Transitions of style and texture in Greek Art Music (19th-20th centuries): a historical and critical approach
The transition from the 19th to the 20th century marks the shift of the focal point of musical life from the Ionian Islands to the capital of Athens. The belated establishment of the Greek National School of composers around 1900 is characterized by several distinct political, economic, ideological, and educational features of the Greek society. The intention of its representatives to express elements of a “national” identity along with Western-European traditions and / or contemporary music trends into a short period of time, led to the determination of sequential chronological “phases” in Greek Art Music, during the first half of the 20th century, some of them relating with musical phenomena of the 19th century. The diversity of music features in the works of Greek composers from that period is related to a series of criteria that concern the impact European art music had on them. More specifically, Greek composers of that time were influenced by: “romantic nationalism” of the 19th century, and especially the Russian Five; secondly, by trends of the French impressionism and anti-romantic neoclassicism, combined with the results of contemporary ethnomusicological research on folksong, which were traced in the new-folklore movements of the 1920s in Central Europe; furthermore, they were influenced by elements of innovation in the 20th century (Second Viennese School), as these mixed with folksong material, leading to a trend of “universalist nationalism”. Aspects of modern history, musical life and compositional ideology are commented upon, along with selected excerpts of major composers’ works, in order to define the impact of the above trends as points of transition in musical style and texture from the 19th century till 1950 in Greek Art Music. At the same time, the consequences of a similar transition from the music prime of the Ionian Islands (in the 19th century) to the beginning of the Athenian music life are not to be neglected, but should also be considered as stages of diversification and evolution.