Eleni Karaindrou’s collaborations with stage director Antonis Antypas have generated some of her most powerful music. Medea, like the earlier Trojan Women, comes out of this association. Recorded at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, the music vibrates with emotional intensity. Karaindrou gives her themes to a small ensemble, its sound-colours creating an ambiance both archaic and contemporary, as textures of santouri, ney, lyra and clarinets are combined and contrasted.
The stage cantata David features Eleni Karaindrou’s music for a unique piece of Aegean drama, a verse play with words by an unknown 18th century poet from the island of Chios. Its text (first published only in 1979), invites a musical response and Greek composer Karaindrou rises splendidly to the challenge, imaginatively moving between past and present in her settings for mezzo-soprano and baritone singers, instrumental soloists, choir and orchestra.
Once we are aware that certain music has been written for film, it’s easy to wax poetic about said music’s visual associations. Yet I believe that one needn’t be aware of Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou’s filmic motivations in order to feel it in the same way, for hers imagines, recites, and sings the lament of a zeitgeist in decay. Karaindrou’s themes are potent yet familiar, even (if not especially) to those who’ve never heard them before. Brimming with tragedy and triumph alike, this is music not only for the fictional, but also for real strangers crossing paths in a world of mist and shadows.
Film composer Eleni Karaindou was born in the Greek mountain village of Teichio and raised in Athens, going on to study piano and music theory at the Hellenikon Odion. Relocating to Paris in 1969, she studied ethnomusicology for five years before returning to Greece to found the Laboratory for Traditional Instruments at the ORA Cultural Centre. Karaindrou's most successful collaboration was with filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos, with whom she first teamed in 1982, going on to score features including 1991's The Suspended Step of the Stork, 1995's Ulysses' Gaze and 1998's Palme d'Or-winning Eternity and a Day. Although primarily aligned with the Greek film industry, Karaindrou also worked with noted European directors including Jules Dassin and the great Chris Marker.
Eleni Karaindrou – “Greece’s most eloquent living composer” in the words of Time magazine – was born in Teichio, a mountain village in central Greece. She still retains vivid memories of the sound world of her childhood: "the music of the wind, rain on the slate roof, running water. The nightingale's singing. And then the silence of the snow." Sometimes the mountains would echo to the sound of flutes and clarinets played at village festivals. “I still have a strong memory of the Byzantine melodies I heard in church and the continuous voices of the men accompanying the chanter," she has said. Resonances of this sound world, imbued with the history and suffering of her native land, have found their way into the many scores she has composed for film, TV and theatre in the past four decades.
Euripides wrote The Trojan Women in 415 B.C., but his tragic play about the aftermath of the fall of Troy continues to resonate many centuries after it was first performed. Eleni Karaindrou, best know for her film scores for Ulysses' Gaze and Eternity and a Day, composed this score for a 2001 production of The Trojan Women after being struck by the parallels between the ancient Greek story and the recent situation in the Balkans. Although she chose to use various folk instruments from around the Mediterranean, such as the lyre, an ancestor of the modern violin; the lauto, a Greek form of the lute; and the ney, an end-blown flute, her stark compositions are not folkloric recreations. Instead, she blends the ancient timbres of the instruments with a vocal chorus to create a sound that is not quite modern but not archaic either. Perhaps the best word to use in describing Karaindrou's austere, beautiful music is timeless.
Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou’s collaborations with stage director Antonis Antypas have generated some of her most powerful music. “Medea”, like the earlier “Trojan Women”, comes out of this association. Created to accompany performances at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, the music vibrates with emotional intensity. Karaindrou gives her themes to a small ensemble, its sound-colours creating an ambiance both archaic and contemporary, as textures of santouri, ney, lyra and clarinets are combined and contrasted.