A contemporary Canadian master. THE NEW YORKER (2005)

A Canadian icon and an international cultural institution. Piotr Grella-Mozejko SEE MAGAZINE (2009).

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. William Littler, THE TORONTO STAR (2005).

One of Canada’s brightest lights at the height of his powers. Stephen Pedersen, THE CHRONICLE HERALD (2007)

We are fortunate to have a great master in our midst. Robert Thomas, THE WHOLE NOTE magazine (2007)

Canadian composer Christos Hatzis is a master of musical style. He not only makes a virtue of eclecticism but has developed such confidence in its use that he splits the universe with it, multiplying his musical imagery and symbolism thereby to something approaching infinity. Stephen Pedersen, THE CHRONICLE HERALD (2005).

It is undeniable that his work here in past decades has been nothing short of stupendous in beauty and sheer audacity. John S. Gray, THE WHOLE NOTE MAGAZINE (2005).

Christos Hatzis is currently enjoying a growing international reputation as one of the most important composers writing today. His works are being performed, broadcast and recorded in Canada, the US and in Europe by some of the world's best known soloists and ensembles. CBC RECORDS (2003).

Hatzis has the ability to write works that are brilliant, complex and intellectually and emotionally challenging but which can still touch the heart of the average listener. This is rare amongst 20th century composers....Often, when I have mentioned his work to friends who are not musicians, they have heard his work on radio, on discs, or at concerts and are always complimentary and enthusiastic in their response to it. One person said that she thought that Hatzis would turn out to be one of the most important composers of our time. Having heard many of his works, this is an assessment with which I would agree. Paul Pedersen, composer - former Dean of the Faculty of Music, McGill University and the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto (1998).

...Christos Hatzis is one of Canada's most important composers. ...Canada is extremely fortunate to count this Greek-born musical savant among its citizens. Murray Gingsberg, THE INTERNATIONAL MUSICIAN (1992).

I’m seriously wondering if Hatzis hasn’t captured the essence of what it means to create music in the 21st century urban core. John Terauds, MUSICAL TORONTO (2013)

Having had the opportunity to work with many of the finest composers of our times, I should say that Hatzis is, in my estimation, one of the most talented composers I have had the privilege of knowing. Nora Post (1980).

After a few years as Christos Hatzis’ major professor, there is little doubt in my mind that he is one of the top Ph.D. candidates in the history of the department. Morton Feldman (1979).

 

Of Sepulcher of Life:

Canadian Music for the Ages

Christos Hatzis's Sepulcher of Life could have lasting power.
Has Christos Hatzis done it? By which I mean to ask: has this University of Toronto composition professor created a piece of Canadian music that will not be filed promptly under Forget About It and never heard, or even heard about, again? The question is worth asking after Iwan Edwards and his St. Lawrence Choir (one of four Canadian societies to commission it) gave the eastern Canadian premiere of Sepulcher of Life at St. Jean Baptiste Church. This half-hour spiritual statement in four movements follows a traditional aesthetic trajectory from mysterious beginnings to an exultant conclusion. But it does so in an impressive and colourful fashion. Strange to say, there is no minimalist tedium of the sort that infects most contemporary attempts to set a mystic text. Hatzis's language is romantic and expressive at the core. This did not preclude some experimentalism in the middle movements. The solemn Encomium was a hymn sung in Greek by the audience as well as the choir, followed by a free-spirited solo for Middle Eastern singer Maryem Tollar....As for the neo-romantic rest, it was good stuff, and stylistically integrated even if Hatzis had learned lessons from the cinema (vaulting horns that would please John Williams) and from Mahler, whose Second Symphony was the obvious template for the heavenward gazing of the finale. Soprano solos in the outer movements are tough but viable; Monica Whicher scaled their heights to great effect. Edwards led the entirety with a steady hand and full heart. Arthur Captainis, THE GAZETTE, Montreal (Canada) March 1 2005.

of Four Songs on Poems by Sappho:

Toronto composer Chistos Hatzis’s Four Songs stand out for their overt alliance with long, flowing melodies. The sounds are so filled with description that it could be movie music. There is a flesh-and-blood connection here, too, which ties us not to airy concepts but a real human who lived and loved passionately. John Terauds, MUSICAL TORONTO, (October 22, 2013)

of Hatzis@60 concert:

It’s not every day you see audience members bobbing their heads at a concert of recent art music, but that was the scene at Walter Hall on Monday evening as the Gryphon Trio and Penderecki String Quartet celebrated the 60th birthday of Christos Hatzis with a programme of his music. University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music had organized a concert to mark the composition professor’s 60th birthday with two chamber ensembles who have championed his work. The Gryphons and Pendereckis are among a growing number of perfomers — including violinist Hilary Hahn and pop singer Sarah Slean — to be seduced by Hatzis’s creations. His bio says there is even a full-length ballet score in the works for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Hatzis’s music is about placing one’s heart prominently on the sleeve, where the transmission of clear emotional messages never takes second place to intellectual constructs. Make no mistake, Hatzis’s music is clever and, in many instances, difficult to perform, but its impact and message do not have to be filtered through a layer of analysis or understanding. It is tonal music that borrows from a variety of cultural influences, with a hint of tango here and an exotic wobble of chant from the Levant there. After listening to the Gryphon Trio eloquently perform three excerpts from the 90-minute multimedia work Constantinopleand the Penderecki’s intensely portrayed the roiling sonic worlds of Hatzis’s String Quartet No. 2 (The Gathering), I’m seriously wondering if Hatzis also hasn’t captured the essence of what it means to create music in the 21st century urban core, where global influences mix freely and easily on the subway, at the restaurant and, one hopes, the concert hall. The graceful way in which Hatzis uses and varies repeated melodic cells, allows his pieces to gracefully range across styles, influences and emotional content. There’s absolutely nothing easy about this, but this composer has mastered the art of making the sounds so palatable, that we are easily fooled. John Terauds, MUSICAL TORONTO, (March 25, 2013)

of Redemption: Book 3:

