CONCERT REVIEW CLEVELAND INTERNATIONAL GUITAR FESTIVAL
At the end of the first work on his Sunday afternoon program of 20th-century guitar music — “The Old Oak” from Konstantin Vassiliev’s Three Forest Paintings, Guitarist Antonis Hatzinikolaou (Greece) — shuddered passionately, using his entire body to help vibrate the final chord as it died away.
From Igor Stravinsky’s contemplative Elegy to Manuel de Falla’s exotic dirge, Homenaje (pour le tombeau de Claude Debussy), Hatzinikolaou played with conviction, alternating between relaxed elegance and fiery vigor. In Nicholas Maw’s Music of Memory — the longest work on the program — Hatzinikolaou delivered the passionate, improvisatory sections with the same care as the refined quotations from Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor, Op. 13.
Easily the highlight of the afternoon, Joaquin Rodrigo’s Sonata Giocosa allowed Hatzinikolaou to demonstrate a less dignified, more lighthearted exuberance. He smiled slightly, racing through the jocular passages with assurance….
Before sitting again to perform an encore, a choked up Hatzinikolaou told his audience: “I’m a little bit emotional … I hope you’ll excuse me.” He explained that this was his first performance in the United States. “I’m going to play you a very nice largo I heard recently. I hope I remember it well enough to finish!” At the delicate final cadence, his audience was again on its feet, giving Hatzinikolaou a very warm welcome to the States indeed.
Jeremy Reynolds – Guitars International (May 2015)
Review: My Trip to the 2015 Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival (excerpt)
One special feature of attending the Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival is being introduced to new artists. The festival is known to bring artists in from the world whose first debut performance is in the United States. Antonis Hatzinikolaou is one of those artists. His master classes are very good and he certainly has the knowledge to guide upcoming artists in music schools like the Cleveland Institute of Music. One of the notable pieces he played was “Music of Memory” by Nicholas Maw. I had never heard this piece of music which is another reason I attend festivals like this—to be influenced and exposed to new music. At the end of the concert amidst a standing ovation, Antonis gave great thanks to the people attending and to Guitars International for bringing him to the United States to play for the very first time. He thanked the audience by playing Bach Sonata No. 3, Largo. The room became so quiet you could hear a pin drop as he played the piece as sensitively as I have ever heard it played. I certainly hope he is asked to come back again in the future.
Jim Doyle – The Rochester Guitar Club (June 2015)
GRAMOPHONE MAGAZINE REVIEW ON ‘MUSIC OF MEMORY’
The title-piece of Greek-born guitarist Antonis Hatzinikolaou’s ‘Music of Memory’ very deliberately reaches back into the past, Nicholas Maw’s work a set of variations on the Intermezzo from Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor, Op 13. But the recording as a whole is a tribute to 20th- and 21st-century British composers whose music look backwards and forwards – music such as Joseph Atkins’s Indian Summer, Peter Racine Fricker’s Paseo and Bayan Northcott’s Fantasia, which explores the ‘classical fantasia principle’. Hatzinikolaou, who won the 2006 Julian Bream Prize, proves himself to be one of the most eloquent advocates for British guitar music you could wish for.
William Yeoman – Gramophone Magazine (September 2013)
THE WORLDS THAT A CLASSICAL GUITAR REVEALS – KATHIMERINI NEWSPAPER
A Greek guitarist offering international audiences a purely British repertoire is not, of course, a routine case. It is a remarkable event in itself if we consider the specific “weight” of the project, the selection of the works included and the quality of the interpretation. Antonis Hatzinikolaou the Greek musician who dived into the deep end of the contemporary repertoire for guitar focusing on British composers, it is not a simple case.
Apart from his British work ethic and methodical approach, Antonis Hatzinikolaou studied at Royal Academy of Music in London, and from early on showed interest towards the great British guitar-music tradition led by guitarist Julian Bream. Antonis Hatzinikolaou masters thesis was based on the famous piece Nocturnal written by Benjamin Britten for Julian Bream. Later he recorded it in 2006 and was awarded the Julian Bream prize from the hands of the famous maestro.
