Jnan Sbil Garden - Stelios Petrakis Quartet – The Art of Cretan Lyra – Greece
Places of peace, islands of goodwill,
Where, transported by sweet dreams,
I abandon myself to the thoughts of my heart ～ Chateaubriand, The Sea
Crete has been influenced by many other cultures, such as the Turks after they conquered the island as part of the Ottoman Empire in 1669; Egypt in the early 19th century and then Greece almost a century later. However the musical style of the island retains its own unique flavour. It is best known for the use of the lyra, a three-stringed fiddle, accompanied by a laouto or Cretan lute.
This concert was held in the beautiful surrounds of Jnan Sbil. On a 37 degree afternoon, the musicians sweated onstage in their signature black, but still managed to play superbly.
Stelios Petrakis explained that he had visited the many villages of the island collecting traditional songs that appealed to him. We were to hear some of these, as well as some of the group's original compositions.
He played the opening tune solo on the lyra, and in its yearning tone, it was possible to hear the instrument's relationship to the classical violin. However, the chord structure was clearly influenced by the East, and the sound it produced was at once familiar and exotic.
Petrakis was joined onstage by Thanassis Mavrokostas on the mandoura; Andonis Stavrakakis on the mandolin and Giorgos Stavrakakis on the laouto (similar to the oud). The pieces they played recalled ancient traditions and, although enjoyable to listen to, had a serious air.
Then the tempo picked up and Mavrokostas leapt to the front of the stage to dance energetically and joyfully. The audience responded by clapping along. The dance gave a sense of being transported to a Creten festival - perhaps a wedding or another ritual.
The musicians and dancer of the Stelios Petrakis Quartet are highly skilled and enthusiastic exponents of a living tradition - one not only well worth not only preserving, but celebrating.
Review and photos by Suzanna Clarke.