Greek-born Canadian composer Christos Hatzis' Redemption Cycle is a cycle of five works based on the theme of humanity's spiritual fall and redemption. The WSO commissioned and premièred Book 3 in honour of Hatzis' 60th birthday. The first movement, Dreams of Power (Joseph in Egypt), began as dark and brooding, blossoming into a complex mélange of dramatic orchestration. At times, it was full-bodied and mysterious, then suddenly effects came from every nook and cranny of the orchestra. It was substantial, while at the same time, sparkling and magical. A little country peeked out from Exodus (Joshua), before it became raucously uninhibited with plenty of percussion and piano thrown in for good measure. Bird calls and wind whooshed through. Violist Scholz dug into his feisty solo and musicians yelled, "Hah!" as the movement drew to a frenzied end. Crying seagulls opened The Psalmist (Asaph), which featured an ultra-sultry English horn solo playing the leitmotif that continued on oboe before being picked up by the orchestra. This captivating work is one you will want to hear again and again. Gwenda Nemerofsky, Winnipeg Free Press (Canada) Jan. 30, 2013

Wow! What an incredible piece! So rich and textured, such an amazing blend of styles and colours. I am disappointed I won't hear the premiere—but so glad to see you and hear you in your element and at the peak of your creative work. J.F. Halifax, NS

My dear Christos, I heard from J. that the premiere went very well. I loved what I heard yesterday... FANTASTIC... you have such a rich language and deep soul! Your orchestrations are out of this world, they are so true to your message. I'm so sorry I was not able to stay another day. . . May God continue to bless you and indeed us through your great and holy gift. P.T. Halifax, NS

of Lamento:

 It is an absolute thrill and honour to be working on this groundbreaking collaboration with such a gifted, universally admired composer. I first heard Christos' music when working with the Art of Time Ensemble, and I was instantly drawn. There is a passionate intensity in his work that ignites and engages musicians of all disciplines. It's complexity and sophistication never overwhelm the rich emotional landscapes it so powerfully creates.  The music is dazzling but never opaque - one can appreciate his work intellectually and also feel it on a deeply spiritual level. It speaks to the head, the heart, and the soul. Lamento fits beautifully into that canon.  In it's fearless exploration of mental illness, Christos has musically rendered the bitter poignancy of grief, the fragile beauty of hope, the suffocating agony of despair, all while the entire orchestra is pushed to new virtuosic ground. As a singer with a taste for the dramatic, this is a dream project.  Not only is the music beautiful, challenging and emotionally potent, it is rife with interpretive possibility.  I am truly honoured that Christos has reached out across genre borders to entrust me with this delicious and rewarding task. In Lamento, the collision of classical and pop is what I believe it should be - not an amalgam or hybrid, but a chemical reaction between the best elements of both genres,  one that creates an entirely new form, a new aesthetic, a new standard of excellence. I am equally honoured to premiere Lamento with such an incredible orchestra and such a distinguished conductor. With this work, the way has been paved for more daring, innovative collaboration between musical worlds. Christos has opened new doors with this work, and I am so thrilled and humbled to be a part. Sarah Slean commenting for a Promethean Editions newsletter. April 2012.

 There are few projects that I have seeded over my 22 years with the CBC that I can look on with more satisfaction than this wonderful collaboration between Christos Hatzis and Sarah Slean,” says CBC’s Jeff Reilly. “When one embarks on these types of projects, those that bring musicians together from different stylistic backgrounds, one can never be quite sure of the results… After many attempts to make a collaboration of this nature really work, I believe we have finally hit the bulls eye. Combining the incredible passion, craft, and open mindedness of Sarah Slean with the extraordinary skill, flexibility, and experience of Christos Hatzis is truly creating musical synergy. There is real communication and understanding between these two. The results of this fusion of talent is proof that contemporary pop can join with contemporary concert music in ways that bring gifts to both worlds – a wider, more appreciative audience to contemporary music and a broadening and deepening of the expressive possibilities of pop. Jeff Reilly (Lamento producer) in http://www.musicnovascotia.ca

In the second half of the concert Slean sang Lamento, for pop singer and orchestra, written for her by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. The three songs track the end of a love affair from the woman’s point of view, from breakup (When This is Over) through denial and grief (My Song) to mental disintegration and suicide (Despair). The cycle is musically based on Purcell’s Lament. The score is marvellously colourful and dramatic and the final song, Despair, despite its gloomy mood, articulates the approach the woman’s insanity and suicide so interestingly that it fulfils Aristotle’s definition of tragedy as a cathartic purging of the emotions of fear and terror by uniting us with their hidden cause. At the end of the last song, the lights in the hall were turned out and the audience rose to its feet for a prolonged ovation. Not really traditional pops concert fare, you might say. And yet Slean’s voice, with its hints of Edith Piaf and even Lotte Lenya, invokes the innocence of vulnerability and leads to feelings of compassion. The concert ended with Slean’s song Parasol, arranged by Hatzis for voice, solo violin and orchestra. It featured SNS concertmaster Robert Uchida and opened with a startlingly virtuosic cadenza. His virtuosity and Slean’s playfulness resulted in another standing ovation, despite Parosol’s words, "And no you can’t play that in this serious hall / only apes wearing capes get the curtain call." Slean knew an encore was wanted but told us she didn’t have one, so she and Uchida and the orchestra, brilliantly led by Bernhard Gueller, would play Parasol again, and again it got a standing ovation. Stephen Pedersen, THE CHRONICLE HERALD (Halifax, Canada). 2012 04 16.

 CONGRATULATIONS ON LAMENTO. I heard it was a great success. J. played me the 3rd movement, it moved me to tears my friend, it is the most incredible music I have heard in a long time, it woke me up. I came in touch with things deep down that I thought I had put away, such a remembering. God touched you and Sarah deeply in this music. Thank you so much for this great gift. P. T. Halifax, NS.

 I am really blown away by your pop songs! Great melodies, beautiful, touching text, and what fantastically imaginative, colourful and unpredictable orchestral accompaniment (unpredictable in a subconsciously logical way, as in: it is always surprising and odd, but makes perfect sense on some subliminal, inacticulable  level, revealing hidden layers of meaning)! The songs really do blur the line between pop and classical, constantly moving back and forth on a continuum between the two. The last one could really function as a pure "classical art song". Sarah sounds great. I like her voice a lot, especially the low, dark register, as when she goes down to "my love" in the first song. . . Congratulations! . . . It 's a hole new road, and who knows: maybe one of the roads out of a tricky corner for "classical" music as such?... N. P. Toronto