Through this long, ideological and aesthetic research process, the album, Music of Memory, which gets its name from the long emblematic composition of Nicholas Maw, comes as a “natural” consequence. What matters most, is that Antonis Hatzinikolaou reveals a restless mind that opens a path of awakening and reconnecting with the classical works of the 20th Century’s guitar repertoire together with new composers, such as his colleague Joseph Atkins , who wrote Indian Summer (a composition of lustrous clarity), for Hatzinikolaou. The album is dedicated to Bayan Northcott, whose fascinating composition Fantasia for Guitar (1981-82), is included in the album and develops the compositional principle of “Fantasia”, as it appeared from the 18th century onwards. Northcott, 73 years old today and widely respected for his musical knowledge and writings, encouraged Antonis in this venture of British anthology. Within the CD booklet there is an interesting discussion between the two musicians.
The personality of British composer Nicholas Maw (1935-2009) seals a large section of the album. The “wavy” 20 minute long composition Music of Memory opens the album and indulges us almost hypnotically in a sea of sound – a mental and sensual experience. Another composition by Maw, Little Suite for Guitar closes the compilation of Antonis Hatzinikolaou who interprets impressively, almost mystically, with dedication and great respect for the music. Deserving special mention is Canto for Guitar by John McCabe, which made me imagine galloping horses and drops of water. Positive reviews of this recording are published in the Classical Guitar Magazine and the BBC Music Magazine.
Nikos Vatopoulos – Kathimerini Newspaper (August 2013)
NMC – “MUSIC OF MEMORY” CD REVIEW – CLASSICAL GUITAR MAGAZINE
Music of Memory has, to some extent, become the guitar’s equivalent of Ulysses. Both are much discussed, but only the determined few can claim to have explored them in detail. Despite having been adopted by such leading lights as Fabio Zanon and Marcin Dylla, Music of Memory has kept a relatively low profile since it was premiered by Eliot Fisk in 1989.
But is it really such a taxing listen? Tipping the scales at 20’48’’, it’s longer than the Britten Nocturnalbut within the average duration of Ponce’s Folia variations. Nor does Maw’s language come anywhere near the impenetrability of Royal Winter Music and the like, the clearly-defined references to the Mendelssohn theme providing a security rail for the timid.
Yet Music of Memory somehow remains a tougher nut to crack than either the Britten or the Ponce. Hatzinikolaou delivers the goods with consummate dramatic force and huge doses of technical brilliance, but there are still times when the mind wanders. At the very least, it requires utmost concentration, a courtesy to which every work on this scale is entitled.
Elsewhere, Hatzinikolaou fields recent offerings from Joseph Atkins, Matthew Taylor and Charlotte Bray, alongside three earlier compositions that either faded from the radar or were never there in the first place. Of these, Fantasia for Guitar by Bayan Northcott was premiered in 1982 but has lurked in the shadows between then and now. Fricker’s Paseo is one of several exhibits in the Bream archive that didn’t make it to Wardour Chapel and never found lasting favour with any prominent third party. This said, Hatzinikolaou’s cautious suggestion that his recording could be ‘the premiere release on disc’ is one I read with astonishment but was unable to disprove in an initial trawl of printed and online sources. Surely someone’s done it?
But the star of the show has to be John McCabe’s extended yet amiable Canto for Guitar. Although this work became associated in the 70s with Siegfried Behrend, it seems the premiere dates back to 1968, when the guitarist was William Gomez. Fond as I’ll always be of the Behrend vinyl, it must be conceded that Hatzinikolaou’s account trumps it on seamless fluidity and all-round refinement. All this, together with a valedictory return to Maw on a less expansive scale, makes for a landmark release that’s both challenging and essential.
