Tania Giannouli, invites three special musicians and founds a new ensemble. Their music has elements of improvisation, modal, chamber music with 21st century avant-garde's influences, post-impressionism, contemporary european jazz but also world music.
On stage there is an acoustic quartet: Tania Giannouli (piano), Guido de Flaviis (saxophones), Solis Barki (percussion/rare instruments), Michalis Porfyris (cello)
After her last album "Forest Stories" which was released by the New Zealand's art-music label Rattle and got very good reviews in Greece and abroad, Tania released her second album "Transcendence" in Rattle, getting international acclaim and reviews. The album was listed in many "Best of 2015" lists in Greece and abroad.
In May 2015 Tania Giannouli ensemble performed at Onassion Cultural Centre. More about it here. They have also performed at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Patras International Festival, Thessaloniki Concert Hall (Megaro Mousikis) and abroad: Stiwa Klassik Forum, Hagenberg-Austria and Borusan Sanat, Istanbul-Turkey.
"The variety of the instruments, the different timbres, the colors, the emotions, the images, forced our minds to travel"
Protevousa newspaper, June 2014
"An inspired, complex as well as original work that excited the audience with the rich timbres and the perfect performance by the four musicians"
Koini Gnomi newspaper, June 2014
"Giannouli favors fragmented orchestrations but the dominant part of her material is lyrical. Indeed, the compositions we heard from her new work are characterized by a European mentality evoking a Mediterranean color with intoxicating orchestrations"
Stylianos Tziritas for Avopolis, January 2015
"Tania Giannouli is a very interesting young composer who belongs to the kind of artists whose writing is interwoven with the performer-themselves: her piano is the focus of almost all her projects. The same applies to this project, where, in her overall canvas of the broad contemporary music, the main hue being post-classical but there are also decisive touches of the avant-garde (and not so much from jazz with the most traditional sense but rather from improvisation), she presented a series of compositions dominated by her innate musicality. The thrust was given by the piano and cello of the wonderful Alexandros Botinis, but in most of the cases was in seductive juxtaposition with the saxophone of Guido de Flaviis, who did not hesitate to improvise by flirting with times with atonality, while the percussion of Solis Barkis brought fresh air from the Greek tradition and beyond. Finally, the drums of Giannis Notaras added a rhythmic impulse, which i hope it becomes even stronger in the future. Given this was only the second performance of the ensemble (the first was in Syros Jazz festival last May) promises even more exciting growth, which personally i strongly believe that will happen!"
Thanos Mantzanas, Avgi newspaper, January 2015
The first thing one realises when listening to Transcendence, the debut album of the Tania Giannouli Ensemble, is that the substantial quality of the best contemporary Greek music is constantly on the rise, and secondly that Giannouli (who made her Rattle debut with the darkly melancholic, post-industrial Forest Stories in 2012) has made a decisive step forward in her musical path with this fine recording. Where Forest Stories was minimal and brooding, Transcendence is more open and propulsive. It’s a very mature, complex, and multi-layered work. Each composition has impressive rigour and precision – there are no wasted notes – and together they flow effortlessly to produce an aesthetically and emotionally rich work. The ease with which Giannouli handles the intricacies (and, at first glance, incongruities) of the material is impressive, blending folk and world colours with avant-garde, contemporary classical and jazz soundscapes, from the melancholic melodies and lush rhythms of The Sea and Sun Danceto the explosive rhythmical outbursts of From Foreign Lands, Obsession and Anti-Masque (a bonus track available from the Rattle site), and the bold imaginative strokes of Mad World. By turns charming and visceral, lyrical and energetic, the always-stimulating Transcendence will appeal to those with unprejudiced musical instincts, those who are open to new musical stimuli and to using their imagination. This compelling work will leave no one indifferent, unaffected, or untouched.
Dimitris Trikas, Popaganda, April 2015
Pianist Giannouli’s dedication to sharp imagery gives the impression that she’s always got a film in mind when creating a new composition. Modern classical, modern jazz, folk and Greek musics all inform her newest. Soft ambient passages alternate places in the spotlight with those much freer and of a sharper edge.Tania Giannouli - "Transcendence"Pianist Giannouli’s dedication to sharp imagery gives the impression that she’s always got a film in mind when creating a new composition. Modern classical, modern jazz, folk and Greek musics all inform her newest. Soft ambient passages alternate places in the spotlight with those much freer and of a sharper edge."
