jump to navigation

Benaki’s tribute to a composer March 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Music Life Greek.

Yorgos Sicilianos was part of ‘the avant-garde of contemporary music.’ The Benaki exhibition helps make his work better known to the public.

In the late 1980s, composer Yorgos Sicilianos (1920-2005) spoke of how good, high-quality, “entechno” music in this country had been victimized by a poor music education, insufficient media coverage and the commercial interests of record companies. Sicilianos himself can be said to have been a victim of that situation. He believed that art should not be elitist, yet his music did not really became known to the broader public. Even today, it is mostly appreciated among specialists.

“Yorgos Sicilianos (1920-2005): In the Avant-Garde of Contemporary Music” an exhibition at the Benaki Museum, helps to amend that situation by drawing attention to the innovative music of this esteemed artist through the visual documentation of his life and work.

Music scores, photographs of the artist and of his performances, letters, the covers of records or brochures from concerts and all sorts of memorabilia have been gathered in sections that follow the different periods in the artist’s work.

One of the first composers to have introduced the modern techniques of the craft to Greece, Sicilianos was a contemporary of some of the most renowned Greek composers of the second half of the 20th century, including Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis and Iannis Xenakis.

Specialists describe his music as a blend of elements of different styles and traditions, classical music, ancient Greek, demotic and Byzantine as well as modern music, into an idiom that does not directly fall into any specific category. Raised in artistic, well-off bourgeois surroundings, Sicilianos studied music, first in Athens and then in Rome. Byzantine church chants and Greek folk songs were the inspiration in the early work of the artist. Bella Bartok’s music was another major influence.

Curious about modern developments in music, Sicilianos studied at some of the most important music academies of the USA, including the Juilliard School in New York City, where his acquaintance with Dimitris Mitropoulos was to play another major role in his work.

Sicilianos settled in Greece in the mid-1950s and at first composed music for performances of ancient drama. Besides his work as a composer, he also worked systematically toward improving the infrastructure of music and education in the field.

Roughly around the late 1960s, the music of Sicilianos, which was heavily based on the use of the 12-tone system and serialism, became embellished with elements taken from electronic music. In his late works, Sicilianos is said to have moved back to a more classical idiom and to have based many of his compositions on literature and poetry.

An innovator of music that balanced Greek elements with the classical in his work, Sicilianos appreciated tradition but also introduced modern elements into it. In many ways he was a classic modernist, an artist who enriched the music history of this country.

At the Benaki Museum, 1 Koumbari Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 3671000, www.benaki.gr to April 15. The CD of Yorgos Sicilianos’s piano music has been released by the Hellenic Society for Aesthetics. Concerts of the composer’s music will take place on March 20 and 30.

%d bloggers like this: