Cilia Petridou is a Greek-Cypriot pianist and composer, born in Cyprus in 1945. Her music shows a confluence of Eastern and Western elements, not surprising, given her heritage. This is evident in the very first song (most of these “songs” are actually duets), The Grocer, which although tonally cast, includes piquant minor second interjections from the piano, and modal harmonies that one associates with Greece going back centuries. Sirens, while clearly a product of the same composer, evokes quite a different mood, and one feels the allure that is said to have led sailors to their doom. Each of the songs, which also include Kyrenia, What Love Is, Mirrors, Optimism, a three-song cycle called The Siege , and Evtho, is well crafted and evocative of the Greek text being set (translations are provided). The two sopranos have light and pleasant voices, and blend together well in their duets. The lighter of the two is Lesley-Jane Rogers, whose voice occasionally verges towards a Broadway style, but it doesn’t seem misplaced in this music. The one less-than-fully successful work on the song CD is the three-movement cycle, The Siege. There is simply not as much variety in key center and texture as I would like to hear in a work of 24 minutes duration.
The final work on the first CD is Evtho, which adds a violin, clarinet, and cello to the piano in the accompaniment to this 19-minute mini-drama involving a mother and her family. Also included in the vocal mix is a baritone part, sung by Lukas Kargl. The additional instruments are handled well, and add welcome colors to the drama of the setting.
The second disc in this set is devoted to instrumental chamber music, most of which is drawn from incidents in the composer’s Cypriot upbringing. It opens with her piano quartet, Memories , indeed an elegiac work, replete with gentle long-flowing lines in the strings underpinned by subtle and wandering harmonies. Melodic figures, such as an ascending line containing the pitches A, B ? , C ? , D, again suggest the composer’s birthplace. The rather static second movement, in fact, evokes the timelessness of a locale unchanged through the centuries, although its title, “First Loss,” commemorates the composer’s first memory of death that intruded into her life during her teens when she lost three friends.
Petridou’s string quartet bears the unusual title The Collar , and musically depicts an incident from the composer’s childhood that involved her confrontation by the then-occupying British soldiers, who took it upon themselves to see that when the order was given, there were no schoolchildren out and about on the streets (Petridou was grabbed by the collar by a soldier during one such incident). The work is consequently rather restless and agitated, even while maintaining rather secure tonality throughout its brief eight-minute course. The same, other than its brevity, may be said about the piano trio Black July 1974 , a work remembering the Turkish invasion of that year, resulting in the division of the capital city as the last remaining such city in Europe. Its movements recall the composer’s leaving Cyprus in 1965, her lament for the once-thriving city of Famagusta and her happy memories resulting from Cyprus’s independence in 1960. The final movement is entitled “Optimism—Sadness,” and portrays the actual invasion. The recital is filled out by four short character pieces for violin and piano, likewise drawn from the composer’s experiences and memories.
This is heartfelt music, played and sung with conviction. Even though a sense of direction and movement in her music is not always clear (although often it is), its pathos will win over many listeners, and I recommend it accordingly. The booklet gives a good picture of the composer and her times, along with biographies of the performers. Other production values, such as recorded sound are also good on this U.K.-produced disc.