"Γένοι' οίος εσσί"..."Become who you are" - Orphic epigram
...Gregoriadou ia a virtuoso guitarist, scholar, and she is a stand out who will no doubt excite audiences, while carving her own niche within the classical guitar world. Incredibly fluent technique, refined tone, deep understanding of the style...
Brad Conroy, GUITAR INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE
Greek guitar soloist and composer Smaro Gregoriadou attempts a redefinition of the classical guitar's sound and technique through the "Reinventing guitar!" project that she introduced in 2009, based on Kertsopoulos Aesthetics platform of inventions. Her innovative artistic and pedagogical approach has generated enthusiastic response worldwide. As the eminent American critic Mr. Raymond Tuttle put it: "In her own way, Gregoriadou evokes musicians such as Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould, and Wanda Landowska in her willingness-her need, really-to find a new way to express herself and to reanimate the music, without letting innovation become an end in itself" (Fanfare, Nov/Dec 2012.)
Smaro Gregoriadou has studied with distinguished specialists of our time, including pianist-conductor George Hadjinikos, guitarists George Kertsopoulos, Jesus Castro-Balbi, Paul Galbraith and Roberto Aussel; also composers George Sioras, Theodore Antoniou and Dinos Konstandinidis. She has been awarded a Senior Exhibitioner Scholarship to continue her postgraduate classical guitar studies with Carlos Bonnel at the Royal College of Music, London.
She won numerous international music awards both for composition and solo guitar interpretation, the latest being the Gina Bachauer Soloist Prize 2013. She appeared as soloist in Europe, Russia, Canada, the USA, Australia, and China – and collaborated with major orchestras and chamber music groups in Greece and abroad. Her compositions have been premiered and commissioned by important artistic institutions and ensembles worldwide, including ALEA III, Ensemble Octandre, Helsinki Chamber Ensemble, the Open Source Guitars, Biennale Rome, the Trossingen University of Music, the Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens, and many others.
Today she devotes her time mainly to solo guitar performance, music composition and teaching – as well as conducting solo and ensemble classical guitar workshops and multi-disciplinary artistic projects titled "Inclusive Interpretation and Functional Technique". She is a founding member of CHORIAMBOS Theatre Company, a creative platform for research into and presentation of the ancient Greek drama's musical form, essence and identity, and member of the Greek Composers Union.
Her three highly acclaimed CD albums, Smaro Gregoriadou: "Reinventing guitar, Volumes I and II" (DE 3398, DE3419) and "El Aleph" (DE3490) were released by the American label DELOS. Her recent album "SEQUENCES" (AN ART RECORDS AAAR006 - June 2019) consists of original compositions for solo guitar by Nikos Athanassakis in first world presentation.
Her composition "Balkan Dances for solo guitar" was published in 2011 by BRANDON MUSIC Ltd.
As the innovative, world-renowned guitarist Smaro Gregoriadou says in her notes for this stunning new recording, her fourth for Delos, its music offers "encouragement and hope," and illuminates with "a different kind of light, a different sort of fire."
The program begins with her beautiful transcription of Bach's beloved Solo Violin Sonata #2 and offers Britten's fascinating Nocturnal, along with works by Gubaidulina and Hétu. As Raymond Tuttle put it, in a Fanfare review of one of Smaro's earlier Delos releases, "Gregoriadou evokes musicians such as Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould, and Wanda Landowska in her willingness to find a new way to express herself and to reanimate the music."
Robert Hugill writes......"Her account of the [J.S. Bach Sonata‘s] opening ‘Grave' is strong and firm, whilst the ‘Fuga' is crisp, firm and quite steady with Gregoriadou making explicit what often has to be left implicit in Bach's original. The ‘Andante' is firmly rhythmic with a strong emphasis on the repeated accompanying notes. The concluding ‘Allegro' is brilliant and idiomatically guitar sounding. … the remainder of the disc…is brilliant and intense … Gregoriadou is clearly a guitarist who, rather than accept the instrument's limitations and repertoire, seems to be constantly questing for new ways of performing and new repertoire. This disc offers new ways of looking at existing repertoire alongside lesser known pieces."
SEE DELOS PAGE
FanFare's Henry Fogel writes.....Gregoriadou is a Greek guitarist who draws a remarkably wide range of color from her guitar. The calm beauty of the third movement of the Bach violin sonata, simply marked Andante, is followed by a brilliantly executed final Allegro that manages to wed crisp articulation with lyrical flow.
Britten's Nocturnal after John Dowland, written for Julian Bream, is given a superb reading. The music is a set of variations that appear before the Dowland theme itself emerges at the end. Britten said that the music contained "disturbing images," though he never specified what they were. This is unsettled music that seems to stop and start, building tension in its halting, quiet way. Release, at least to a degree, is found at the end with Dowland's original theme. Gregoriadou's performance emphasizes the work's underlying tension without overplaying it.
Sofia Gubaidulina's Serenade was composed in 1960 when the composer was 29, and is a gentler and more introspective work than we are used to from her. At three minutes, it is also very brief. Not unlike the Britten, the music is tonally ambiguous until resolving in what Gregoriadou, in her excellent notes, calls "a therapeutic G major chord."
Jacques Hétu was a Canadian composer (1938–2010) who wrote his Suite pour guitare in 1986. It is predominantly a lyrical work, much of it at soft dynamics. The third movement, "Ballade," is marked by an underlying darkness that is relieved in the following "Rêverie." After these two quiet movements the work ends with a brilliant finale, in the style of a moto perpetuo.
What is special about this recording is Gregoriadou's focus on timbre. Her technique is exceptional, but it is always at the service of creating a sound world with a wide spectrum. Her dynamic shading in the last movement of the Hétu is astonishing, and it is so effortlessly achieved that you don't think about technique as you listen. I don't think of Gregoriadou as a guitarist. I think of her as a musician who happens to play the guitar. This is a very beautiful guitar recital, with recorded sound that makes it seem as if you are in the room with Gregoriadou, and at just the right distance for the best perspective.
Thomas Tamvakos, music writer, critic, researcher, founder & director of "Greek Composers' Archive" reviews; Smaro Gregoriadou - A Healing Fire (DELOS - DE 3582).
The year of the pandemic, with dozens of victims and a consequent partial or general confinement, is fading away with at least some good news in the field of classical music, and a rich discography of exceptional recordings. A Healing Fire, by the renowned guitar soloist and composer Smaro Gregoriadou, released this past October by DELOS (DE 3582) is among the leading ones. It is her fifth album (the fourth for DELOS) and -as expected from the collection's unmatched overall quality- it immediately met a triumphal reception from listeners and critics alike.
A Healing Fire is a perfect continuation after the soloist's previously released masterpieces by DELOS, which have been also highly praised: Reinventing Guitar I (DE 3398), Reinventing Guitar II (DE 3419), and El Aleph (DE 3490). It contains compositions of four non-Greek composers (there are no Gregoriadou's works in this album,) performed in a truly outstanding way, and demonstrating the soloist's unique interpretive approach that fascinates, especially those who happen to be already familiar with this particular music from discography and internet posts worldwide.
The interpretation, reaching here the ideal of a highest perfection, is based on Kertsopoulos Aesthetics, a scientific platform of inventions in guitar and string construction, signed by the imaginative Greek guitarist, composer, inventor, and guitar builder George Kertsopoulos. It aims to an exploration of the guitar's acoustic potential in the entire range of its repertory; and it proposes a revival of historical guitar types of 17th and 18th centuries, by means of a realistic re- composition of their form, sound and technical features. Basic innovations include the enhancement of the sound's volume and sustain, as well as the reintroduction of numerous historical tuning ranges with the use of new string materials. For Smaro Gregoriadou (herself an excellent guitar student of Kertsopoulos,) Kertsopoulos Aesthetics must have obviously been an endless challenge of dialectic juxtaposition with the standard guitar sonority -mainly established by Segovia's school. She has been able to refine tremendously her playing, and we can definitely confirm such an obvious growth throughout her brilliant discography up to now!
