Theodoros Iosifidis

I hope to refine music, study it, try to find some area that I can unlock. I don't quite know how to explain it but it's there. These can't be the only notes in the world, there's got to be other notes some place, in some dimension, between the cracks on the piano keys.

Marvin Gaye

Greek pianist Theodoros Iosifidis started his piano studies aged 7 in the Municipal Conservatory of Kavala. He graduated from ‘Neon’ Conservatoire, Thessaloniki, getting a Harmony Diploma with Grade A in June 2003 and his Piano Performance Diploma with the highest distinction (Grade A and 1st Prize). In 2009, he got his BMus in Performance with First Class Honours at Trinity College of Music, London, where he studied with Yonty Solomon and Philip Fowke. Theodoros has completed two Masters degrees with distinction (Mmus, MmusAcc) at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, studying under Jonathan Plowright, as a scholar of the Academy (RSAMD Trust). He has also worked at the RCS as an accompanist.
He has won 1st prizes in the Leonard Smith Duo Competition, the Ian Watt Competition for Violin and piano and the RSAMD Bach Prize. In November 2009 he represented the RSAMD in the Beethoven Intercollegiate Competition in London’s ‘Bluthner Centre'. Theodoros has been involved in numerous festivals and performance projects, such as the Edinburgh International Festival, “Leeds Lieder Plus”, “Schumann Festival” and the “Rzewski Festival” in TCM, London. He has collaborated with various composers including Dimitrios Skyllas, Nick Jones, Hannah Varty and Simone Spagnolo, among others, recording new pieces and participating in projects such as the ‘Rude Health' concerts and the ‘SCOW’ orchestral project. He has given numerous world premieres, both as a soloist and as a chamber musician.
He has performed in prestigious venues throughout the UK and Greece, including St. Martin-in-the-fields, London and the City Halls, Glasgow, as well as in Edinburgh, Inverness, Birmingham, Wales, Athens and Thessaloniki, to mention but a few. Since 2003 he collaborates with violinist Iasonas Keramidis, with whom he has appeared in Germany and Greece. He also performs frequently with violinist Eva Demeter throughout the UK.

Theodoros lives and works in Athens.

Bach, J. S.:
Preludes and Fugues from the “Well-Tempered Clavier”:
Book 1: C major, C minor, C sharp minor, D minor, E flat/D sharp minor, E major, E minor, G minor
Book 2: D major, D minor, F sharp minor
Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor
Partita in C minor
Italian Concerto in F major
Toccata in E minor
Concerto for keyboard in F minor
Chaconne in D minor (trans. F. Busoni)
Selection of Choral Preludes (trans. F. Busoni)

Beethoven, L van:
op. 2 n. 1 in F minor, op. 10 n.3 in D, op. 14 n.2 in E, op. 31 n. 2 in D minor (“Tempest”), op. 57 in F minor“Appassionata”, op. 81a in E flat (“Les Adieux”), op. 110 in A flat, op. 111 in C minor
Bagatelles op. 119 and op. 126
Concerto n. 4 in G, op. 58
Concerto n. 5 in E flat, op.73
Sonatas for Piano and Violin: in F op, 24 (“Spring”) and in C minor op. 30 n. 2

Berio, L.:
6 Encores for piano

Bloch, Ern.:
Violin Sonata n. 1

Brahms, J.:
16 Valses, op. 39
Sonata for Piano and Cello in E minor op. 38
Sonata for Piano and Clarinet/ Viola in F minor op. 120 n.1
Sonatas for Piano and Violin: in A op. 100, in D minor op. 108

Chopin, Fr:
Selection of Mazurkas
Nocturnes op. 9, op. 48, op. 55, op. 72 posth.
Ballade op. 23 in G minor
Ballade op. 52 in F minor
Barcarolle op. 60
3 Ecossaises op. 72
Concerto in E minor op. 11

Debussy, Cl.:
Selection of songs

Dvorak, A.:
Piano Quintet in A, op. 81

Grieg, E.:
Piano Concerto in A minor

Hindemith, P.:
Flute Sonata

Janacek, L.:
Sonata I.X.1905 “From the Street”

Ligeti, G.:
Musica Ricercata

Liszt, Fr.:
La Campanella (from Grandes Etudes after Paganini)
Sonata in B minor

Mozart, W. A.:
Sonatas in F K280, in A minor K310, in A K331
Fantasia in D minor
Rondo in A minor K511
Concerto in A K488
Concerto in C minor K491
Sonatas for Piano and Violin in E minor K304, in G major K301

