“Elegy of the Uprooting”, a two-disc set, is Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou’s first concert recording for ECM. A production marshalling powerful instrumental and vocal forces – 110 musicians in total – orchestra, choir, traditional instruments ensemble, soloists, the composer herself on piano, plus legendary singer Maria Farantouri –, all performing to a capacity hometown audience at the Megaron, Athens. An important chapter to Eleni’s already distinguished discography, “Elegy of the Uprooting” is more than a “live album”. It is a comprehensive resetting of Karaindrou’s musical history, integrated into what she has called “a scenic cantata.”
The frame for the performance is supplied by music from “The Weeping Meadow” (originally written for Theo Angelopoulos’ film of 2003), and “Trojan Women”, music for K.X. Myris’ adaptation of the classic play by Euripides. These pieces – all receiving Greek concert premieres – provide a shaping context within which Eleni’s compositions of the last three decades can be reintegrated and, at times, transformed. Musical material, then, is drawn from pieces written for the films “The Weeping Meadow”, “Eternity and a Day”, “Ulysses’ Gaze”, “The Suspended Step of the Stork”, “The Beekeeper”, “Landscape in the Mist” and “Voyage to Cythera” (all by Angelopoulos), “Happy Homecoming, Comrade” (by Lefteris Xanthopoulos), and “Rosa” (by Christoforos Christofis ), as well as music from “The Price of Love” by Tonia Marketaki and from Jules Dassin’s production of Chekhov’s “The Seagull”. (Neither the Marketaki nor the Chekhov pieces have previously been featured on ECM discs).
Original programme notes for the three evenings at the Athens Concert Hall in March 2005 – an event that drew an audience of more than 6,000 – spoke of “a journey in colours, sounds and rhythms, all shedding a penetrating light on Eleni Karaindrou’s relationship with uprooting in her work.” The composer herself describes the music as “a new entity” with “every composition taking its place as if it had always been there, part of a larger work, the ‘Elegy of the Uprooting.’” It is remarkable how congruent and homogeneous the music as a whole seems, and how effortless the transitions.
Sound is exceptionally full-blooded for a concert recording and musical performances are all committed. Some of the players – including oboist Vangelis Christopoulos, french horn player Vangelis Skouras, clarinettist Nikos Guinos, trumpeter Socratis Anthis – have collaborated with Eleni for more than twenty years now, and the Camerata Orchestra and the Traditional Instruments Ensemble have become almost like an extended family. For the players Karaindrou’s themes – like Angelopoulos’ images – are part of a shared language now; Eleni has spoken about “secret communication codes” between them.
Time Magazine has said that Karaindrou’s music sings of “love and loss” and its themes of exile, exodus, uprooting, and homecoming are perhaps quintessentially “Greek”. Her music for “Trojan Women”, as critic Giorgos Charonitis has noted, adapts itself well to the music for “The Weeping Meadow” – not least because Euripides and Angelopoulos are essentially addressing comparable human tragedy, in the same geographical region. Eleni: “While I was doing the ‘Trojan Women’, Theo (Angelopoulos) asked me to work on ‘The Weeping Meadow’, and I was shocked because it’s exactly the same story of expatriation – 2500 years later.” The title of the current project is in fact inspired by a line from Euripides: “I am driven out of my homeland.” “Partings, expatriation, these are themes I know about in my own life...”
Eleni’s “Trojan Women” score was composed for the Euripides adaptation by K. X. Myris –who had written lyrics for Karaindrou’s first major work “The Great Vigilance”, composed in Paris back in 1971. The singer on that early project was Maria Farantouri, the great voice of resistance and hope in the era of the military junta, and Theodorakis’ important ally.
Karaindrou and Farantouri had known each other as students in Athens in the 1960s and even played very briefly in a folk band together. They met again in France, Farantouri staying at Karaindrou’s apartment: “Maria really encouraged me to work on composing songs,” Eleni recalls.
Of the “Elegy of the Uprooting”, Eleni Karaindrou says: “I created a new musical journey where new and old wayfarers join in. The highly distinctive oboe of Vangelis Christopoulos (which has been one of the ‘signature’ voices of Eleni’s writing since “Voyage to Cythera”) now “merges with the Contantinople lyra in ‘Ulysses’ Gaze’, and ‘Trojan Women’ bring the pain of exile back to life through Maria’s voice and the voices of the women’s choir of the ‘Ode of Tears’.” Farantouri, who joins the chorus at several points, also sings a very touching “Rosa”, reinterpreting the song Eleni wrote for Christofis’ film about dreams and revolution, as well as “Song of the Lake” from the aforementioned Dassin/Chekhov production of 1985.
Eleni Karaindrou was born in the Greek mountain village of Teichio. She studied piano and musical theory at the Athens Hellenic Conservatory, history and archaeology at the University of Athens, and ethnomusicology and orchestration at the Sorbonne and the Scuola Cantorum in Paris.
Since 1975 she has composed music for more than twenty feature films, and for more than 40 theatre plays and numerous television productions. Collaborating most often with Greek directors – above all Theo Angelopoulos, with whom she has had an ongoing creative association since 1983 – she has also worked with Harold Pinter, Chris Marker, Jules Dassin, Margarethe von Trotta and others.
Karaindrou has received numerous awards including the State Music Award (Greece) for her music for “Eternity and a Day”, the Dmitris Mitropoulos Award for her music for theatre (1994-96), and the Fellini Award from Europa Cinema, Italy. In 2002 she received the Golden Cross of the Order of Honor from the Greek president, for her life’s work. In 2004 she was nominated for the European Film Award for her music for “The Weeping Meadow”, which was also Oscar-nominated.
Eleni Karaindrou has been an ECM recording artist since 1991, working closely with producer Manfred Eicher in rearranging and adapting compositions originally written for stage and screen for album release. Her ECM discs are “Music for Films”, “The Suspended Step of the Stork”, “Ulysses’ Gaze”, “Eternity and a Day”, “Trojan Women”, “The Weeping Meadow” and “Elegy of the Uprooting”.