Dave Sumner, Bird Is The Worm, May 2015
concert review (27 May 2015, Onassis Cultural Center, Athens):
Where the two previous bands [in the May 27th concert at the Onassis Cultural Centre] were, for different reasons and to different degrees, trying to exceed their limits, the Tania Giannouli Ensemble chose not to – not because they couldn’t, but because this ensemble is entirely focused on serving the music. When it did occur, Tania Giannouli was content to leave it to her capable musicians, notably saxophonist Guido De Flaviis (the most jazz-orientated member of the ensemble) and the equally excellent cellist, Alexandros Botinis. Tania Giannouli’s compositions, particularly those on her new album Transcendence (her second release for contemporary music label, Rattle), are deliberately mapped out, each with a clear beginning, middle and end. The piano invariably leads the way, often starting and ending the pieces and providing the structural framework for the ensemble to embellish. Indeed, even percussionist Solis Barki and drummer John Notaras could be described as timbrel and textural colourists, approaching their roles in a ‘modal’ rather than purely rhythmical manner. It’s clear that Giannouli has found her artistic voice. She is perfectly comfortable with it, and doesn’t have the slightest intention of breaking it. Her music, an unashamed celebration of tonality and texture, is based on a tradition she has in-depth knowledge of and evident love for: classical music. The influence of the great romantic composers is apparent in Giannouli’s music, particularly Chopin, Schubert, and – her favourite – Schumann, as well as Impressionists such as Debussy and, to a degree, Satie. Giannouli’s music is already rich in imagery, but on the night of the concert this was enhanced by the beautiful videos of Marcantonio Lunardi, whose images added a perfectly complimentary atmospheric touch. Discerning listeners who know what to expect from quality contemporary music will not only find it in the music of Tania Giannouli, they will also find a particularly wonderful variation on it!
Thanos Mantzanas, June 2015
Tania Giannouli is a jazz pianist, and her previous album, Forest Stories (with Paulo Chagas) would have fallen into our Jazz category. So why have we placed her new collection in Modern Composition? The answer is simple. With the expansion to an ensemble, Giannouli has also modified her sound. As much influenced by classical as by jazz, Transcendence is a true genre-jumper. While most tracks lean one way or the other, the overall impression is that of a tiny orchestra.
The pieces of Transcendence are also classifiable by mood. Some are obvious, and visual aids help. The languid, melancholic “The Sea” seems designed for a relaxing evening, lapping waves and a bottle of wine. The video is fairly simple, hiding the fact that the piano lines are quite complex. One of Giannouli’s strengths is the impression of improvisation even in the midst of composed work. Guido de Flaviis’ saxophone is the smooth, jazzy influence, while Alexandros Botinis’ cello provides a dark classical undertone. A better video is the noir-ish “Obsession”; the black-and-white cinematography brings out the longing in the music. In this piece, Snares play a major role in establishing the dramatic forward march of an obsessed heart. The most effective (and slightly chilling) moment of the video arrives at 4:30, when one of the actresses stops looking at the moon/skylight and gazes directly into the camera; but the compositional moment that sets up the scene arrives a minute earlier, when the snares relent, creating a vacuum. The prelude to “Obsession” can be found as far back as the opening track, “The Weeping Willow”. This sparse piece bears an ominous sheen, as if sadness is about to turn into something dark and undefinable.
The album’s catchiest tracks lie in between. “Sun Dance” and “Faster Than Wear” come across like a Mediterranean family gathering, filled with food and festivity. One imagines shirt sleeves rolled up and dresses twirling as men and women dance on terra-cotta terraces. The first piece is Botinis’ showcase, while the second is a playground for Giannouli. It’s wonderful to encounter a performer who can draw from so many moods in order to create a unified set. One wonders if transcendence may refer to a state beyond emotion, one of inner calm, in which all emotion has been spent, and replaced by peace. By contrasting formal, stately classicism (the opening bars of “From Foreign Lands” and the echo at 4:51) with untamed revelry (“Mad World”), Giannouli suggests a pas de deux between mind and emotion, leading to the discovery of a third presence, the spirit. Closing piece “Untold” wraps this up nicely: once again sedate, still looking up: no longer obsessed, but inspired.