Poulenc, Fr.:
Les Soirees de Nazelles

Prokofiev, S.:
Violin Sonata in F minor op.80

Scarlatti, D.:
Selection of 6 Sonatas

Schubert, Fr.:
4 Impromptus op. 90
4 Impromptus op. 142
Klavierstucke D946
Arpeggione Sonata

Schumann, R.:
Papillons op. 2
Kreisleriana op. 16
Fantasia op. 17
2 Novelettes from op. 21
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A minor, op. 105
Fantasiestucke for Clarinet/ Cello op. 73
Liederkreis (complete song cycles)

“Theodoros is a young musician of real intellectual and emotional power and of great spirituality. “
Yonty Solomon
“His performances are marked by a seriousness and intellectual rigour but also a stylistic integrity. He is highly intelligent, articulate and sensitive.”
Philip Fowke
“Theodoros thinks a great deal about music. His grasp of the musical form is impressive, and he always strives for what he strongly believes in.”
Jonathan Plowright
“There is much to admire in his musical interpretation (Schumann’s Kreisleriana), not least the sensitive shaping of phrases, a clear feeling for this music, and also a driving onward energy.”
Martino Tirimo
“This was a truly exceptional recital showing real artistry, depth of understanding and expressiveness. He has a great sense of architecture, always pays attention to detail and respect to different styles. He plays with great affection and finesse. With the Liszt (Sonata) he completely drew his audience in, playing with great fervour and refinement, and an acute sense of drama always present. It spoke to us.”
Gwyneth Pryor

The Sonata form is generally linked with the Classical period and composers like Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. The Classical Sonata normally consisted of 3 or 4 movements, although Beethoven already experimented extensively with the form, the number and the order of the movements in numerous of his Piano Sonatas. This programme focuses on the Keyboard Sonata before and after the Classical era, and specifically on Sonatas in one movement, which constitute a contrast to what is widely known as the “Sonata” genre.

Scarlatti: Sonatas K 193 and K466

Domenico Scarlatti wrote around 500 Keyboard Sonatas (555 catalogued by Ralph Kirkpatrick, but some of them were not originally for solo keyboard), to which he largely owes his posterity. Many of them are pieces of great harmonic explorations and imaginative development. The choice of the term ‘Sonata’ remains mysterious, as the Baroque Sonata is mainly associated to a multi-movement structure for more than one instruments, while Scarlatti’s Sonatas are solo works in binary form (one movement divided in two repeated sections). Perhaps, the initial title “Essercizi” was more apt for the genre, but it was abandoned during Scarlatti’s life.

The two Sonatas in the programme are of opposing characters. The Sonata in E flat is in fast tempo and has some dance characteristics –like the quaver figurations of the left hand-. It also has obvious Spanish elements that Scarlatti widely used in his Sonatas, trying for example to imitate the Spanish guitar chords on the keyboard. However, the ‘Affekt’ (character) of the piece is ambiguous, and can be seen either as a dance-like movement or as a reflective piece with innovative harmonies and mesmerizing repetitions. This leaves much ground for different interpretations, especially on the modern piano that has illimitable possibilities of colouring the sound. The Sonata in f minor is more apparently sentimental; it creates a nostalgic and melancholic atmosphere, if not even bearing passionate emotions in the Baroque musical language.

Spagnolo: Rhapsodic Fantasy on themes from the Liszt Sonata

Commissioned for this recital, the Fantasy on themes of the Liszt Sonata is loosely based on the form of its source. It is an ABA form built around a fugato section, where the smaller units belong to a tonal design based on the diminished 7th chord, which is crucial in the harmony of the Sonata in b minor. The initial idea was to programme the Liszt Sonata with a contemporary piece that could lead into the atmosphere of this mysterious opening; this idea was developed by S. Spagnolo into a piece that would use explicitly the material of Liszt in a very different language at a very different time. It is still a challenging experiment, for both the composer and me as a performer.