  Hallucination Building

“A modern Canadian composer attends the première of a work to hear its last performance.” This bon mot by the distinguished Calgary musician Quenten Doolittle has become proverbial. Yet there are exceptions to the rule — and Toronto’s Christos Hatzis is one of them. To say that Hatzis is a successful composer would be a grave understatement. The “contemporary Canadian master,” as The New Yorker described him, was born in Greece, spent some years in the U.S. where he received his academic training, and then became Canadian by choice. Beginning in the late 1970s, Hatzis has slowly but surely built a tremendous career. With a string of recordings on EMI, Sony, Naxos, CBC Records and other first-rate labels, often successfully competing in sales with pop albums, his presence on the international classical stage is now comparable to that of Philip Glass, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, Arvo Pärt, Krzysztof Penderecki, or Steve Reich. The man already is a Canadian icon and an international cultural institution. Despite his success, the composer oozes modesty and restraint. “I call myself an imitator,” he is quick to confess, “but not in the conventional sense of the word. When I say I’m an imitator, I refer to Him who guides me and maps out creative decisions for me.... As a musician and a human being, I feel that I must follow my conductor’s cue. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but what I think much art lacks most these days is spirituality.” Spirituality permeates practically every one of Hatzis’ compositions, including his groundbreaking multimedia masterpiece, Constantinople, for which he received a Juno. The newest one, Mirage? for percussion and chamber orchestra, which has its Edmonton première on Sept. 20, follows the same path. Hatzis explains its origins: “The piece, a percussion concerto, was commissioned by CBC for the Scottish virtuosa Dame Evelyn Glennie — also known in the pop world for her collaborations with Björk and Bobby McFerrin — and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra led by the truly fantastic Anne Manson, for their Western Canadian tour, which is now in progress. The music deals with the modern societies’ blatantly materialistic obsessions and temptations. I see a connection between the years preceding the present crisis and the ‘Roaring ’20s’ leading to Black Tuesday [Oct. 29, 1929] and the subsequent Great Depression. It is a sad piece, perhaps even a cry of despair, but for the modern world to survive, it is imperative to turn away from the seductive mirages of the exorbitant lifestyle.” Maestra Anne Manson speaks about Hatzis in almost poetic terms. “His sounds breathe space,” she says. “The opening build-up, with more and more light let in, is enchanting. At times, the music feels incredibly free, perhaps because it is so imbued with jazz. The piece is marvelous, and rarely have I seen a modern composition so successful with audiences. It is a veritable tour de force!” Hatzis means business. He’s currently hard at work on another big project which promises to cause a stir — a chamber opera centring on the last days of another Canadian legend, the 19th-century First Nations poet and writer Pauline Johnson. His co-writer? Some unknown author named Margaret Atwood.
Piotr Grella-Mozejko Music Feature, See Magazine (Edmonton, Canada) September 17, 2009.

  As far as I was concerned, this 40-minute piece [Everlasting Light] was the whole program and it's surprising we haven't heard more about this masterpiece...there was nothing to lead one to expect a piece of music that turned out to be so ravishingly beautiful...Its movement is slow, some of the harmonies are very close and the feeling of ambience is indescribable...I personally found Everlasting Light very heartening because until now I've felt like a heathen listening to the music of Henryk Górecki and the so-called "holy minimalists" and even Arvo Pärt to an extent. This was far more beautiful than anything I've heard from any of them. The music has, in fact, a potent sense of otherworldliness and an immense quiet dignity. It has (grave) melody where the others supply only monastic medieval-sounding monody - frankly, monotony - and there isn't a moment in it that feels calculated or anything less than sincerely felt. Echoes of it followed me all the way home. The Cantata Singers under conductor Eric Hannan rose magnificently to its demands, as did its subtle percussionist, Anne-Julie Caron. She was the special guest on the program and performed with a talent reminiscent of Evelyn Glennie. It was amazing how she managed five minutes, or it could have been 10, of very soft thrumming as she held down a minor third. As already said, it could have been the whole concert...But everything was forgivable for the the unforgettable Everlasting Light.
Lloyd Dykk, The Vancouver Sun (Canada) October 21, 2008 ldykk@vancouversun.com

Dame Evelyn rocks! No stranger to VSO programming, this phenomenon of the concert stage -- a deaf percussionist who has made percussion a solo instrument in serious music -- always has something musically new to say, bringing a work specially commissioned for her mega-talent. This concert, no exception to her regular visits, had the packed-out audience -- at least metaphorically speaking --both gasping for breath and bopping in the aisles during Greek composer Christos Hatzis' sprawling, deeply emotional Tongues of Fire for Percussion and Orchestra. The work's title sets its moment and concern: the flames that descended upon the Apostles on Pentecost, but rather than being celebratory, the work explores anguish and crisis, and in an intense second movement inner tranquility. That proves unsustainable but goes deep, as large-scale effects give way to almost unbearable lyrical intensity. Dame Evelyn was, as ever, on the top of her game, from the rapid-fire explosions of sound of primal character to coaxing out the infinitely small nuances of the vibraphone to goose-bump raising effect. Visceral and cerebral by turns, the work set up almost relentless challenges for soloist and orchestra. A self-conscious tour de force, Hatzis' composition could have been mere gimmickry but turned out to be profoundly moving both in its inventiveness and ideas. Maesto Tovey urged out a committed and thrilling reading of this piece not for the faint-of-heart, with the VSO delivering every bit as impassioned a performance as that delivered by its soloist-phenomenon. J. H. Stape, REVIEWVANCOUVER.COM (Canada).

There's something ariel-like about watching the Scottish percussionist extraordinaire Evelyn Glennie fly around her battery of drums on the stage barefoot in front of an orchestra....On Saturday she premiered a concerto by a Canadian composer and a very good one, Toronto's Christos Hatzis, whose work I've admired before. Called Tongues of Fire, it's mainly for marimba and orchestra but involves far more than marimba, only some of the other instruments being the vibraphone and cloud gongs. Cloud - that lovely word - describes an atmospheric work of moods that range from the dynamically thunderous and sharp to the seductively impressionistic and vague. The work is sensationally beautiful, all four movements, but especially the second, which begins with a sensuous, mysterious pop song sung by a soprano to a piano before it becomes the basis for the movement proper. It was as interesting to watch as to hear. When did you last hear a duel between a solo violin (the excellent Joan Blackman) and a bass drum in which every note was clear? This admirably approachable concerto is subtly crafted, fully integrating the percussion part with the orchestral part and the rhythms are fascinating with all the sexy ostinatos, the bones of rhythm. Even by Vancouver Symphony standards, the playing was exceptional and the house looked full. Lloyd Dykk, CANADA.COM, May 25, 2008; THE VANCOUVER SUN, May 28, 2008.

Glennie has played in Calgary and never fails to impress. Not only she is gifted technically, but her playing is exceptionally musical, encompassing the most amazing nuances of tone and rhythm. She had a full workout in the solo part of the concerto [Tongues of Fire], a virtuoso work in four titled movements that together make up a reflection on the idea of Pentecost, especially the sense of turbulence that surrounded the period just before Christ ascended to heavens. The music itself is unfailingly colourful in an idiom that broadly speaking might be called "neo-tonal". More specifically, the harmonic palate and melodic style resembled a cross between Anton Bruckner and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, the short, fragmentary melodies having a churchy sound, but presented with all the subtlety and refinement associated with Phantom of the Opera and other works of that ilk. The immediacy of the effect was unmistakable, especially given the compelling performance by Glennie, and there was much to admire in the clever handling of mixed rhythms, largely assigned to the orchestra. As a virtuoso vehicle for Glennie or another virtuoso percussionist, the work is likely to have many performances. Hatzis was on hand for the performance, graciously acknowledging the obvious effort that has gone into the preparation and delivery of the work. Kenneth DeLong, THE CALGARY HERALD (Canada), May 31, 2008.

To provide a present-day climax to the program, Tafelmusik commissioned a new choral work - From the Song of Songs - by the Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzis, which had its premiere Thursday, and which the composer calls "an offering and prayer for peace in the Middle East."...The main solo singers were equally splendid...Tenor Muller's handsome and perfectly used voice transformed itself effortlessly for the several styles it had to adopt, quite astonishingly in the melismatic Eastern idiom it needed in the Hatzis. His duet with the wonderful Maryem Tollar in the middle movement of that work was a highlight of the evening. Tollar's singing was extraordinarily strange and poignant in the context of the Tafelmusik forces, and flawlessly modest and haunting...The Hatzis cantata must be counted a triumph, easily the best thing of his I've heard, with a vivid opening movement, a slow movement (My Beloved Is Mine) straight out of the elevated manner of Bach (with a theme perhaps too close to that of the closing chorus of the St. Matthew Passion) and a final movement that starts rather scattily but pulls itself together for a splendid finish. And what a lucky composer Hatzis was to have a first performance of this calibre. Ken Winters, THE GLOBE AND MAIL (Canada), March 8, 2008.

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.

  Since hearing Erotikos Logos by Hatzis in the mid-90's, I have fallen in love with this composer’s ability to blend the traditional and the modern, the harmonic and the discordant, the melodic and the atonal. In fact, I consider him one of the most melodic of modern composers. And it’s not because melodies dominate his music – even though Love Among the Ruins, his response to 9/11, features some neo-romantic flourishes á la Rachmaninoff. It is more because melody appears in his scores, even amid cacophony, like a flower blooming through a crack in concrete. In Hatzis’ music, the instruments sing, even when the song is a cry of anguish. The two dance cycles contained on this disc are vastly different in mood – the viola and percussion concerto Pyrrichean Dances give us the music of conflict and war; the oboe concerto Telluric Dances conveys sensual, sensuous celebration. The disc’s liner notes are an exception to the general rule – most composers are not great at explaining their music. Here, Hatzis offers thoughtful and helpful interpretation, proving himself to be not only a great composer, but also a talented writer. The rich texture of this music defies sparse instrumentation and the principals, as well as the orchestra, give great justice to the score, inspired seemingly in equal parts by Greek and Byzantine mystery as well as rather Canadian aloofness. This disc could conceivably convert those who proclaim “I hate modern music”. For those already converted, it confirms yet again, that we are fortunate to have a great master in our midst. Robert Tomas, THE WHOLE NOTE (Canada) May, 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. Fertility Rites featured the virtuosic musical energy of Beverley Johnston. It’s for five-octave marimba and tape and is one of four works Hatzis composed which were inspired by Inuit throat-singing. Taking part in what is both a game and a fertility rite, throat-singers face each other and pant hoarsely back and forth, setting up patterns at top speed and trying to make each other miss a beat. The implications are sexual. The tape consisted of throat singing and marimba effects so skilfully merged into the score that at times the ear fails to discover whether the sound is coming from the real-time instrument or the tape. It builds in complexity over two movements to a stunning final movement which sounds like a be-bop jazz improvisation in a tremendous explosion of energy played with unparalleled brilliance by Johnston. Stephen Pedersen, THE CHRONICLE & HERALD (Canada) June 12, 2007.

Wednesday's recital by the Super Nova String Quartet in The Music Room series at Scotia Festival of Music stands out as one of the most extraordinary concerts of the two week festival to date. The Super Nova Quartet played Christos Hatzis’s Second String Quartet (The Gathering)...Violinists Jonathon Crow and Mark Fewer, violist Douglas McNabney and cellist Denise Djokic are all power players. The energetic zest of their playing always seems to take the room they are playing in and lift it an inch or two off the ground. Hatzis’s The Gathering, originally written for the St. Lawrence String Quartet and recorded by them, is one of his most powerful chamber music works, and that’s already saying a lot. Its savage dynamism plays to the strengths of both the Super Novas and the Music Room itself — an ideal match of musicians and acoustic. Hatzis was obsessed by the extreme suffering of the people caught up in the Balkan conflict in the "90s. Some of the thematic material derives from Balkan scales and rhythms, others from the chants of the Orthodox Church. The agony is palpable, and while it is already more than enough in the music itself, dancer Susan Lee epitomized it physically with a series of fluent, writhing distortions of her body. Though she made no apparent attempt to mimic the rhythms being ripped out of their strings by the Super Novas, her sense of the creative heart of the music, its dramatic and tortured momentum, were both simple and extraordinary. Stephen Pedersen, THE CHRONICLE & HERALD (Canada) June 8, 2007.

Tongues of Fire is an eloquent and moving work, representing the conflict of ego in the form of the soloist, and society (the orchestra). It rises to terrifying levels of sound during the heat of the struggle and is musically, utterly convincing in its complexity and noble in its ambition. Beverley Johnston is Canada’s gift to the world of solo percussion, and Hatzis taxed her musicianship and extraordinary technical mastery to the limit as she travelled from the front, where her marimba, vibraphone and tuned gongs were positioned, to the back of the orchestra where she could lay to with a will on gangs of toms and a big bass drum. Behind her, percussion instruments were spread from wall to wall, requiring six percussionists to handle all the assignments...12 French horns gave considerable substance to the heroic sound of the outer two movements...The concerto pitches the soloist against the orchestra in what becomes a fevered duel for supremacy. The concert master, violinist Mark Fewer, steps forward to champion the orchestra and he and the soloist start competing. When she realizes he has more notes and tonal resources than she, she overwhelms him with power. He concedes. But she too collapses briefly over her bass drum. A Pyrrhic victory...The second movement is full of sweetness and repose, prefaced by a pop song, Eternity’s Heartbeat, sung and recorded by Patricia Rozario and played on Sunday’s concert as a prelude to the second movement. That movement, sounding at times like the sound score to an epic movie, relieves, but only temporarily, the opening shots of the battle between soloist and orchestra in the brief but ferocious first movement. The final movement resolves the conflict of a work characterized at times by multiphonics in the winds, harmonics in the strings, and shouts and screams by the orchestra members contributing to the urgency of this electrifyingly expressive work. Stephen Pedersen, THE CHRONICLE & HERALD (Canada) June 12, 2007.

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.

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)

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.

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. 

Friday night's concert by Cappella Romana at St. Mary's Cathedral grew out of a fortuitous encounter at the Byzantine Festival in London in March 2004. The Portland-based choir, specialists in Byzantine and Byzantine-influenced sacred music, happened to perform at a concert that also included a new work featuring the extraordinary soprano Patricia Rozario, a versatile singer best known for her collaboration with the English composer John Tavener. Rozario and Alexander Lingas, Cappella's founder and music director, proposed giving the U.S. premiere of the piece, Christos Hatzis' "Troparion of Kassiane." Their conversations resulted, a year and a half later, in one of the choir's most memorable offerings, despite a sprawling (and for the singers, challenging) program. Based on an ancient hymn whose vividly expressive text concerns Mary Magdalene's devotion to Jesus, Hatzis' "Troparion" is a concert in itself, a huge piece encompassing multiple choral styles. Beginning and ending with the music of the original hymn, it unfolds in a series of Protean transformations—one section sounds like Francis Poulenc, another is reminiscent of Brahms, yet another evokes concert arrangements of Afro-American spirituals—as the soprano carries the traditional core. Rozario combined a powerful presence with a superbly controlled voice. Her vocal range was remarkable not only for its breadth but also for its evenness—she projected a clear, forward tone even in the dark depths of mezzo-soprano territory—and if you didn't know that the piece was written for her, you probably would have suspected it, so commanding and secure was her performance. James McQuillen, THE OREGONIAN (USA) October 24, 2005

The first of this year's Made in Canada concerts was given yesterday at noon in St. John's Church by the St. Lawrence String Quartet and clarinetist James Campbell. The place was packed. Christos Hatzis's String Quartet No. 2 opened the program. It is a work of great passion and intensity but also of discipline and universality. Written in part as a response to the situation in Kosovo a few years ago and subtitled The Gathering, it would be completely effective to a listener who was not aware of its subtext. People who claim that Canadian composers don't ever write great music have not been paying much attention in recent years. Richard Todd, The Ottawa Citizen (Canada). August 2, 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 of Totentanz 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)

A Very Different "Constantinople"

Hatzis’s bracing, multi-media work...demonstrates that new ground can still be broken when treating the East-meets-West theme, and with flair...Effective as the visual dimension of “Constantinople” was and without slighting the vocal contribution, which reached a frenzied peak with the insistent repetition of the “Alleluia,” the opera is mostly striking for Hatzis’s instrumental writing, both on its own and in tandem with the singers. It was brilliantly realized by the Gryphon Trio (Annalee Patiparanakoon, violin, Roman Borys, cello and Jamie Parker, piano), which played extended passages from memory. The music is above all energetic and is rooted in an actively polyphonic, mildly modernistic style that requires considerable dexterity from the players. Hatzis is especially inventive in expounding on musical ideas, partaking not just of traditional developmental techniques but also of the methods of jazz and even rock to heighten rhythmic drive, though without debasing his material. A lilting tango supplies captivating variety, and Hatzis gives the piece unity by deftly bringing back certain themes. George Loomis, Musical America (USA) June 14, 2005. For the entire review, click on the www.musicalamerica.com logo below.

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).

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).

Lemieux rocks on Hatzis piece

If you had walked by the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium at about 9 p.m. Tuesday night, you might have thought from the roar of the audience that a rock concert was on. But it was Symphony Nova Scotia - the finale of the premiere of Telluric Dances for Oboe and Orchestra by Christos Hatzis, written for and played by principal oboe Suzanne Lemieux. With that last note the packed audience jumped up and started yelling and cheering. It went on for five minutes. Each time Lemieux returned to the stage to take a bow, the roar surged again, for composer Hatzis, conductor Bernhard Gueller and the astonished members of the orchestra...the Hatzis concerto...is full of technical innovation and surprise, panning the sound in the air from right to left and 180 degrees into the orchestra and back; there are multiphonic screeches, bent tones, an array of ornaments and roulades. Lemieux played elegantly but not overly so, preserving character, suggesting both a folk oboe and a concert soprano. With an instinct for musical proportions that would have made Hatzis a great architect and one of the finest ears in music for orchestral colour, allied to his astonishing musical imagination, he constructed a concerto full of rhythmic rococo, lively in the interplay of tones, and clear and easy to follow despite its complexity. Stephen Pedersen, THE CHRONICLE HERALD (Halifax, Canada) May 5, 2005.

SNS masters Hatzis' eclecticism

Canadian composer Christos Hatzis is a master of musical style. He not only makes a virtue of eclecticism but has developed such confidence in its use that he splits the universe with it, multiplying his musical imagery and symbolism thereby to something approaching infinity. Echoes of Vivaldi, Bach, minimalism, world music, the Middle East, Stravinsky, Debussy, computer music, Varese, Boulez: all play a noble role in his Pyrrichean Dances, "maintaining a human core," throughout the out-of-control destructive energy raging through our times, as Hatzis said from the stage at the Symphony Nova Scotia Celebrity Series concert Tuesday night in the Cohn. His evident mastery of his palette, amounting to genius, was partly responsible for bringing many members of the audience to their feet after the performance, which featured violist Rivka Golani and percussionist Beverley Johnston - prolonged applause and bravos from a conservative Halifax audience for 35 minutes of new music.

