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Evis Sammoutis at Hellenic Centre and Wapping Hydraulic Power Station
14 & 20 March 2007

This multi-prizewinning SPNM shortlisted composer (Cypriot, b.1979; based in York) is going from strength to strength and is likely to emerge as one of the more significant younger composers working in England - and, too, he is a notable guitarist! His music has been featured this month in two interesting London venues.

I first encountered Evis Sammoutis at Amsterdam's Gaudeamus Week 2004, and of his Dimorphism for two violins wrote:
- - Evis Sammoutis described his elucidation of the overtones produced on violin strings by six levels of bow pressure, notated with a clarity and practicality - - it has opened for him ' so many direction possibilities each day'. These were realised convincingly by Lydia Forbes and Heleen Hulst in the world premiere of his magical work Dimorphism, inscribed In memoriam Giacinto Scelsi, music which the great master would have been proud to acknowledge in the succession of discoveries following his own that 'an entire universe of harmonies can be heard in a single sound'.

That impression was fortified by the London premiere of Dimorphism by Peter Sheppard Skaerved and Mihailo Trandafilovksi, the violinists of the Kreutzer String Quartet, in a concert during which we also heard Peter give the world premiere of Monogenesis (2003) for violin solo, a work which built a formidable edifice from a four-note cluster, the music gradually moving higher. In Rotations, performed by Julian Warburton and Matthew West, Sammoutis emancipated the humble snare drum in a tour de force which exploited its rich sound and timbral possibilities.

With the composer recovering from a hand injury, guitarist Alan Thomas deputised brilliantly in Alter Ego 1, which explored that instrument's possibilities, melodic, percussive and harmonic, with scordatura to enhance overtones through sympathetic resonance. Part of an extensive work-in-progress cycle, you can listen online to an extract from Alter Ego II.

At Wapping, violinist David Albermann (one time member of the Ardittis) framed his cutting edge solo recital with Berio's Sequenza VIII and one of Sciarrino's Capricci, taking in several SPNM shortlisted composers among which, Evis Sammoutis apart, I enjoyed best George Holloway's For no one, to no one, which counterposed sustained melodies with flurries of notes, trills and tremolos. But it was Sammoutis who, once again, stole the show, with Taftophonia (2006) for vocalising violinist*.

The score (illustrated) has two pages of instructions and the performer is asked to adjust dynamics to create a strong timbral link between the vocal sounds and playing part. That was not entirely successful at this Wapping premiere, where there is a lot of background noise (the pianissimo delicacies of Lachenmann's Toccatina virtually vanished) and the sound received was a seating position lottery (we found ourselves far too close to two loud speakers!). Sammoutis' music has a depth and aural richness which belies the appearance on the score.

Of these two venues, the Hellenic Centre (near Baker Street) is central and unproblematic; elegant and good for sound, it could usefully be considered for concerts more often? Wapping's power station is exciting to see, but so out of the way that restricting concerts there to one-hour seems a little perverse?

Peter Grahame Woolf

*Peter Sheppard Skaerved will include Taftophonia in a Sammoutis portrait concert at RAM 13 April 7.30 p.m. (admission free):

Διμορφία – Dimorphism for two violins
Μονογένεσις – Monogenesis for solo violin
Ψηφίδες – Tesserae for violin and cello (WP)
Ταυτοφωνία – Taftophonia for vocalising violin
Ηχοπραξία – Echopraxia for string sextet (BP)

Performers will be the Kreutzer Quartet + Rohan de Saram (cello) and Pedro Mereiles (viola)


Sammoutis 2012

Overwhelmed with creative and administrative work back in his native Cyprus, Evis Sammoutis has kindly sent recordings of two major works.

He has had to delay completion of a projected set of violin duos to follow Diamorphism, with which he first made himself known. Meanwhile, there are these:

Onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia literally means the formation of words or names whose sounds imitate the sound they represent, e.g., the word "knock", "hiss", etc. It consists of the Greek words "onoma" - name-and "poiein" -to make. It may also refer to the use of imitative or naturally evocative words for poetic or rhetorical effect. Naturally, both interpretations were very inspiring for me. As a composer primarily interested in the exploration of new instrumental and vocal techniques, the creation of appropriate ways of structuring and formalizing these and the exploration of their syntactic and symbolic meaning, I find onomatopoeia a process that is very close to my own work. In this short composition, I explore sonorities that imitate animal and natural sounds that most people would be familiar with, regardless of background. I then develop these both in a literal and musical manner, playfully exploring aspects of musical and linguistic meaning. The sounds develop into made up words that then also transition to words that listeners may recall. As I knew that the first performance would take place in an outdoors space, I incorporated some of the sound elements that occur naturally in this environment into my sound structure for the piece. This element has the potential to create a dynamic counterpoint between natural sounds and artificial ones, making the title of the work all that more relevant and creating a smooth transition from a world of fantasy to the real one.

Interpunct was commissioned by the Premio San Fedele Giovani Artisti to be played between Beethoven's 3rd and 4th Bagatelles op.126. Interpunct is the small punctuation mark (a vertically centered dot) that was used to separate words in Latin script. Similarly, here a short piece is used to separate two Bagatelles and, therefore, provide a very different narrative / interpretation to the original work. The work was composed not only to serve the artistic purpose of the project and the intended world premiere but also to stand independently on its own merit, which is the case with this recording. Of course, Beethoven's op.126 had a direct impact on the composition of this work both in terms of sound structure and in terms of scope and dramatic realization. Metioron "I could not quite think or find an authentic translation of Metioron - ???????? (ancient Greek form of ???????) in English. "Hanging in the air" or "suspended" are all words that come close, but they really fail to express the true meaning of this work. The composition tries to find a structural identity between various fragmented, fragile but organically related blocks, which gradually come together as the work progresses. Simultaneously, as the title suggests, it strives to establish a balance between the colors and roles of the four instruments involved. Many aspects of the formal development of the work truly hang in the absolute balance of the material presented, in all its intricate details of sound and texture, its extreme virtuosity and its exact chronotopological positioning. When I was asked to compose a new work to celebrate 50 years of the Cyprus Republic's independence, I found it quite a challenge; celebrating this independence seemed a bit ironic considering the perpetual political problem. Cyprus is itself still Metiori. Like this work, its democracy is fragile, hanging in the air, and it is this aspect of a nation struggling to find its feet, to balance and to move forward that ultimately inspired and shaped this piece." Evis Sammoutis


PGW, August 2012