Contrary to a general impression that the Skalkottas discography is rather poor, it can be shown that it consists, to date, of a total of 77 recordings, comprising 39 LPs from the period 1954-1990 and 38 CDs starting with 1990. Recordings that have been re-issued under a different name or label are not counted, unless there has been a change in format, that is, from LP to CD.
Fifty works exist in at least one discographic edition, which translates to approximately 45% of Skalkottas’ output. However, one could argue that the main body of his works is well represented since the majority of the works missing are, primarily, small compositions.
The first recordings relate to the first music editions of Skalkottas’ works by Universal Edition. The first recording ever featuring exlusively Greek classical music appeared under the title Modern Greek Chamber Music and was issued by Philips in 1954. It contained Nos. 3 and 15 (“Passacaglia”) from the 32 Piano Pieces, the 4th Piano Suite, published by Universal in 1955, and 4 Greek Dances for Violin and Piano.The Little Suite for Strings, the first score published by Universal in 1953, was recorded in 1956 in Boston by the Zimbler Sinfonietta under Lukas Foss. This is the only recording of the work that exists up to the present. Ten Sketches for Strings followed in 1959 with the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, while the score was already published in 1953.
Selections from the 36 Greek Dances, Skalkottas’ most popular composition, are represented in 30 recordings in various arrangements by the composer: symphony orchestra, string orchestra, band, violin and piano. Twelve of them were issued for the first time not, as generally thought, by Dimitri Mitropoulos but by the Greek-origin conductor Gregory Millar and the Little Symphony Orchestra of San Francisco in 1957. Mitropoulos recorded 4 of the dances with the New York Philharmonic in 1956, a recording which was released in 1958 along with works of Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky. The recordings from the 1955 Athens Festival appeared in a commemorative CD in 1990 (30 years after the maestro’s death). The only complete recording of the 36 Greek Dances for Orchestra still remains the Lyra double CD with the Ural Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Byron Fidetzis.
With the Cycle-Concert, released by Philips in 1995, a tendency towards combining works that belong to the same period or style is discerned. But most importantly it is made clear that an accurate performance brings the public in direct relation to the work itself. In this respect the Swedish label BIS and the conductor Nikos Christodoulou have contributed significantly to the reception of Skalkottas’ symphonic works by offering world-premiere recordings of the Concerto for Violin, the Concerto for Double Bass and the First Piano Concerto, as well as 2 movements from the Second Symphonic Suite
However, the majority of the works represented in the recordings are solo piano compositions, dominated by the 4th Piano Suite and 10 numbers from the 32 Piano Pieces, mostly the ones published by Universal Edition back in 1965. Chamber compositions follow, mainly the works for violin and piano and the total of the works for cello and piano. Symphonic works only recently have started gaining their position in the repertory.
The insistence on performance of specific works can be explained by the existence of a printed score or lack thereof. On the other hand, major works, some of which were published during the ‘60s, still remain unrecorded. Among them, the 32 Piano Pieces in their whole, the 16 Songs for Mezzo and Piano, and the Concertino for two Pianos and Orchestra, a fact that suggests a reluctance from the performers’ point of view to engage with extensive or very demanding works. The gigantic 4th String Quartet, published in 1968, was only recently recorded (May 2000, BIS-CD-1074) by the New Hellenic Quartet.
The importance of scholarly editions, however, remains crucial. Margun editions, have started with the edition of Skalkottas’ collected works since the late 1980s. Unfortunately, misprints are not rare, not to mention errors in dates, catalog numbers and so on. But most importantly, what one would expect is the critical editing of the score and not the mere photographic reproduction of the original manuscript or some copy of it, as is very often the case.
All efforts should, therefore, be directed towards scholarly editions which would bring performers, researchers and the public closer to Skalkottas’ work.