Each of the four movements expresses the human reality of living with chaos (Broken Mirrors), the intifada (Postcards from the (un)Holy Land), 9/11 (Love Among The Ruins), and the invasion of Afghanistan (Worlds in Collision). Golani began Broken Mirrors with a series of tangled figures within a restless rhythmic algorithm of shifting metrical accents in the string orchestra, while Johnston executed acrobatic figures mostly on drums. The virtuosity of soloists and orchestra under Bernhard Gueller's direction, were contextualized by Hatzis' intuitive sense of how long a texture should prevail before being relieved. Postcards is an ethereal music, a lament for viola, inspired by Golani's powerfully rich sound (she commissioned the work), played against a cascade of silken overtone ladders glissed up and down upon the cellos and basses. Johnston accompanied with delicately anguished echoes from the waterphone, a Japanese temple bell, and a variety of gongs, all set in vibration by a double bass bow. The third movement with Johnston as main soloist, led off with a hauntingly romantic theme played on the musical saw against softly voiced triadic harmonies in the upper strings, to sympathetic murmurs and echoes from the viola. The musical imagery, somewhat reminiscent of the Garden music from Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony, abruptly changed when Johnston began playing on the five-octave marimba, varying texture and intensity with throbbing strokes from four, and possibly more, mallets. Worlds in Collision pulled out all the stops, using all the forces in a, by now, dizzying succession of exquisite sounds and textures and agitated passages.

Brilliant as Hatzis, Golani and Johnston are, they need a superb orchestra to bring such a profoundly difficult work off the page. Symphony Nova Scotia, under Gueller, played world class all the way, instantly switching from texture to texture with the sure-footedness of mountain goats. Stephen Pedersen, THE CHRONICLE HERALD (Halifax, Canada) April 14, 2005.


Mitten im Leben.
Musik der Neuen Welt: Das St. Lawrence String Quartett im Konzerthaus
Viel Neugier lief dem Auftritt des kanadischen St. Lawrence String Quartett im Konzerthaus voraus. Es gilt seit längerem schon als das künstlerisch hervorstechendste der Neuen Welt, als das ehrgeizigste auch, das eigenwilligste, unternehmungslustigste. Das St. Lawrence Quartett hält es nicht mit der kammermusikalischen Esoterik. Es stellt sich tatkräftig den Herausforderungen des musikalischen Daseins. Es weiß durchaus Härten in sein Spiel einzubringen, es aus den luftigen Höhen feinsinniger Schwärmerei herab auf die Erde zu reißen, ohne darüber an Schönklang einzubüßen. Es war darum haargenau der rechte Interpret für das 1. Streichquartett von Christos Hatzis (51), des in Kanada eingebürgerten Griechen. Eines Stückes, in dem sich Weltenlärm, Halluzination und Erinnerungsseligkeit mischen. Um die Spieler, Kopfhörer über den Ohren, entfalten sich höchst unterschiedliche Geräusche: feinstimmiges zurückhaltendes Gesinge und Getanze der Inuit, zeitweilig leise eingespielt in den Saal. Überdies wird die Komposition konfrontiert mit den Fahrgeräuschen dahinrollender Eisenbahnen, die Hatzis' Kindheitsträume durchklangen.....Bei Hatzis gehen die verschiedenen Komponenten eine aufrüttelnde, durchaus suggestive Verbindung ein. Die Musik gibt sich handfest existentiell. Sie schreitet mit ihren bunten Klängen das Leben aus. Sie drückt sich nicht davor, anrührend zu bleiben. Sie kreist die eigenen Gefühle, Sehnsüchte, Erinnerungen, gleichzeitig einleuchtenden Klängen ein. Das Stück ist ein Reißer - im Gewand herausfordernder, exzellenter Kammermusik. Von Klaus Geitel BERLINER MORGENPOST, 28. Februar 2005 (DE)

Translation:
Real Life

Music from the New World: The St. Lawrence String Quartet in the Konzerthaus
, Berlin
The city was in eager anticipation of the concert given by the St. Lawrence String Quartet in the Berlin Konzerthaus. For quite a long time now, they have been considered the most artistically outstanding, the most ambitious, the most original and the most adventurous musicians the New World has to offer.The St. Lawrence String Quartet do not limit themselves to esoteric chamber music.They take up the challenges of musical existence. After an artistic flight of fancy, they succeed in bringing the music back down to earth, without losing any of the beauty of the sound.... That is why this quartet was the perfect interpreter for the String Quartet No. 1 (The Awakening) by Christos Hatzis, a 51-year-old of Greek origin who was naturalized in Canada. It is a piece in which worldly din, hallucination and nostalgia come together. The musicians are surrounded by very different sounds: delicate, restrained songs and dances of the Inuit are played briefly and softly into the hall. Moreover, the composition is challenged by noises of trains passing by which sounded through Hatzis' childhood dreams....The different components in Hatzis' composition compound in a truly striking and suggestive manner. The music is solidly existential. It personifies life in general and does not shirk from being touching. It reflects emotions, longings and memories with its all-embracing sounds. The composition is simply sensational —disguised as excellent, challenging chamber music. Von Klaus Geitel BERLINER MORGENPOST, February 28, 2005 (Germany)

Canadian Music for the Ages
Christos Hatzis's Sepulcher of Life could have lasting power.
Has Christos Hatzis done it? By which I mean to ask: has this University of Toronto composition professor created a piece of Canadian music that will not be filed promptly under Forget About It and never heard, or even heard about, again? The question is worth asking after Iwan Edwards and his St. Lawrence Choir (one of four Canadian societies to commission it) gave the eastern Canadian premiere of Sepulcher of Life at St. Jean Baptiste Church. This half-hour spiritual statement in four movements follows a traditional aesthetic trajectory from mysterious beginnings to an exultant conclusion. But it does so in an impressive and colourful fashion. Strange to say, there is no minimalist tedium of the sort that infects most contemporary attempts to set a mystic text. Hatzis's language is romantic and expressive at the core. This did not preclude some experimentalism in the middle movements. The solemn Encomium was a hymn sung in Greek by the audience as well as the choir, followed by a free-spirited solo for Middle Eastern singer Maryem Tollar....As for the neo-romantic rest, it was good stuff, and stylistically integrated even if Hatzis had learned lessons from the cinema (vaulting horns that would please John Williams) and from Mahler, whose Second Symphony was the obvious template for the heavenward gazing of the finale. Soprano solos in the outer movements are tough but viable; Monica Whicher scaled their heights to great effect. Edwards led the entirety with a steady hand and full heart. Arthur Captainis, THE GAZETTE, Montreal (Canada) March 1 2005.

Choir, Symphony combine for Enchanting Concert.
...Of special billing was alto soloist Maryem Tollar, whom Hatzis had in mind when he composed the work. Half scored, half improvised, the alto soloist's accompanied cadenza-like music to the simple words "life" and "love life," was truly a remarkable phenomenon to witness. Throughout her performance, one got the sense she was literally possessed by the music and emotion. Her radical physical movements and gestures appeared to manifest and personify her intense spiritual and emotional connection with the experience and the act of performance...the whole episode was unorthodox but highly effective. Daniel Ariaratnam THE RECORD, Kitchener-Waterloo (Canada) March 28 2005.