The four compositions of the present album, Bach's Violin Sonata Nr 2 BWV 1003 in Smaro Gregoriadou's exquisite arrangement, Nocturnal after John Dowland Op. 70 by Benjamin Britten, Serenade by Sofia Gubaidulina, and the Suite pour guitare Op. 41 by Jacques Hétu, have been recorded with two Kertsopoulos instruments of unconventional construction and acoustics. Interventions include pedal mechanisms, new string materials and non-standard tunings in high registers. We hear a lucid and clear sound throughout, an interpretation full of dramatic depth, totally free from the excessive emotionalism and romantic exuberance often characterizing classical guitar performances of today. The soloist exhibits a faultless knowledge of the secrets of baroque music and Bach, as well as a skill to fully comprehend the particular features and style of the three composers of the 20th c., Britten, Gubaidulina, Hétu. Those virtues, combined with an acrobatic agility and a fine temperament, provide an overwhelmingly attractive effect. Gregoriadou's long expressed vision to ‘reinvent' the popular plucked instrument, exploring sonic possibilities that are way far detached from Segovia's influence, is being fully accomplished here. If, for example, we compare her reading of the well-known Hétu composition with various other decent performances (Andrei Burdeti's, Joshua Shi's, Alexander Milovanov's,) we experience a huge divergence in aesthetics, with Gregoriadou's version taking clearly the lead. More key information about the instruments, the compositions and the soloist can be found in the CD's elegant and informative 14-page booklet.
I find it impossible to detect the slightest weakness in the overall production (performance, recording, mastering) and I wish wholeheartedly that the collaboration of DELOS with an artist like Smaro Gregoriadou will remain active for many productions to come. For the time being we can enjoy multiple auditions of A Healing Fire (by the way, an inventive and substantial title, pointing directly to the very function of the experience of listening!) Greatly recommended to all music fans that haven't had yet the opportunity to acquire it!
"The earliest experience of art must have been that it was incantatory, magical; art was and instrument of ritual.The earliets theory of art, that of the Greek philosophers, proposed that art was mimesis, imitation of reality."
I met Smaro Gregoriadou's music a few years ago, in December 2016. I was struck by a couple of her records "Reinventing Guitar II" (2012) and "El Aleph" (2016), in both there was a strong tension towards innovation, towards forms different from those already known and stabilized in the classical field.
"It is at this point that the peculiar question of the value art arose. For the mimetic theory, by its very terms, challenges art to justify itself."*
The style and vision shown by Smaro Gregoriadou was, and still is, very different from Plato's "mimesis", with a focus not only on the content of the music she interpreted, but, above all, on the "form".
"It is the defence of art which givesbirth to the odd vision by which something we have learned to call ‘content', and to the well-intentioned move which makes content essential and form accessory."*
An attention that still seems to be in the strings of the classical guitar of this excellent interpreter, who has returned to the attention of the Neuguitars blog in this sad 2020, with this excellent cd "A Healing Fire".
READ THE FULL Neuguitars REVIEW
DECADES AGO at a Carmel Bach Festival solo violin recital the young man sitting next to me struck up a conversation. When he told me he had come from Fresno I asked him if it was to escape the summer heat there. "No," he said, "I wanted to hear how a fugue can be played on a solo violin." Good answer, I thought.
The fugue in question is the second movement from JS Bach's Sonata in A minor, the very work that opens this new Delos recital by the extraordinary Greek guitarist Smaro Gregoriadou. She uses Bach's own transcription for harpsichord of the sonata, to D minor, and plays it on a "high-tuned pedal guitar in scalloped frets of the Kertsopoulos Aesthetics.*"
For the rest of her program, titled "A Healing Fire," she uses a classical pedal guitar of the same aesthetics, a technical platform that expands the timbral colorations available to the performer. In her opening remarks, Gregoriadou writes, "The compositions in this collection offer encouragement and hope against today's dystopia and chaos; they explore spirituality, self-knowledge and transcendence, illuminating dark and ambiguous regions of the human psyche with a different kind of light, a different sort of fire. They are conduits for catharsis, an escape from conflicts, antinomy and traumas this world torments us with.
