Hussein and the Coalition leaders during the weeks preceding the 2003 war in Iraq.  

Premiere performance: August 2003. The Gryphon Trio (Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin; Roman Borys, cello; Jamie Parker, piano). Constantinople workshop. Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, Banff, AB.


AFTERTHOUGHTS 1 for violin, cello piano. 2002. Duration: 6:30 minutes.

Yet another work for the Gryphon Trio, Afterthoughts 1 consists of six different "orchestrations" of a basic tune, starting with a tango-like harmonization, moving through jazz and finally ending up with a rather technically difficult setting in a style which draws heavily from the classical concert music of that era. It was written at a time when the Gryphon Trio was touring performing Old Photographs almost everywhere, either as a program item or as an encore. The new work was intended as an eventual replacement of Old Photographs in the Gryphon Trio programs. As it happened, Dance of the Dictators came along a year later and that became the 'replacement' pieces instead, Afterthoughts 1 remaining in the sidelines for a while.

Premiere performance: TBA.


Reviews and Comments

Gryphon Trio captures the moment

Halifax audiences are no strangers to the extraordinary music of Christos Hatzis. He has found a way to transfigure the idioms and imagery of music of the past with a fully contemporary imagination that grasps the nettle of new music with a firm, unapologetic grip and wrings a strange and compelling beauty out of it. Hatzis is the 2007 Scotia Festival of Music composer-in-residence. He attended the opening concert Monday night in the Sir James Dunn Theatre to hear, not for the first time, the Gryphon Trio play his Old Photographs, a movement from a larger multi-media work called Constantinople. Regrettably, for many reasons, not the least being the stunning performance of Old Photographs by the Gryphon Trio who commissioned the work, Halifax has not had the good fortune to hear and see Constantinople in its entirety. Violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon, cellist Roman Borys and pianist Jamie Parker have been touring internationally since 1993. Their musical polish, insight and artistic sparkle are without equal in the world of piano trios. Monday night showed us, again, why that just has to be. Old Photographs is a white-hot work in which no step goes wrong. It develops a simple idea, a typical Schumann cadence into a metaphor for heartbreak as imagined by Astor Piazzolla. With gathering intensity it evolves over the course of 15 minutes into an impassioned tango — thereby casting light on both Schumann and Piazzolla as well as upon Romanticism itself. At its climax it is savage and physical, connecting Schumann not just to the heart but to the earth. The trio’s hundreds of performances of this particular excerpt from Constantinople has made them thorough masters of its urgent vocabulary. They play as though they are making it up out of its own volcanic heat....The Gryphons cannot be held solely responsible for the weird pictures their playing produces in our head. But both they, with their extraordinary musical insight and technical facility, as well as Hatzis, Mozart and Shostakovich, share with us the experience of now, of hearing all this music in the context of our specific cultural and human condition between 7 and 9 p.m. on May 28, 2007.
That they excite such vivid responses to their playing is a matter of some wonder.
Stephen Pedersen, CHRONICLE & HERALD (Canada) May 30 2007.

Wednesday night’s Scotia Festival concert in the Sir James Dunn Theatre with the Super Nova Quartet and percussionist Beverley Johnston showed something of the imaginative range of composer-in-residence Christos Hatzis. The first of two Hatzis works on the program, Cruel Elegance, showed a lighter side. Part of a collection of short works collectively titled Parlour Music, it courted the tango style to which Hatzis regularly resorts when he needs a break from more angst-driven works.
It hardly needs more commentary except to say that it expresses more elegance than cruelty. Light music it is, but not like any light music you can recall. Its rhythmic energy and textural complexity give the ear a healthy workout. Even the flippancy of the final anti-climactical pizzicato following a rich bowed chord, fails to dim the aerobic-like afterglow.
Stephen Pedersen, CHRONICLE & HERALD
(Canada) June 1 2007.

Hatzis' compositions a feast for the ears 

Two movements for piano trio from the multimedia work CONSTANTINOPLE represented Hatzis' current work in progress. The Gryphon Trio's Annalee Patipatanakoon, Roman Borys and Jamie Parker...could bring eyes to the brink of tears in the Schumannesque first half of Old Photographs before sliding sinuously into a tango that swooped wildly to its end. John Lehr, The Toronto Star (Canada)

Christos' Hatzis' beautiful CONSTANTINOPLE: Old Photographs showcased an elegance and tenderness with its nostalgic gestures that provided a gentle and touching end to the show. The standing ovation for the Gryphons was indeed genuine. Andrew Thompson, The Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)

An earlier and exciting surprise was the short Old Photographs by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis, a personal friend of the Gryphon players. With its opening tender musings giving way to a losing struggle with a savagely melodic tango, it proved to be exhilarating fun. It whetted the appetite for a much longer piece, CONSTANTINOPLE, of which Old Photographs is a brief part; the group will be playing the entire, ambitiously multi-media work in the near future at New York's Lincoln Center. Ray Baker. The Key West Citizen (USA)

Old Photographs...begins with a slow and serenely beautiful piano solo, eventually joined by the violin and cello, that would not be amiss in something by Bill Evans or Denny Zeitlin, but about five minutes into the piece a Piazzollan tango emerges (and so much better than other non-Latin composers' efforts I've heard recently [the limp tango in Thomas Adès's 'Powder Her Face' comes to mind]). This sultry tango will demand you look for a dance partner. And toward the end are some piano jazz licks that remind one of that earlier Torontonian composer, Oscar Peterson. Scott Morrison (Kansas City), Amazon.com

The encore was...Dance Of The Dictators—part of a larger work called Constantinople. The maniacal nuances and the demanding technical control really impressed the audience particularly one section where the fast paced melody is plucked on the violin with one finger. The musical dialogue between the cello and violin was heated and you could feel the power of the music on the performers. The audience greatly showed their appreciation in perhaps one of the most memorable concerts of the year. Jeremy Stub, New Winnipeg (Canada)

We were entranced by the Gryphon Trio's "encore" this morning at Lincoln Center of part of your multimedia work. Although not mentioned by name in the program, I concluded from an internet search of your website it must be Old Photographs from CONSTANTINOPLE (Is that right?)  In any case, is it available anywhere in some viewable/listenable format? (Dec. 10, 2001).....Annette and I are utterly transfixed by your music. (I am an old fogey who usually has a hard time with most contemporary music...but this is extraordinary. I know its special when the hair stands up on the back of my neck!!!!!.Lucky for me it's on CD....a vinyl disc would have been worn through by now.( March 13, 2002). A. N. New York, NY.


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