Richard Allen, A Closer Listen, June 2015
Τhe second album of the pianist and composer Tania Giannouli, Transcendence-released as well in New Zealand's label, Rattle- together with the Tania Giannouli Ensemble, finds her in excellent shape as she makes a step forward in the creative blending of classical, romanticism, even minimal with the Mediterranean folk. But it is the way this blending is expressed, the style, if you like, which of course is based on the deep melodies but doesn't stop focusing on improvisation and even reaching the limits of abstract. It is this subtle combination that makes the second album of Giannouli one of the most interesting of this year.
Antonis Fragos, Music Paper, June 2015
Seldom does an author of a musical work reflect the mood of an entire state as effectively as Greek pianist/composer Tania Giannouli has on her new album, Transcendence. Known for her previous collaboration with Paulo Chagas on Forest Stories, Giannouli’s new work intersects jazz and classical forms with traditional Greek folk music. As interpreted by the Tania Giannouli Ensemble (Guido De Flaviis on the saxophones, Alexandros Botinis on cello, Solis Barki on percussion and idiophones, and Giannis Notaras on drums), this beautiful music transmits a feeling of hope driven by determination – if not anger – and the nostalgia for “an unknown and happy future”.
As Giannouli writes in the booklet notes, "This record is about my motherland". The context is what we know: the lords of Europe and the global economy sacrifice the people to policies focused on money rather than people. After years of misery, Greece is the only one to answer them with a defiant "not acceptable”. We don't know what will happen next, but for the moment it’s surprising and comforting that it’s possible to make art, and moreover, art as fine as this.
Rui Eduardo Paes, www.jazz.pt, June 2015
Transcendence provides a most flattering portrait of Tania Giannouli as a pianist, composer, and arranger. The fifty-minute collection by the Athens, Greece-based band-leader features nine richly textured settings that cover ample stylistic ground and do so in oft-intoxicating manner. Leading a stellar modern chamber ensemble featuring cellist Alexandros Botinis, saxophonist Guido de Flaviis, percussionist Solis Barki, and guest drummer Giannis Notaras, the pianist weaves elements of classical, jazz, and Greek folk music into pieces that impress on both performance and composition levels.
Her works for theatre, film, and video have been performed at festivals, galleries, and museums throughout the world, and all of the ensemble members are distinguished musicians who bring extensive formal training and experience to the project. The passion with which they execute their performances is a major reason why the album impresses as much as it does, and, in engaging with Giannouli's material so fervently, the musicians come across as considerably more than hired hands.
“The Weeping Willow” inaugurates the album auspiciously with a brooding, piano-centric rumination atmospherically enhanced by bowed effects and other ambient treatments. Though understated in tone, it's nevertheless a powerful opener for the control and rigour with which the musicians bring the material to life. Perhaps more characteristic of the album is the entrancing second piece, “The Sea,” which, distinguished as it is by a serpentine theme voiced in turn by cello and soprano saxophone, proves to be a model of small-group ensemble playing. It's an especially haunting composition that accentuates the lyrical dimension in Giannouli's writing as well as showcases her deft accommodation of improvised playing within a tightly scripted setting.
There are times when the influence of her Greek homeland seeps into the material. During “Sun Dance,” for example, rhythms swing with an aggressive insistence, and the woodwinds and strings wail with the kind of unbounded fervour one hears in klezmer at its most free-spirited. And though it begins with a nostalgic piano intro, “From Foreign Lands” lunges into its swinging folk rhythms and sinuous themes with aplomb once that formal opening is done.
While Transcendence has its share of stately, chamber-styled moments (“The Time Will Come”), there are others that see the group playing with unbridled ferocity (“Faster That Wear”) and realizing Giannouli's soundworld with improv-styled conviction (“Mad World”). Admittedly, there are times during Transcendence when one might be reminded of Piazzolla (the closing “Untold” plays like a veritable homage to the tango master) and Eleni Karaindrou, but this remarkable album ultimately makes the strongest case for Giannouli as a composer and artist in her own right.
