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Georgios Poniridis Archive

Introduction | Brief historic background and contents of the Poniridis archive | Music manuscripts | Bibliography

Introduction

In 1939, a year after his return to Greece1, Georgios Poniridis published in the Nea Estia magazine a vehement article on the future of Greek music, under the title ‘Greek Polyphonic Music’2 .

He slashes against the bad use of polyphony, stressing that “the time has come to hunt every slipshod four part chant out of the Greek church” and that “Byzantine monophonic art … is not sufficient, in our present-day conception of music, to assure the blossoming, the full range blossoming of a new period in Greek music …”. He concludes: “The everlasting Greek spirit makes our country immortal thanks to its unique and superior faculty to grasp every new spiritual trend, recreating it and fashioning it for the benefit of its own eternal and unrivalled superiority” 3. The excerpts of the article quoted above show the enthusiasm of the young composer on his return to his country; he is brimming with new ideas and is eager to share his experience and his talent with the Greek public. He states his interest and empathy for Byzantine music and his passion for music which he learnt in Europe during the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. The views expressed here are typical of him as is his exhortation that the new Greek spirit of creativity follow the European example in order to accomplish greater achievements in music, on a par with the achievements that the modern Greek mind has attained in other fields.

Georgios Poniridis (born in 1892 – died in 1982) is a discreet figure in the scholarly Greek music world. He is known for his symphonic work and for the voice and piano compositions which were much played in the 30s, 40s and 50s –more sporadically later on. He loved Byzantine music and began to feel its influence already as a child; Byzantine music was to be a source of constant inspiration. As the excerpts of his article indicate, he drew on tradition and adapted it to more modern composition trends and techniques.

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Brief historic background and contents of the Poniridis Archive

The Music Library purchased the composer’s archive in March 2001. The material that was found in the house of the late composer included manuscripts, scores and texts, books, LPs, programmes, and press releases. The archive counts a total of 55 works, 45 of which are complete, the remaining 10 are not. The manuscripts, which had most probably remained untouched after the composer’s death, in particular the orchestral compositions, were found carefully stacked together in a separate closet, wrapped up in newspaper supposedly to keep the dust out. In the same closet, which contained material that belonged exclusively to the composer, there were also some books and scores and, in some cases, manifold copies of his works. According to the previous owners of the archive, nobody had touched these items since the composer’s death in 1982, which leads us to believe that Poniridis personally filed his material in the order we acquired them.

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Music manuscripts

The website of the Music Library lists all of Poniridis’s works which number 88 compositions: ten for orchestra, four concertos, two choir pieces, thirty chamber music works, thirteen pieces for piano solo, six compositions for theatre, one ballet, eighteen pieces of vocal music, one cantata and one opera.

As we mentioned above, the archive includes 45 completed works and only 10 incomplete ones. Indeed, most of the orchestral and choir works have complete scores and include parts for all the instruments in the orchestra. The annotated catalogue of the music works and other original material bears a file number, the title and type of composition, the total number of handwritten pages per work, the composition date and name of poet or writer; however, we do not consider it necessary to burden this brief presentation with such details. Researchers who want to obtain more information on specific works can address themselves directly to the Library. The present catalogue comprises the 10 incomplete works as well as the 8 unrecorded ones, all these works are quoted below. We have classified the works as follows: 

Orchestral works

a) To Karavi. Only five pages of orchestral parts are extant of this incomplete work and there is no indication whatsoever as to the composition date. The various parts lead us to believe that this was meant to be a composition for orchestra. This piece of music may well have been meant for the staging of a play.

b) Moirologi. This is a similar case to the previous one, with the difference that in this instance the work is complete –however we only have the rough draft. As above, this piece of music may have been composed for the staging of a play.