Paul Fowles – Classical Guitar Magazine (July 2013)
SONGLINES MAGAZINE REVIEW OF FUGATA QUINTET’S “ASTOR PIAZZOLLA”
FUGATA QUINTET ASTOR PIAZZOLLA
FUGATA (2CDS, 92 MINS) ★★★★
“Precisely performed, this is Piazzolla perfection”
The praise lavished on the three late Astor Piazzolla albums on Nonesuch is in part due to producer Kip Hanrahan’s seamless mixing and the manner in which the great modernising maestro’s angular sound was moulded into a kind of smooth rotundity. This double album, featuring more than an hour and a half of Piazzolla classics, is wonderful for all the opposite reasons.
Here the essential quintet instruments – bandoneón, violin, piano, bass and guitar – are each given their own clear channel in which to breathe and expand. It comprises all four components of the mesmerising ‘Angel’ sequence, the three ‘Diablo’ pieces, the three-part ‘Silfo y Ondina’ (a daring, sometimes Bartókian, sometimes Satie-esque exercise) as well as the searching ‘Concierto para Quinteto’ and sometimes overlooked ‘Mumuki’: a quite sublime selection of tracks. Fugata’s multinational band of musicians copes more than admirably with the Piazzolla challenges: the sudden changes in pace, the percussive drive, the controlled dissonance, the astringency and both the cod and not-cod melodrama. Piazzolla fans will own most of these numbers in one form or another, but they will also know thattango nuevo is all about the arrangements: this is a fresh, crisp take on timeless work.
Chris Moss, Songlines Magazine (June 2012)
DEBUT SERIES CD REVIEW – CLASSICAL GUITAR MAGAZINE
Magnificent … simply magnificent! Greek guitarist Antonis Hatzinikolaou has excelled himself with this, his first solo recording comprised of music spanning four centuries. His technical dexterity is beyond question and his musicianship shows a maturity far in excess of his years. Throughout, this is playing of the highest standard (containing some of the best performance of Bach this reviewer has heard) and easily stands alongside the best of them. That’s all I have to say except that I cannot recommend this recording high enough.
Steve Marsh – Classical Guitar Magazine (October 2009)
ST MARTIN-IN-THE-FILEDS, LONDON – CLASSICAL GUITAR MAGAZINE
This was an excellent lunchtime recital by the Greek guitarist Antonis Hatzinikolaou, who offered well-balanced and contrasting repertoire. He opened with an engaging performance of the Paganini’s Andantino Variato where his choice of tone qualities in the different voices showed his empathy with the work. This, as with all the pieces in the programme, was played with a very secure technique which was absolutely at the service of his interpretation.
The two movements from the Sonata BWV 1005 by Bach were arranged by Hatzinikolaou. They worked very well on the guitar and harmonically speaking provided much pleasure. The Largo was a majestic stately piece and the Allegro assai was a fast-paced but very long movement which was well structured in terms of pace and phrasing, and therefore was very exciting to listen to. Four pieces by Barrios followed including a very intimate performance of Prelude in C minor. In Barrio’s Mazurka appassionata again we saw Hatzinikolaou’s skill at shaping long pieces, so that it feels captivating, as if listening to to an epic story. For a complete contrast of styles, he played Rolad Dyens’s Saudade no.3 and here even more did we experience his wide range of expressive tone qualities and timbres, and the rhythm was solid. He ended this thoroughly enjoyable recital with an equally impressive performance of Sonata Giocosa by Rodrigo. Antonis Hatzinikolaou has been a prizewinner at the Koblenz International Guitar Competition Hubert Käppel, the Ivor Mairants International Guitar Award and won the coveted Julian Bream Prize. Since completing his postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music, he has remained in London. We hope to hear more of this fine young performer.