Composer Christos Hatzis’ interdisciplinary music-theatre piece, Constantinople...was staggeringly beautiful. The eight-section work portrays the collisions of cultures at the heart of one of the world’s most exciting and significant cities through music, song and visual projections...The gorgeous set by Bernard While was made up of hanging, abstract, Oriental sculpture with cunningly placed transparent screens, while Heather MacCrimmon’s costumes moved from somber robes to more revealing Eastern-inspired femininity by just removing an outer layer. Marie-Josée Chartier was clever and economical in her placement. In short, Constantinople was a towering achievement that was a lavish assault on the senses, and, at its best, a monumental fusion of many arts, rendered by an amazing array of very talented artists...Nothing can take away from the glory of Hatzis’ music, majestically played by the Gryphon Trio (Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin, Roman Borys, cello, and Jamie Parker, piano), accompanying Patricia O’Callaghan’s beautiful light soprano and, particularly, Maryem Hassan Tollar’s passionate, earthly singing...Hatzis’ ravishing score is made up of religious music and folk rhythms from the many creeds and races who make up Constantinople’s polyglot of peoples, all woven cunningly together in the composer’s accessible melodious, Neo-Romantic style. Paula Citron, OPERA CANADA Spring 2005.

A highlight of the fall musical season in Toronto was Constantinople, by composer Christos Hatzis....In its final form, Constantinople...is both fresh and powerful. This 90-minute, eight-movement, genre-defying work (Is it a cantata? A song-cycle? Chamber Music?) never flags in its compositional inventiveness or intensity. A solemn religiosity predominates, but there are lighter moments as well. Think of John Tavener with a dash of Astor Piazzolla, and you’ll have the general idea of Constantinople. The vocalists were Maryem Hassan Tollar and Patricia O’Callaghan, two singers who represented the East and west through their respective vocal traditions: Tollar’s intricate arabesques and O’Callaghan’s elegant, lyric soprano. There’s some electronic music too—but at the centre of the work’s musical conception lies a piano trio. Toronto’s Gryphon Trio—violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon, cellist Roman Borys, and pianist Jamie Parker—were involved in the creation of the piece from the beginning and on November 10 they gave a committed, tour de force performance. The visual projections by Lionel Arnould and Jacques Collin were an ever-changing panorama of beautiful, evocative imagery from ancient cultures. Bernard White’s set design and Heather MacCrimmon’s consumes tastefully complemented the production. And Marie- JoséeChartier’s direction and choreography were imaginative, if at times a tad arcane. Constantinople’s diverse elements add up to an astonishing musical, visual and theatrical experience that’s both complex and sophisticated. And yet, paradoxically, there’s also an underlying stratum of naiveté: the implicit message seems to be that all the world’s problems could be solved with a big group hug. In fact, this work could well be controversial in some circles: is Hatzis celebrating the artistic trappings of religion while sidestepping its deeper meaning? Still, the notion, embedded in Constantinople, that cultural co-existence is possible, may be just what the world needs to be reminded of these days. Plans are afoot for both a tour and a recording, so it’s likely that this unique and remarkable work will soon be heard beyond Canada’s borders. Colin Eatock, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE March/April 2005 (page 49)

..A multi-media feast of the imagination...
...a work unlike any other in the Canadian musical literature..
Imaginatively staged, atmospherically lit and brilliantly performed,
Constantinople defies categories...it is in a class of its own.
William Littler, THE TORONTO STAR. November 11, 2004
 
Constantinople plays with the eye, the ear and the mind in a tantalizing fashion...
the production falls somewhere between opera, 60s happening and multimedia concert,
and it works on all those levels...[a] highly polished, intriguing show...
Bring it back, please. NOW Magazine
 
It is a towering achievement that is a lavish assault on the senses...
a monumental fusion of many arts, rendered by an amazing array of very talented artists...
nothing can take away from the glory of Hatzis’ music, the majestic playing of the Gryphon trio,
Patricia O’Callaghan’s beautiful light soprano, and particularly, Maryem Hassan Tollar’s
passionate, earthy singing.  Paula Citron, Classical 96.3 FM
 

A Mixed Media Triumph in Banff:
Music, technology, East and West meet in CONSTANTINOPLE

At the conclusion of the premiere of Constantinople at the Banff Centre's Eric Harvie Theatre on Thursday, the near-capacity audience gave the work and its performers a long standing ovation. No wonder...the 90-minute multi-media piece weaves a bold and richly emotional tapestry of sound and image that clearly represents a stunning theatrical triumph in the marriage of music with digital technology. Toronto composer Christos Hatzis' score is an artful and frequently arresting blend of western classical, liturgical and Middle Eastern traditions with infusions from more contemporary styles, such as jazz and pop. It is performed flawlessly and miraculously by the Gryphon Trio—pianist Jaime Parker, violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon and cellist Roman Borys—and singers Maryem Tollar and Patricia O'Callaghan. It's a complex multi-layered work in eight movements, each a ritual point of departure on an imagined journey towards spiritual convergence between East and West. Musically and visually, everything is in a state of flux in Constantinople. In Creeds, for example, O'Callaghan's beautifully sung Byzantine chant, and Tollar's Islamic equivalent, change into a kind of instrumental Turkish dance -- while images of stained glass and tracery parade up and down and across set and lighting designer Bernard White's two scrim arches. Likewise, the ensuing quiet and medieval-sounding Kyrie, also sung by O'Callaghan, turns into an impassioned plea rising above the noise of battle in sound designer Anthony Crea's typically powerful surround-soundscape. The imagery chosen here by projection design wizards Jacques Collin and Lionel Arnould morphs ingeniously from abstraction into two gnarled brambles. Elsewhere, Tollar's performance of the Sufi song, Ah Kalleli, processed and played back quadraphonically and ending in the fervour of a gospel riff, lodges in the memory -- as does the repetition of an original folk-like melody. The melody builds, with processed fragments from Giuseppe Verdi's Dies Irae and once more the soundscape of modern warfare, to a climactic moment at the spiritual core of Constantinople, On Death and Dying. Other instances of Hatzis's chameleon-like ability for assimilating musical styles in Constantinople include a charming, off-kilter percussive dance a la Stravinsky that keeps moving forward in Odd World; catchy little vaudeville tangos convey the nonsense of political posturing in Dance of the Dictators; and an elegiac solo piano piece that changes into an Astor Piazzola-like tango in Old Photographs, the most popular piece in Hatzis's score. Appropriately enough for a work that illustrates strength through diversity, Constantinople concludes with a faltering Serbian Easter chant answered by a rousing note of gospel-style affirmation—Alleluia—which brings us back to the reaction to the work on opening night. Bob Clark, Calgary Herald (Canada) July 31, 2004.