Chamber Music

a) Quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon. In spite of the fact that the composer has noted on the score the date (July 7th, 1967), the performers (Athens Wind Instruments Quintet), the place (Attalos Gallery) and the occasion (Athens Festival) for the work’s first performance, the work went unrecorded in the catalogues.

b) Sonata no. 3, for piano. This work was composed in 1968 and is complete. It is numbered as Sonata number 3 although there is no number 2 sonata in the published catalogues, but only one sonata for violin and piano.

Works for voice and piano

The songs mentioned below figure in a volume of selected songs and are complete works.

a) Dyo tragoudia: Esperinos, O Glaros. The lyrics are by Lambros Porfyras. No indication of date or other details.

b) Dyo Lyrika tou Sikelianou: Anoixi, Me xypnise stis ammoudies. Lyrics by Angelos Sikelianos, no date or further details.

) Deux melodies rmeniennes: 1. Je voudrais etre une petite hirondelle, 2. Mon coeur est un enfant capricieux. Lyrics by Koutchak, no date or other details are given. The composer copied these songs in an obvious effort to collect them in one volume.

Works for voice and instrumental ensemble

a) Thourio. This work is dated March 28th, 1943. It includes an unusual instrumentation, voice, trumpet and drum; the lyrics are from an unknown poet. The piece has a latent patriotic feeling, and was written a few days after the Greek National Day during the harsh German Occupation.

Most of the manuscripts are written in pencil, with few corrections or changes. There are very few blueprints; there aren’t any for the major orchestral works.

It is significant that in his manuscripts Poniridis makes notes on demotic songs and Byzantine vocal music; the latter was to have a lasting effect on him.

Books – Scores – Programmes

Scores,books, catalogues from various exhibitions and publishers, and programmes from Greece and Europe form the second part of the archive. The book list shows a small but significant music selection with revealing titles from reliable publishers in musicology. The only scores listed are his own and a few others, dedicated to him by other composers (G. A. Papaioannou, Ai. Spilios, Sp. Peristeris). The book selection consists of basic studies in music analysis, morphology and history, the history of Greek music, demotic songs and Byzantine music.

Though nobody would expect a complete series of programmes with his works, it is nevertheless surprising to find only eight programmes of concerts performed between 1937 and 1952.

It must be noted here that his manuscripts Anadyomeni, Deilino, Nychtodia, I Panagia tis Spartis, Attiki, Treis melodies Malakasi, Treis melodies Kavafi for piano and voice and Attiki suite for piano are included in the Alexandra Triantis and Lila Lalaounis Archives. The composer had dedicated these works to both artists. Besides the editions of Poniridis’s works described in the corresponding catalogue, the Music Library is also in possession of the rare edition of Trois mélodies grecques (Paris: Senart, 1924), for voice and piano and lyrics by Malakasis, a piece of music not mentioned in any other catalogue of the composer’s works, as well as the extremely rare edition in two volumes of Folk Dances of the World, Two Greek folk dances (for small hands) (London: Oxford University Press, 1926). The only editions not available in the Music Library are the Prélude – from the 1920 Prélude et fugue- (Paris: Hérelle), the Two Preludes (Paris: Senart, 1924) and the Two septets (Paris: Senart, 1927).

The number of concert programmes or plays featuring Poniridis’s works is limited. Besides the material acquired from the Poniridis family, the Library’s general collection includes other concert programmes with works by Poniridis from 1926 to 1938, as well as articles and concert reviews in the magazines Mousiki Zoi and Nea Estia.

G. Poniridis was not only a composer, he was also a poet and there are many copies of his selection of poems Soliloques pathétiques d’un pélerin passionné. These erotic and romantic poems were written in French during the 30s, to be published by “Lettres et Sciences” in Brussels in 1951. The author’s name is referred to only as G. J. P., but there is not a shadow of a doubt that the author is in fact G. Poniridis.

A small selection of LP/a78 records includes Greek operetta songs mainly composed by Sakellaridis and Hatziapostolos and sung by the tenor G. Vitalis (1892 or 1895 – 1959), as well as other popular hits of his time.



