Eleni: A Greek Tragedy

Katherine Hoover

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

In 1948, toward the end of the Greek Civil War, Eleni Gatzoyannis was tortured and executed by Communist partisans for smuggling her children out of Greece to join their father in America. Her son, Nicholas Gage, who was eight at that time, became an investigative reporter for The New York Times, and in the early 1980s he returned to Greece to trace the events leading to her death. The result was the extraordinary book, "Eleni".

I was extremely moved by Mr. Gage's book; Eleni was a heroine, and, like many in the old Greek dramas, an archetype as well. In so many lands in our time people's lives and communities have been brutally torn apart for this or that ?ism? - for reasons or ideas often foreign to those victimized. Those like Eleni who refuse to abandon their convictions and act to protect others were, and are, heroic.

To construct this piece, which is both a lament and a tribute, I turned to Greek folk music, in particular from the northwest area of Epiros where Eleni lived. Much of this music is based on intonation and harmony that are foreign to Western ears. Melodies move in a rhapsodic manner, flowing freely between the notes we recognize, while harmonies change little, following the melody closely. Rhythms based on 5 and 7 are common. The clarinet, played in a style resembling that of ?klezmer? music, is a constant presence. I used this sound to begin the piece.

The folk materials, the dances and songs of the first section eventually dissolve into an area of growing tension, climaxing with the full orchestra. Out of this climax, the clarinet reappears, followed by an alto completing the ?moirologhia,? or funeral lament, which was begun by a solo cello in the first section. The piece ends with an orchestral lament based on motives drawn from the earlier materials.?

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Additional Information

Composition Date 1986
Duration 00:15:00
Orchestration 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; Perc. Timp. Gtr.(Acoustic w/Steel Strings) Str. Alto Voice
Premiere February 10, 11, 1987. Harrisburg Symphony (PA), conducted by Larry Newland.