 

Listen to an online audio feature on Everlasting Light (or read the online transcript) by the Oregon Public Broadcasting

Symphony to perform Pyricchean Dances
'It chronicles human realities,' says composer Christos Hatzis

By Stephen Pedersen THE CHRONICLE HERALD (Halifax, Canada)

Canadian composer Christos Hatzis writes art music that is uncompromisingly modern, easy to listen to (despite its strangeness) and globally popular.

He also teaches music at the University of Toronto and writes prolifically and clearly about music, especially - as a biographical note on his exhaustive website tells us - "about the role of contemporary classical music within our present and future societies."

Tuesday night in the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, Symphony Nova Scotia performs his Pyricchean Dances, a concerto for viola, percussion and strings featuring violist Rivka Golani who commissioned it, and percussionist Beverly Johnston.

It is the second Hatzis composition in a set of three programmed for the last three SNS Celebrity concerts of the season. On March 8, his Zeitgeist for strings was performed.

On the last SNS Celebrity Series concert of the season on May 3, oboist Suzanne Lemieux will premiere his oboe concerto, Telluric Dances, commissioned by SNS and destined, like the Pyricchean Dances, to be recorded on a CD to be completed in May. The orchestra starts recording Wednesday and Thursday this week in St. Ansela's Church in West Chezzetcook.

"The past couple of years have been completely insane," Hatzis said over the phone Friday from the rural home 45 minutes from Toronto that he shares with his wife, Beverly Johnston.

"I need someone just to manage my lifestyle and workload. My music is relatively frequently performed in Canada, Europe and, increasingly, the United States."

You can now add China and Southeast Asia to his scope: Hatzis recently signed an exclusive publishing, management and publicity agreement with Promethean Editions in New Zealand.

His discography already includes five all-Hatzis CDs, including three Juno nominations, while his works appear on thirteen CDs by artists such as Shauna Rolston, Josef Petric, the Gryphon Trio and Johnston.

"This year there are three CDs of entirely my music," Hatzis said. "The String Quartets are just out, the Gryphon Trio will record Constantinople - a multimedia work commissioned by them - and the SNS CD."

Rigorously structured and intensely spiritual, Hatzis' music includes many choral works. His compositional language ranges from early experiments with graphic notation to applications of the principles of fractal geometry and music to an eclectic exploration of third-world musics. Bach and the baroque influence his work as well as Inuit throat-singing, both of which he explored in Halifax as composer-in-residence with Scotia Festival of Music in 1998.

Spiritually, Hatzis said his mind and ears have been influenced by the Greek Orthodox Church. "I don't subscribe to any school of thought," he said. "I believe in the spirituality of every human being. Music gets straitjacketed if it is associated with anything but its ability to viscerally connect with the listener.

"My doctrines are Greek Orthodox, but I prefer to connect with the numinous on less specific and textual terms. God is not Christian, Muslim or Jew."

Pyrrichean Dances is a case in point. "The title is Greek, meaning war dances. Each of the four movements was inspired by a world event. The first, Broken Mirrors, is a post-modern discourse on the discontinuity of contemporary life. Multiple tempi, polyrhythm, folk-like tonality, twelve-tone rows, pseudo minimalism and free improvisation make the progress of the music very slippery and full of unexpected turns."

The second movement, Postcards from the (un)Holy Land is a long cadenza for viola, "a lament for the destruction and all the victims of violence in the Middle East. Violence is the real enemy."

The third movement, Love Among the Ruins, is a duet for viola and percussion inspired, Hatzis says, not by 9/11's destruction of the World Trade Centre towers and the terrible loss of life, but by the devastation Hatzis and Johnston felt following the event.

"We were quite depressed for some time. Finally we sat down and talked about it, making an effort to cope emotionally with the disaster. It kind of shatters something inside you." The movement features musical saw and marimba, two of the battery of some two-dozen percussion instruments required for the Dances.

The final movement, Worlds in Collision, is a clash between two world views, the nationalism of composers like Kodaly and Bartok, and the new world order, mechanical, repetitive, physically overpowering running the musical gamut "from atonal minimalism to disco-like aggression."

"I did not want to create program music to describe these events," Hatzis said of the Pyrrichean Dances. "It chronicles human realities."

 

 

AFTERTHOUGHTS 1
AGNUS DEI
ARCANA
BURIAL GROUND
BYZANTIUM
CONCERTO FOR FLUTE AND CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
CONFESSIONAL
CONSTANTINOPLE

CRUCIFIX
CRUEL ELEGANCE
DANCE OF THE DICTATORS
DE ANGELIS
EQUIVOQUE
EROTIKOS LOGOS
EVERLASTING LIGHT
FAREWELL TO BACH
FERTILITY RITES
FOOTPRINTS IN NEW SNOW
FOUR RITUALS FOR PERCUSSION QUINTET, CHOIR AND AUDIENCE
FROM THE BOOK OF JOB
FROM THE VANISHING GARDENS OF EDEN
HEIRMOS
K627: CONCERTO FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA
KYRIE
LIGHT (ARCTIC DREAMS 2)
LIGHT FROM THE CROSS
MELISMA
NADIR
OLD PHOTOGRAPHS
ORBITING GARDEN
OF THREADS AND LABYRINTHS
PARLOR MUSIC
PAVILLONS EN L'AIR
PYRRICHEAN DANCES
SEPULCHER OF LIFE
STRING QUARTET NO. 1 (THE AWAKENING)
STRING QUARTET NO. 2 (THE GATHERING)
STYLUS
TELLURIC DANCES
THE GO(u)LDBERG VARIATIONS
TETRAGRAMMATON
THE BIRTH OF VENUS
THE IDEA OF CANADA
THE LAW OF ONE
THE MEGA4 META4
THE TEMPTATION OF ST. ANTHONY
THE TROPARION OF KASSIANI
THREE SONGS ON POEMS BY SAPPHO
THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
WINTER SOLSTICE
ZEITGEIST

 

 

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