Textura, July-August 2015
Greek pianist and composer Tania Giannouli is accompanied on this album by Guido De Flaviis on saxophone, Alexandros Botinis on cello, Solis Barki on percussion and idiophones and Giannis Notaras as a guest on percussion. The music could be a soundtrack, full of romantic sentiments, but without overdoing it, with an aesthetic that could be compared to many ECM albums: accessible, beyond genre, wonderfully performed and produced.
Giannouli mines deeply in the sounds of the Mediterrean and of various musical styles, using dramatic nature evocations as in "The Sea", folk elements as in "Sun Dance", modern composition as in "Mad World", or very unique sounds as in "Faster Than Wear".
An album with lots of rich ideas, a great variety of approaches yet miraculously coherent in its end result.
Stef Gijssels, Free Jazz Blog, June 2015
Transcendence is the new album from Greek pianist, improviser, and composer Tania Giannouli, recorded with her group, the Tania Giannouli Ensemble. Giannouli works within a variety of creative genres, including electronic music, theatre, film, jazz, classical, and folk traditions. Her music for theatre and film has been performed at various festivals, galleries, biennials, and museums in many countries around the world. Her work is largely piano-based, and frequently features improvisation. In 2012, she recorded ‘Forest Stories’ with Portuguese wind multi-instrumentalist and improviser, Paulo Chagas. The album (her first for Rattle Records) received significant international recognition, including recognition as the best Greek improvised music album of 2013. Transcendence features Alexandros Botinis on cello, Guido de Flaviis on saxophones, Solis Barki on percussion and idiophones, and guest musician Giannis Notaras on drums. The album is comprised of contemporary compositions that reflect Giannouli’s interest in folk music (Greek particularly) and contemporary techniques in composition. Each piece reveals her unique gift for combining diverse musical elements into a single unified composition. The overall mood is romantic, with the ensemble providing subtle improvisations that evoke the sounds of nature. Some tracks, such as ‘Faster Than Wear’, stand out as examples of Giannouli’s unique approach to orchestration, her ability to combine sounds to produce a unique and compelling aural texture. Transcendence is full of unexpected sonic and emotional shifts, which perfectly compliment Giannouli’s synthesis of musical styles. The result is an album distinguished by excellence in both performance and production. Released by Rattle Records, May 2015
Klasika ir džiazas, July 2015
Embedding The Unseen Scenes
Now this is a record I’ve been waiting to hear for some time now – the new, second album by Greek pianist Tania Giannouli. I first stumbled upon her music in a video art exhibition in Tel Aviv, where it was used in one of the works presented. Her style had immediatley caught my ear. It was mysterious, cinematic, alive. It was brilliant. The new album Transcendence (out on Rattle Records from NZ) is exciting, inspiring and one of the most beautiful records I’ve heard this year. Hey, it’s an album that inspired me enough to write about it after a long period of time that I hadn’t written here, right? Obsession. That was the tune that first caught my ear. Tania is writing music for films, features and documentaries, dance and as I mentioned – art project. The reason I like her music so much is because I can see the scene, the actual visual scene behind the music, that in this case wasn’t written for picture. When I heard Obsession, it sound as the main theme of a lost Almadovar film. Something between The Skin I Live In to Talk To Her. Strange, a bit disturbing, made me shrink a bit, but very beautiful. When I heard the full album, I realized there’s more to it then just the cinematic scenes embedded in the music. It was that refreshing new take on modern jazz , classical, and a correct dose of experimental minimalistic mood expression by the ensemble players. The album is rich with sounds and colors and hides surprising moments throughout, and the arrangements are beautiful. Everytime I hear this album it reminds me, in a most positive way, of Eberhard Weber‘s masterpiece Later That Evening. Music that gently sits on a cloud, hovering above. Not touching the earth and thus, keeping itself clean. It also brought to my mind some of the late Bernardo Sassetti works, especially his brilliant Unreal:Sidewalk Cartoon. To me, it sounds like a lost ECM album, but by browsing around Rattle Records’ catalog, it seemed that she’s in good hands.
