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Sheet music for Georgios Kasassoglou
Georgios Kasassoglou’s music, which contains many folkloristic elements, can be best described as romantic-impressionistic.
Georgios Kasassoglou was born on December 1st 1908 in Athens. His father, Wassilis, came from Polydorion in Asia Minor. His mother Eleni was a passionate music lover. Georgios received his first violin lesson at the age of ten, in Edessa, in the north of Greece.
He completed his secondary education at the age of sixteen and registered at the University of Athens to study classical philology. He took violin lessons with W. Skantzourakis and studied theory and composition in different music academies simultaneously, which was possible at the time. His teachers were: Lavrangas, Kontis, Warwoglis, Kalomiris and S. Spanoudi. After his studies at the University of Athens and at the music academies he registered for political science at the Pantios College.
In 1933 he became a high school teacher for music. Besides his teaching in high schools he endeavoured, wherever he was, to encourage musical activities.
In 1934 he married the pianist and singer Flora Papachristofilou, who had studied singing with the famous teacher Ghini and chamber music with Dimitri Mitropoulos, who, despite his exceptional talent, was still unknown at the time. After taking part in the Second World War on the Albanian front he composed in 1944 his orchestral piece „Four Preludes on The Return from The Front“ which was often performed by the Athens State Orchestra.
In order to give him the possibility to concentrate on composition, the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs transferred him to positions in the administrations of the Athens Radio and later of the Greek National Theatre. While there he composed incidental music for 36 plays by Greek and foreign authors.
The other great passions of Georgios Kasassoglou, besides music and his family, were poetry and Ancient Greece. The antique Greek theatre fascinated him. In close collaboration with the eminent authorities of his time he wrote incidental music for numerous tragedies and comedies of Ancient Greece.
He composed ballet music for the dance ensembles of Rallou Manou, Manon Renieri, and others. Between 1945 and 1955 he worked in close collaboration with the most significant writers, directors, stage designers and actors of the time.
He wrote essays, studies about music and reviews for newspapers and magazines, as well as critical treatises on current musical events.
Avra Theodoropoulou, a renowned music critic of the time, wrote: „Kasassoglou is not the product of a particular school; one could say that he is a creation of his own. The work of Kasassoglou extends over all musical forms except opera. Art song is the form that inspires him the most.
He has a feeling for poetry, and he expresses the atmosphere of each and every poet. His work shows a youthful spontaneity together with will and thought. It is bold, without being muddled. Kasassoglou knows what he wants. He does not copy the style of others.
He tries to perfect his individuality in the sense that he creates only out of himself. He believes in a nationalism in music.
For, as he himself says: ‘Each serious intellectual has no choice but to place himself as part of his nation and, as a result, in the whole of universal life. The more essential and spontaneous his spiritual statement is, together with the knowledge of his duty towards his country, the more the intellectual will be – even unconsciously – the bearer of the culture of his nation, wherever he may be ... And therefore I can only feel a work to be universal if it has a home. ...’ ”
He composed in 1946 the „Olympic Hymn” on verses by Kostis Palamas.
In 1952 the antique comedy „The Clouds” by Aristophanes was performed at the „Comédie Française” in Paris under the direction of Sokratis Karantinos and with incidental music by Georgios Kasassoglou.
One of the most significant moments in his artistic career was his encounter and his acquaintance with Igor Stravinsky. Stravinsky started his enthusiastic appraisal of the music of „The Clouds”, that he had heard at the „Comédie Française”, with the sentence: „I hear Greece in your music and I feel Greece in your handshake”.
The direction of the Festival of Bad Hersfeld commissioned the director Pelos Katselis and the composer Georgios Kasassoglou to stage „Antigone” by Sophokles. Therefore, in the summer of 1962, „Antigone” was performed at that festival in the Fr. Hölderlin translation.
For decades, Georgios Kasassoglou was a member and first secretary of the Organisation of Composers in Athens. His work embraces numerous orchestral pieces, choir pieces, incidental music, ballets, film music, art songs, works for piano, violin and cello, and chamber music.
The more than a hundred art songs on poems by the most renowned Greek poets enjoy a particular position in his work. They have been sung to this day by exceptional Greek artists, for example Elena Nikolaïdou who sung them in America under Dimitris Mitropoulos, and Wasso Papantaniou, Fani Aïdali, Kitsa Damassioti, Kostas Pascalis, to cite but a few, in Europe.
His song „The Tears of The Rain“ on verses by Nikos Stassinopoulos was awarded a gold medal in 1976 at the International Competition „Lutèce“ in Paris. His last work is the „Mélodie pathétique“ for oboe and piano, dedicated to the oboist Evangelos Christopoulos, which he composed in December 1983 and shortly afterwards transcribed for cello and piano and offered to his daughter-in-law Mettilt Kasassoglou.
For years he committed himself tirelessly, with much willpower, courage and conviction, to the introduction of instrumental music in the liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church.
He dedicated himself to the propagation of music schools, which barely existed at the time. He applied himself to the creation of the mixed chorus in Nea Smyrni (a district of Athens where he had lived since 1960).
Together with Michael Mantoudis the then Director for Literature and Art of the Ministry for Education and Cultural Affairs, he laid the legal basis for the general performing rights of artists. He worked together with renowned comrades-in-arms at the foundation of Kallitechnoupolis (the artists’ city) in Pikermi near Athens, which should become the centre for cultural events he dreamed of.
He died totally unexpectedly on June 2nd 1984.
The mayor and the city council of Nea Smyrni offered in the town cemetery one of the tombs reserved for honorary citizens.
Since 1995, the grandson of Georgios Kasassoglou, Jörg-Mark, dedicates himself, with the help of his father, to the preservation of the work of his grandfather, to its publication, to the production of CDs and to making it known to a larger Greek and international audience.