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Not a normal night at the Symphony: Christos Hatzis

Oct 12th, 2009


CHRISTOS HATZIS? In the Fire of Conflict has been wowing audiences in many forms since its premiere by Denise Djokic and Scott Ryan (with dance by Peggy Baker), on 5 August 2008 during the Toronto Summer Music Festival. The work, in two continuous movements, was originally scored for cello and percussion, accompanied by a digital audio part sourced from American rapper Steve Henry (a.k.a. Bugsy H., of Christian rap group Poetik Disciples). In March 2009 the work was performed in Brooklyn, New York, by Seth Woods and Bill Solomon. It has also been reworked as a marimba solo, and performed by Beverley Johnston at the Nebojsa Zivkovic International Summer Music Academy, in Germany (she also performed Hatzis? Fertility Rites), and as a percussion quartet performed by TorQ Percussion Ensemble, in Toronto, Canada. Hatzis said of the collaboration with Henry; 'I have always been fascinated by the prosodic rhythmic discourse of hip-hop music, but certainly not by its implicit endorsement of misogyny and violence that one so often encounters in hip-hop lyrics. Poetik Disciples used the same musical techniques to essentially create devotional songs and that was very inspirational to me.'

Following the successful commission of Tongues of Fire for Beverley Johnston and Dame Evelyn Glennie in 2007, Hatzis has again composed a major work for Glennie, commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Mirage?, for solo percussion and chamber orchestra, will be premiered in Winnipeg, Canada, on 9 September 2009 by Glennie and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, and toured around Canada over the next three weeks. Hatzis has another major work being premiered in the same week ? Arabesque, for solo violin, piano and string orchestra receives its first performance; Ang?le Dubeau will perform with La Pi?ta in Mont-Tremblant, Canada. The work, which Hatzis calls ?autobiographical?, draws on a variety of musical genres in the course of its four movements. The work will be performed in a number of Canadian and US cities in late September and October 2009.

In October, Hatzis Redemption: Book 1 receives its world premiere in Ohio from the Grammy Award winning Pacifica Quartet with CityMusic Cleveland. The work, 35 minutes in itself, is part of an ambitious set of works. The Redemption cycle, featuring five standalone works for a variety of instrumental combinations, is based on the theme of human redemption as expounded by turn-of-the-century American seer Edgar Cayce. Redemption: Book 5 is Hatzis? well-received 2004 work Sepulchre of Life, for soprano, Middle-Eastern singer, SATB choir and symphony orchestra. The complete set is expected to encompass eight movements and some two hours of music. Redemption: Books 2-4 are yet to be written.

Hatzis older works continue to receive wide acclaim, with many receiving repeat performances by prominent ensembles. Vancouver Cantata Singers with Anne-Julie Caron performed the 2000 work Everlasting Light last October, while Hatzis? 2004 horn concerto Winter Solstice was performed by the Camerata Orchestra of Athens with Constantinos Siskos (horn) and conductor Alexander Myrat in January this year. The oboe concerto Telluric Dances will receive its French premiere from Gilles Loulier (oboe) and Orchestre National de Montpellier in November 2009. Hatzis? percussion concerto Tongues of Fire has recently been reworked for wind band by composer Kevin Lau. The arrangement is the result of a commission from a World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles consortium, and will be first performed by Rod Squance with the University of Calgary Wind Ensemble early next year.

With such a wealth of performances, of which these are only a small selection, it is no surprise that Hatzis was the recipient of the 2008 Jan Matejcek Concert Music Award. The prize, part of Canada?s Juno Awards, is awarded to the most performed and broadcast Canadian composer, a testament to the breadth of Hatzis? appeal.

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