Jani Christou


Second Period (1953-58)

From a purely musical point of view the second period makes only subtle advances from the first period. However, it is during this phase in Christou's development that we really begin to see the foundations of the 'metaphysical' and 'meta-musical' aspects of Christou's musical philosophy taking shape. Several of the scores from this period have since been lost, including a Trilogy of Operas based on Domenico de Paulis's La Routa della Vita (The Wheel of Life) and the epic Oratorio Gilgamesh (1958).

Six T.S.Eliot Songs (1948/49)

1) New Hampshire
2) Phlebas the Phoenician
3) Mélange Adultre de Tout
4) Eyes that Last I Saw in Tears
5) The Wind Sprang up at Four o'Clock
6) Virginia

The Six T.S. Eliot Songs occupy a unique place in Christou's output inasmuch as they represent his most overtly poetic utterance. Although they were completed during the second period of his creativity, the idea to write them came to Christou in 1950 when he first set Eyes that last I saw in Tears which was incorporated into the First Symphony. Melange Adultre de Tout and The Wind sprang up at dour o'clock were sketched at the same time, though it was not until 1955 that Christou completed the six songs for mezzo-soprano and piano. The settings are extraordinary for many reasons, not least Christou's acutely sensitive approach to word setting which imbue these songs with a deeply mystical meaning. The atmosphere is further enhanced by Christou's evocative orchestration which he made in 1957.

Symphony No. 2 (1957-58)

The Second Symphony remains unique in Christou's output in that, contrary to his normal practice of making and preserving numerous sketches and drafts, it exists only in a single, neatly written autograph score. The only other appended notes to the score are to be found at the foot of page, where Christou noted down the exact place and date of its contents. From this we know that Christou began work the symphony in Alexandria on August 7th 1957, and that by 19th December had completed 401 bars of the first movement. Work commenced steadily again in Athens on the 17th of February 1958 until the completion of the first movement in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 11th May. The second movement was composed within the space of one month in Alexandria between 18th July to the 18th August (1958), whilst the final movement was composed on Chios between 24th of September and 4th December.

The Second Symphony is freely atonal and, like Phoenix Music, is dominated throughout by a three-note motive F-G-F# which is itself related, by intervallic inversion, to the three-note motive of Phoenix Music. A second (descending) motive Ab-F-E

follows and from these motivic cells the movement gradually builds to a contrapuntally complex climax in which, as George Leotsakos has noted, the thematic cells are "transformed little by little into energy". This 'transformation process' can be identified with the 'alchemical process', a philosophical and metaphysical

The movement falls into three clearly defined sections with a tempi structure of slow-fast-slow. This 'pyramidical' tempi structure is a fundamental marker in Christou's output and can be traced from Phoenix Music through to his last works, it is also further reflection of cyclic motives (the 'Phoenix principle', the Lunar Cycle etc.) that perpetually inform Christou's music.