From Bach's ecstatic Credo to Gubaidulina's submersion into the most transparent awareness prayer can bring; and from Hétu's suspended scream to Britten's self-absorbing surrender to Sleep and Nothingness, these towering masterpieces are, above all, essays on the mystical, reflections of the sacred!" Britten wrote his circumspect Nocturnal after John Dowland for the late Julian Bream; its eight variations, ending in a large passacaglia are based on "Come, heavy Sleep, the image of true Death, and close up these my weary weeping eyes" from Dowland's First Book of Songs (1597), cast as a journey through the night, often meditative and tranquil, sometimes restless or agitated. Sofia Gubaidulina, a Shostakovich protégée who turned 89 on Saturday, is a woefully underrepresented yet hugely prolific Tatarstani composer of deep spiritual affect and a cheeky sense of humor, witness her The Unasked Answer for three orchestras, an obvious play on Ives' The Unanswered Question. Her Serenade for guitar, at just three minutes, doesn't really rectify her status in the West. Jacques Hétu's five-movement Suite for guitar of 1986 makes plain his French aesthetic. Why Gregoriadou calls it a ‘suspended scream' I cannot explain; Hétu (1938-2010) is a self-described melodist with a keen grasp of musical form, harmonic relationships and the guitar itself. Sure there are rigorous challenges for both the guitarist and the listener but ultimately a satisfying adventure. SM
One interesting aspect of Greek guitarist Smaro Greoriadou's playing is her willingness to experiment technically, the tunings and instruments chosen to suit the musical requirements of each work. So, her transcription of Bach's Violin Sonata No. 2 follows the composer's own keyboard version in switching from A minor to D minor, Gregoriadou using a guitar tuned a major third higher than usual. Her choice pays off, the instrument's leaner, crisper timbre closer to that of the harpsichord. There's an intensity and tautness to the sound which heightens the music's expressivity. Every flourish in Bach's opening "Grave" tells, followed by a cogent, elegant fugue. And I like the steely power of the final movement, music described by Gregoriadou as "smooth but assertive". For the rest of the disc we slip back down to conventional tuning, both instruments fitted with pedal mechanisms allowing the sound to be modified by the player. The one familiar work is Britten's Nocturnal after John Dowland, a sequence of variations based on Dowland's "Come, heavy sleep", the theme only appearing at the very end. This is thorny, late Britten, the spare textures easily offset by the warmth of Gregoriadou's playing, the arrival of the Dowland melody an effective coup de théâtre.
Sofia Gubaidulina's Serenade dates from 1960, three minutes of arresting but pained musing, ending suddenly and serenely with a G major chord. Rarer still is the Op. 41 Suite by French-Canadian composer Jacques Hétu. He described himself in 1996 as "a rather solitary hiker", a follower of Dutilleux rather than Boulez. This five-movement work is an accessible treat, Hétu's language alluding to conventional tonality while remaining distinct and fresh. As with Hindemith, thickets of thorny dissonance have a habit of resolving, magically, onto consonant chords. An enjoyable anthology, beautifully played and handsomely recorded, Gregoriadou's stated objective to "offer encouragement and hope against today's dystopia and chaos" accomplished with ease.
SEE ALL theartsdesk REVIEWS
The Greek guitarist Smaro Gregoriadou is known for her constant experimentation with the guitar sound. On this CD, you can experience this once again. The programme begins with the Violin Sonata No. 2 BWV 1003, for which the instrument has been tuned five semitones higher than the standard guitar tuning in order to better match the frequency range of the original violin. In Bach's multi-layered work this results in a thoroughly attractive sound, which would certainly not be so magnificent without Smaro Gregoriadou's excellent phrasing and dynamic playing.
The modern compositions on the CD are played in standard tuning. Britten's Nocturnal about Dowland's song ‘Come, heavy Sleep, the image of true Death' is heard in a very finely differentiated interpretation, which expresses very well the mood swings of this musical meditation.
Gubaidulina's expressive Serenade leads to the Suite pour guitare by the Canadian Jacques Hétu (1938-2010). The Suite, composed in 1986, with five relatively short movements, begins with a somewhat unwieldy prelude. This is followed by a Nocturne, while the third movement, the Ballade by Smaro Gregoriadou, is effectively heightened. The fourth movement, Rêverie, leads to the finale, which the guitarist plays with a lot of drive and tension, before the meditative middle section, in stark contrast, provides a breathing pause to gather strength for the virtuoso coda. Also in this piece, Smaro Gregoriadou's full and rich guitar sound is top class.
SEE THE pizzicato PAGE