There are two LP/a33 records with piano works by the composer that were not included in the Poniridis Archive:
1. George Poniridy. Works for piano, with Maria Frantzeskou at the piano (Philips 6331022) interpreting the following pieces: Variations, Quatre préludes and Sonate no. 2.
2. Twentieth century Greek piano music, Manos Hadjidakis “For a little white seashell”, Nikos Skalkottas “Suite for piano no. 3”, George Poniridy “Rythmes grecs”, Nicolas Constantinidis, piano (The Musical Heritage Society, 3055).
It is worth noting here that the Library also has in its collection a single/a45 record with the Violin and Piano Sonata (1940), with Byron Kolasis, violin, and Giannis Papadopoulos, piano. This record belongs to a series of 8 singles/a45 released by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Fidelity record company in 1961. piano

Alexis Zakythinos in his Discography of Greek classical music 4 states that seven records which include music by Poniridis – mainly piano and voice pieces- have been released as follows: one in England in 1954 interpreted by Irma Kolasis, two in the United States of America in 1961 and in 1974 interpreted by Polina Savridis and Nicolas Constantinidis   and four in Greece in 1961, 1971, 1974 and 1988 interpreted by Byron Kolasis, Giannis Papadopoulos, Maria Frantzeskou and Giorgos Hatzinikos respectively.

Since his works are not being performed anymore, it is only through these few recordings that the general public can get an idea of Poniridis’s compositions.

His French education can be traced in his work in the discreet use of orchestra and nuances. The titles he gave to two piano series seem to have been influenced by Erik Satie: Evritmies and Evmolpies ( ).5

The transparency of his instrumentation shows him to be proficient in this art, whereas the obvious influence of Byzantine music and demotic music is easily traced in the tonal and rhythmical elements of his compositions. On the other hand, it is clear that twelve-tone music (dodecaphonism) also appealed to him as in his string quartet ‘Ton Christougennon’. Though his works were praised, they were unfortunately never much performed. However they were performed by the most prominent musicians of his time, Dimitris Mitropoulos, Georgios Lykoudis, Philoktitis Oikonomidis, Lila Lalaounis and Loula Mavta. In 1938, the year the composer returned to Greece, Dimitrios Hamoudopoulos wrote in the Nea Estia Magazine (issue 23, pages 130-133, 1938) that the Symphonic Triptych was “…a work of undoubted value which can be included among the more characteristic and representative works in modern Greek music…”.6

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Bibliography

Takis Kalogeropoulos, Poniridis Georgios, Dictionary for Greek Music (Giallelis, 1998), vol. 5: 146-148
George Leotsakos, Poniridis Georgios, Greek Educational Encyclopedia, World Biographical Dictionary, ed. G. Christopoulos and I. Bastias (Ekdotiki Athinon, 1991), vol. 8: 336-337
Georgios Poniridis, The Greek polyphonic music, Nea Estia 26 (1939): 925-927
Sofia Spanoudi, The development of Greek music from 1821 till today, "Helios" Encyclopedic Dictionary (Athens 1948-1955), vol. 7: 1028-1037
Aleka Symeonidou, Poniridis Georgios, Dictionary of Greek composers (Nakas, 1995)
Octave Merlier, “George Poniridy” in Georgios Poniridis Three Symphonic preludes (Institute Français d’ Athènes, 1949)

Stephanie Merakos
(translated by Maria Teresa Hildebrand)

 


1 Poniridis first studied in Brussels in 1910, then went to Paris where he studied counterpoint and composition; he also worked as musician –violinist and choir director- with orchestras in Belgium and France until 1938.
2 Poniridis, Georgios: “Greek Polyphonic Music”, Nea Estia 26 (1939), 925 - 927
3 op.cit.
4 Zakythinos, Alexis Discography of Greek classical music (Athens: Dodoni, 1993)
5 (molpi) means ode, a song with a pleasing melody
6 Dimitrios Hamoudopoulos "Music" in the Nea Estia Magazine (issue 23, pages 130-133, 1938)

   
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