The incorporation of Greek folk melodies in the piano works of Yannis Constantinidis: with special consideration of the 22 songs and dances from the Dodecanese
Yannis Constantinidis was the last of the handful of composers referred to collectively as the Greek National School. The members of this group strove to create a distinctive national style for Greece, founded upon a synthesis of Western compositional idioms with melodic, rhyhmic, and modal features of their local folk traditions. Constantinidis particularly looked to the folk melodies of his native Asia Minor and the nearby Dodecanese Islands. His musical output includes operettas, musical comedies, orchestral works, chamber and vocal music, and much piano music, all of which draws upon folk repertories for thematic material. The present essay examines how he incorporates this thematic material in his piano compositions, written between 1943 and 1971, with a special focus on the 22 Songs and Dances from the Dodecanese. In general, Constantinidis's pianistic style is expressed through miniature pieces in which the folk tunes are presented mostly intact, but embedded in accompaniment based in early twentieth-century modal harmony. Following the dictates of the founding members of the Greek National School, Manolis Kalomiris and Georgios Lambelet, the modal basis of his harmonic vocabulary is firmly rooted in the characteristics of the most common modes of Greek folk music. A close study of his 22 Songs and Dances from the Dodecanese not only offers a valuable insight into his harmonic imagination, but also demonstrates how he subtly adapts his source melodies. This work also reveals his care in creating a musical expression of the words of the original folk songs, even in purely instrumental compositon.