Small Town Romance blog, July 2015, Tel Aviv
The New Zealand music label Rattle was formed in 1991 by Τim Gummer, Steve Garden and Keith Hill. Admirers of contemporary, jazz and world music, the three sought to release refined and (often) non-commercial works that generally reflected their tastes and preferences while remaining open to different stimuli. The label is largely reserved for New Zealand artists, some of whom deserve serious attention, but it also has an international feel as it includes, among others, musicians like Marilyn Crispell, Joshua Redman, Omar Carmenates, and Brad Dutz from the USA, Portuguese percussionist Pedro Carneiro, and Greek pianist Tania Giannouli. Tania Giannouli studied piano and composition in Athenaeum, Athens. She is active in several groups, notably Schema Ensemble (addicted to improvisation), and Emotone, an electro-acoustic duo with Tomas Weiss. Giannouli's work is characterized by her interest in multimedia. She has composed for film and theater, and collaborated with video-artist Marcantonio Lunardi on his 370 New World, a video that was produced in collaboration with the Toscana Film Commission. But it is her personal discography, especially her last album that is of particular interest. Transcendence (Rattle 2015) is her second work released by the New Zealand label. Compared to her previous Forest Stories (Rattle 2012), a collaboration with Portuguese wind-player Paulo Chagas, the new album features a newly formed ensemble of three excellent musicians: Alexandros Botinis (cello), Guido De Flaviis (sax) and Solis Barki (percussion/ idiophones). All boast prestigious collaborations. Guest musician, drummer Giannis Notaras, was a member of Schema Ensemble. Transcendence consists of nine Giannouli compositions, music that reflects "nostalgia for an as yet unknown happy future", as she put it in the CD liner notes. The music defies categorisation, but reflects a variety of influences: avant-garde, jazz, world, and chamber music. Several titles allude to nature: "The Weeping Willow", "Sun Dance", "The Sea". This last piece, intense and melancholic, highlights the cohesion between the three soloists, while "Obsession" and "From Foreign Lands" are characterized by driving rhythms. Lyrically rich but never rhetorical, Transcendence presents an artist who will be worth following closely: we are sure to hear more from Tania Giannouli in the future. Gifted with a restless creativity, she is currently collaborating with Greek poet Evgenios Aranitsis."
Alessandro Michelucci, Cultura Commestibile, July 2015
Tania Giannouli’s second album, Transcendence, was recently released by the New Zealand art-music label, Rattle. This new album confirms what was already evident in her previous release, Forest Stories (Rattle, 2012), that Giannouli is a pianist/composer with a singular vision and artistic focus. Her music reflects a number of traditions, including contemporary classical, jazz, improvisation, European romanticism, and traditional folk music, all embedded within an aesthetic environment of exaltation and emotion (or ‘transcendence’ as she would say). Accompanying her are four world-class musicians, and together they have created an imaginative recording brimming emotional vibrations, notably Alexandros Botinis (cello), Guido De Flaviis (saxophones), Solis Barki (percussion/idiophones), and Giannis Notaras (a guest musician on drums).
The track The Weeping Willow is an ideal opener to the album. It’s a slow and evocative track, where the notes of the piano appear dilated against the uniquely atmospheric layering of cello and saxophone. The 7-minute The Sea is a surprising second track, a composition with a naturalistic wide-space that recalls beautiful soundtracks such as Descent of Nine by Michalis Christodoulidis. In Sun Dance, Botini's cello is the central protagonist, but the percussion of Barkis and Notaras gives the composition a strong, almost pagan character. The tension relaxes with The Time Will Come, with Giannouli teasing out necromantic allusions on piano while the band create a calm counterpoint. The up-tempo Faster Than Wear generates an atmosphere of tension, with all of the instruments building greater energy and volume.
