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Konstantia Gourzi: Sustaining musical growth


Konstantia Gourzi, Music for piano and string quartet (ECM New Series 2309, October 2014)

When writing about Konstantia Gourzi the first thing that comes to mind is the image of someone in perpetual motion; thinking, talking, organising, breathing with music on the mind and in her heart; someone living for music. The second thing is the personal, unpretentious, dedicated way in which she does it. She leaves an indelible personal mark whether she’s trying to complete an unfinished work or getting enthusiastic about educational activities or when she goes off somewhere by herself to feel and experience what a composition is all about.

She has repeatedly said in public about her relationship with music that “What I do excites me”. The public in Munich recently had the chance to enjoy one example of Gourzi’s creativity as a conductor. It was the premiere of the work The Flying Carpet 2013 – Odyssey last October. This work consists of 3 short operas each lasting 30 minutes, written by 3 composers from Israel, Turkey and Greece, in 5 different languages (Turkish, Hebrew, Arabic, English and Ancient Greek). The composer Sinem Altan from Turkey engaged with theme of migration and integration, the Israeli composer Amos Elkana with victory – defeat – aspiration: victory - hubris – defeat, while Giorgos Koumendakis rounded off the triptych by engaging with theme of homecoming. This opera production aimed at young and old alike was “a dream come true” for Konstantia Gourzi. “I wanted to convey –in only the way that music can- the diversity, the multiformity and shared feeling that lies in all human existential issues such as war, upheavals of populations, national identity, and homecoming,” pointed out the conductor – composer who undertook to organise and direct the entire venture.

A few weeks ago on 4 November 2014 Gourzi’s work Hommage à Mozart for Viola and Piano, written for the soloists Mönkemeyer (viola) and William Youn (piano), had its world premiere at the Tyrol Academy of Music in Innsbruck, Austria. “What I look for when a piece of music is first heard is the expression in people’s eyes. When I see that unique trace of emotion forming in their eyes, I know that everything’s gone well,” said Konstantia Gourzi, who is currently presenting her CD Music For Piano and String Quartet, her first collaboration with the renowned recording company ECM. This recording released at the end of October 2014 consists of very recent compositions, apart from noch fürcht’ ich which dates from 1993. The CD contains a series of miniatures for piano each dedicated to a different figure from the world of music and art such as Lachenmann, Kurtág, Raue, Abbado, Barenboim and Rexroth, and two string quartets, as well as works for both piano and string quartet.

The Greek pianist Lorenda Ramou and the Coriolis String Quartet play the pieces on the CD in a highly precise, creative manner, and it’s their careful, inspired approach that gives the works their final ‘feel’. The album was recorded in the Himmelfahrtskirche in Munich in 2012, produced by Manfred Eicher, the real soul of ECM.

“For me as a composer, a piece of music has a natural flow that is its life, its vitality. Irrespective of what it is, it’s important for creating and spreading music. As a conductor I believe the natural flow of sound is equally important: that is the mechanism that releases energy and brings substance to it; that actually makes it music,” explains Konstantia Gourzi as she talks about her work. On 27 November 2014 the CD was presented to the public at a special event hosted at IANOS, and was very well received. It will also be presented to the public in Munich in early 2015.

Konstantia Gourzi: a European voice for 21st century music, whose outstanding virtues are her knowledge, her ability to inspire, cooperate, communicate and implement things resulting in stage, recording or academic success at every turn.

(Photograph: Norbert Banik)