Thérèse Wassily Saba (January 2009)
PURCELL ROOM – PARK LANE GROUP, YOUNG ARTIST SERIES
Antonis Hatzinikolaou is a player with a real stage presence. He is the type of musician who gets immediate attention from the audience and would, as he proved with his playing, seem to have everything required for a successful performing career. The highlight of his recital was Music of Memory, a sort of set of variations on the Intermezzo from Mendelssohn’s A Minor String Quartet, which is a long and serious work of the type normally associated with the piano rather than guitar. It was performed entirely successfully, taking the listener on a long and emotional journey, a rather bittersweet, elegiac one, weaving parts of the Mendelssohn in and out, and then bringing the listener back to the present. The guitarist held the audience spellbound throughout and made one hope to hear the piece again as soon as possible.
M.Dennis – Musical Pointers (January 2008)
CLASSICAL GUITAR MAGAZINE
This concert was part of the annual Park Lane Group Young Artist Series held at the South Bank, London which always features contemporary music. Nicholas Maw’s Music of Memory was written as ‘a tribute to the extraordinary artistry of Eliot Fisk’, which I think gives some indication of the demanding nature of the piece. It is a slight variation on the form of a set of variations based on the Intermezzo from Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor, opus 13. It is written as a single movement and Antonis Hatzinikolaou managed to maintain the technical stamina required for work as well as keeping the musical thread flowing from start to finish. The Fantasia for Guitar (1982) by Bayan Northcott, who was present in the audience, builds up into a very challenging work, however Antonis Hatzinikolaou had a clarity of tone and a clarity of purpose that made the work very pleasing to listen to. The third piece on the programme was Alter Ego I (2002) by Evis Sammoutis is a very good piece of contemporary writing where he uses a large array of contemporary guitar techniques but manages to incorporate them seamlessly and unselfconsciously into his musical ideas. To catalogue the techniques used, such as the string-bending to produce koto-like sounds, or the atmospheric harmonics and punchy Bartók pizzicatos, would seem to devalue the work as a whole, but I do mention them because I was impressed with his use of them. The work was written in memory of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. The Park Lane Group was established to provide a London platform for young, talented performers; to be invited to perform in this series is already a mark of one’s ability, and Antonis Hatzinikolaou abilities shine through easily; he is a sesitive player with a delicate touch on the guitar which produced some very beautiful textures and timbres which these contemporary works afforded him.
Thérèse Wassily Saba (January 2008)
CLASSICAL SOURCE LTD.
At over 20 minutes Nicholas Maw’s Music of Memory was far more substantial, guitarist Antonis Hatzinikolaou giving a most sensitive and musical performance. This attractive piece reminisces on the ‘golden age’, represented by variations on the principal theme of the ‘Intermezzo’ from Mendelssohn’s A minor String Quartet, Opus 13. Maw cleverly incorporates the theme between its variations so that its appearance brings poignant places of rest in the music. Hatzinikolaou’s performance gave the theme an appropriate weight and intimacy, and the slower passages were particularly moving. If the later fugal section was a little stilted this wasn’t necessarily a fault of the interpretation, in the same way that the theme’s return at the end was emphasised more deliberately. Dexterity was a feature of the performance, particularly later on in a tricky episode where Maw pits upper register chords against a more complicated lower line. Hatzinikolaou also offered two further works – the formally tight and musically concise Fantasia of Bayan Northcott and Evis Sammoutis’s tribute to Takemitsu, Alter Ego I. These showed off the guitar’s range of colour, with Sammoutis exploring microtonal harmonics in a strangely evocative manner. This piece also explored the guitar’s percussive capabilities but in a sensitive way rather than for overt display. Hatzinikolaou pitched his performance ideally, just as he separated the tricky contrapuntal threads running through the Northcott, uniting the intimate Andante theme at the beginning and end, while building up considerable energy in the faster sections. Northcott was in the audience, as were Roxburgh, Barchan and Harvey, and it was good to note that composers and performers provided equal inspiration for each other.