With the physical and emotional expansion and reduction of rhythmic intensity, the melodic purity of From Foreign Lands is emphasised by its song-like form (intro, verse, chorus, etc.), in which ideas are expressed in music that would be very difficult to express in words, and which could only offer a limited approximation of the experience. Obsession, the seventh composition on the album, is an exciting, evocative track, that incorporates different narrative elements (starting with tradition and moving towards the personal), something that is picked up and developed further in the 8-minute Mad World, where jazz and improvisation coexist with the colours and textures of the avant and chamber music. The album closes with the elegiac Untold, a piece that moves through a landscape of beauty and peace, but not without moments of tension. With Transcendence, Tania Giannouli offers an excellent album, very different from her previous release, but equally rewarding. Her music ¬– in all of its facets, even its quietest moments – is characterised by substantial weight and presence that is not only very tangible but also very revealing. In a word, the album is all about ‘passion’, and that says it all.
Phontas Trousas, LIFO magazine, July 2015
We asked Tania Giannouli about the reasons that motivated her new album, "Transcendence". Here is what she told us….
- Although they are very different from each other, "Forest Stories" and "Transcendence" are both albums of ‘images’ and ‘pictures’.
It is true that my music evokes images. However, the starting point for me is almost never a picture, unless of course the music is written to accompany a film or video. It is more a psychological state that is, afterwards, "visualised" in music.
- Do you compose with a scenario or concept in mind, or do you mostly trust creative instinct and inspiration?
Both, occasionally. It depends on the purpose for which the music is indented. Sometimes the context is very specific. Other times, the music can start from a momentary inspiration and finish there. At other times (and this is what happened with "Forest Stories", I think) it may start with an inspiration, without a program or a plan, and slowly the material itself shapes directions and ideas that were not conscious from the beginning.
- Do you find common ground between contemporary chamber music and jazz, and if so, how do you exploit it?
There is a lot of common ground, and I often use extended contemporary techniques and improvisation in my work, which are of course common to both jazz and contemporary music.
- How do you experience the Greek musical tradition, and with what state of mind do you use it in your work?
Traditional Greek music is something that, of course, I carry in my musical DNA, so it’s there in my musical references. But I haven't studied it in depth, so when I write something that refers to it, it isn’t done consciously. When it happens, I’m often surprised!
- A post-romantic element is distinctive in several tracks. But in contrast to the relative "sound of ECM" or Nordic Jazz, your compositions, even in their most "quiet" moments leave a tension. What is the source of this tension?
The post-romantic element comes from my classical studies and of course from my love for the great romantic composers. I agree with you regarding the tension to which you refer, but I really can’t explain clearly where it comes from. Basically, I compose intuitively.
- Could you name some of your favourite composers, music scenes, albums or specific works? Say, what do you listen these days?
Favourite composers are Bach, Kancheli, Mompou, Crumb, and many more of course. "Vox Balanea" by Georg Crumb is one of my favourite works from the contemporary repertoire. I listen to a lot of ECM music. At the moment Rava-Bollani is on my mp3, and also a fantastic album from Rattle called Tühonohono, an album that evokes travels through Antipodean landscapes and atmospheres.
- What is the role of the other musicians-collaborators in the forming of the final sound of "Transcendence"?
I am very lucky to be working with these amazing musicians (and friends). The music on this album would not sound the same without them.
-This CD as well is released by Rattle, a New Zealander label. How did they discover you? Or did you discover them?
When the material from my first album "Forest Stories" was ready, I set demos to various labels that I thought would appreciate style and the aesthetic. One of those labels was Rattle, and I am very happy that they "saw" this affinity. I think my music has found a very good "home" at this label and of course I feel proud to be among so many important artists within their catalogue.
- Your music, certainly, could be reproduced in a live concerts as you have showed recently. How do you see the presentation in the near future?
On May 27 at the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens we presented the whole of the new album, "Transcendence", in the form of a suite, together with the videos of my Italian collaborator, video-artist Marcantonio Lunardi. We plan to perform this material as mush as possible, always paying attention to the sound conditions. This music requires good conditions, in order to be heard properly. Anything new will be announced on my website.
Phontas Trousas, LIFO magazine
To ‘transcend’ is to look within yourself and recognise that the universe is present there. (Mohsin Hamid)
The conceptual core of the sense of transcendence refers to the intention of going beyond the limits. The term involves a spatial metaphor describing the action to move from one area to another exceeding the limit that separates them.
In the field of philosophy, the notion of transcendence includes overcoming the idea and desire to excel. From that perspective, one can deduce that transcendence is immanent to humans because it involves individual will – transformada in action to deal with that which is beyond the known; ergo, due to a personal decision that is not inherent in all individuals. However, there is transcended from nothing but starting from the known and by desperate search to overcome the limits imposed on us by life, limits also to prevent us broaden the horizons of knowledge denies us the possibility of being architects of our own destiny.
The significance also means access to a vital plane of existence where one feels compelled to share with others the acquired knowledge and ideas without giving up the essence itself or the group of belonging.
The truth is that, by matching the concepts outlined on the word "transcendence" with the musical proposal emanating from the debut album of Tania Giannouli Ensemble, to the unambiguous conclusion was reached Transcendence is -and many reasons, a little less than ideal title to describe his aesthetic content.
The artistic path of young Greek pianist and composer Tania Giannouli includes her debut release for Rattle in 2012, Forest Stories, a collaboration with the remarkable Portuguese multi-instrumentalist and improviser Paulo Chagas. She has also written music for theatre, film and video, and her compositions have been performed by Camerata / Armonia Athena String Orchestra, Ensemble Dissonart, the Athens Youth Orchestra, and the Galaxy String Quartet. She is currently in the developmental stages of an interdisciplinary venture with the prestigious Greek writer, Evgenios Aranitsis.
The musical ideas expressed on Transcendence by Tania Giannouli Ensemble (featuring Alexandros Botinis on cello, Guido de Flaviis on saxophones, Solis Barki on idiophones and percussion, and guest musician Giannis Notaras on drums) are built with an undeniably lyrical creative rigour, a unique and personal sound map that amalgamates the temperament of contemporary classical music with the rich influence of Mediterranean folk traditions (especially the Greek Natal), and emerging attributes of modern jazz.
Transcendence was conceived as a suite of compositions wherein each of its parts takes on a narrative that aims to illustrate memories and feelings, a personal vision of the world and the search for the author to try to transcend the difficult times being experienced by our society.
The ambitious intentions of the ensemble translate into a fascinating aesthetic universe that, despite the diversity of musical sources from which it draws and punctilious elaboration, are as original as they are surprisingly effective.
The album begins with the eerie asceticism of The Weeping Willow. Hand drawn strokes of subtle piano enters into a narrative of undeniable desolation that (in perfect symmetry with the art object that motivates this work) offers a contemplative gaze and invokes rhetorical reflection without fanfare.
The Sea immerses us (pun intended) in sleepy waves of sound from which emerges a wide range of expressive nuances, especially accentuated by the juxtaposition of dramatic contrasts between light piano, candied phrases of sax, and the deep tone chamber music expressed in the cello.
Sun Dance opens with a minimalist prelude before evolving through a dance with Mediterranean folk airs, crowned by a remarkable crescendo of saxophone licks.
The steamy weather evoked in The Time Will Come creates a reflective space from which to confront what seems elusive and uncertain with optimism and hope.
Within the dynamic strength that characterises Faster the Wear, a melody hovers above a cyclic structure of variations and ornaments that are never superfluous or unnecessary, with Giannouli's driving and eloquent piano sitting against a determined percussive pulse.
The nostalgic motif of the introductory solo piano sets up an effective juxtaposition to the agitated climate, multiple colour shades and thoughtful counterpoint resolutions arising from the intense From Foreign Lands.
The initial delicate subtlety of Obsession gradually transforms into hypnotic tension before gradually fading into the final ethereal and introspective epicentre of Giannouli's piano, a clear demonstration that it is possible to shine and move without exaggerated artifice or grand gestures.
The abstract drama of Mad World seems to draw an imaginary bisector between contemporary classical music and European free improvisation to symbolise the chaos that assumes the title of the piece. In a context of superlative group performance, Tania Giannouli's piano, Solis Barki's percussion, and especially the cello of Alexandros Botinis are outstanding.
The album ends with the melancholic lyricism exuding from the relaxed and suggestive Untold.
Transcendence is a fascinating, honest and spiritually substantial album where Tania Giannouli shows a rare ability to dream of other realities without losing clarity.
Who looks outside, dreams. The inwardly facing awake. (Carl Jung)