Liszt: Sonata in b minor

Liszt’s towering Sonata in b minor (dedicated to Robert Schumann in return to Schumann’s dedication of his Fantasy op. 17 to Liszt) is one of the cornerstones of the repertoire for the piano. It was composed in 1853 (the manuscript contains the note ‘termine le 2 Fevrier 1853’) and published the following year. The premiere was only given in 1857 by Liszt’s pupil Hans von Bulow. In the same prolific period of his life and while living in Weimar, Liszt also composed his Faust and Dante Symphonies, the ‘Years of Pilgrimage’, the ‘Harmonies Poetiques at Religieuses’, both his piano concertos and several of his tone poems.

The Sonata appears to represent an exception among the composer’s output. Although Liszt seems more like a master of the shorter forms and a composer of mere show-off, the b minor Sonata is an incredible structural achievement of the grandest scale and of real profundity. It is also a work of absolute music, unlike the majority of his works that are more obviously programmatic, or at least titled in descriptive ways: for Liszt, the waltzes become “Forgotten”, “Melancholic” and “Mephistophelian”, the Etudes are disguised as “Evening Harmonies”, “Wild Hunt” or “Gnomes” and a Nocturne would become a “Dream of Love”. In this case, there is nothing more than “Grande Sonate pour le Pianoforte”. Here it becomes evident that apart from a Romantic storyteller, a theatrical showman and a genial virtuoso, Liszt was also an extraordinary architect.

The work is the first attempt of an extended sonata form in one continuous movement and it is generally considered as the most complete and finest sonata to have been composed after Beethoven and Schubert. Its monumental structure is based mainly on the 3 motives already heard in the very first page. As pianist Louis Kentner says about the themes: ‘Liszt twists them and bends them, giving them different meanings (sometimes diametrically opposing ones); they appear in slow or fast tempi, rhythmically reshaped to fit into the musical design.’

The Sonata has been associated with Goethe’s “Faust”, as it bears a strong resemblance to works directly linked with the same source, like the second movement in Alkan’s ‘Grande Sonata’, which is entitled Quasi Faust. Despite the fact that there is no evidence for an actual programme behind the Sonata in b minor, it is indeed tempting to relate it to Faust and consider it as a pianistic counterpart to the composer’s Faust Symphony (as there is a Dante “Fantasia quasi Sonata” and a Dante Symphony). Faust had been an ideal literary hero for Romantic composers, as he represents a number of themes that were characteristic of the Romantic movement: the struggle to find the essence of life, the metaphysical presence of devil, supernatural forces involved and, of course, a love story. The Sonata could be seen as a musical depiction of Faust’s journey to find his identity, his true self, love and lasting youth, as well as the struggle involved in this journey.

It is fascinating how this work contains almost everything that can be expressed on the piano. It is full of passion, emotions of great diversity, serenity, dramatic silences and ecstasy. As Wagner stated, it is ‘a creation beyond all conception: great, lovely, deep, noble… sublime.’


© Theodoros Iosifidis, May 2009

The idea of short forms constructing a large structure, as well as the idea of ‘Song’ and ‘Dance’ expressed or described within the idiom of solo piano writing characterize the works of this recital. Three composers of different times and lands meet on the common ground of piano miniatures featuring singing lines and dance gestures. At the core of the programme, two short and plain pieces of extreme beauty by Mompou connect the gigantic “Kreisleriana” by Schumann and the extensive Suite “Soirees de Nazelles” by Poulenc.

Schumann was the first composer to systematically develop the big form (‘Cycle’) consisting of small character pieces. He started this exploration early on with the youthful set of “Papillons” op.2 and continued it throughout his compositional output, with “Carnival” op. 9 probably being the best example of the genre. Poulenc’s ‘Soirees’ reminisces Carnival in many ways, not least the fact that it portrays people, often in the form of humoresque-like caricatures, apart from the similarities in form and titles (both start with an introduction called Preambule and end with a grand finale full of cross-references to the material of previous movements). The same idea of ‘Cycle’ of pieces exists in ‘Kreisleriana’, although in a different way and style.

Mompou and Poulenc share influences and inspirational sources, including Debussy and Satie from France, as well as Chopin and Schumann. Mompou’s ‘Canzonas y Danzas’ function in this programme both as a relaxing point after Schumann’s almost mad energy and as an introduction to the dancing world of Poulenc.


Schumann (1810-1856): Kreisleriana op. 16

A passionate reader and critic, Schumann had an affection for German Romantic literature, with Jean Paul Richter and E .T. A. Hoffman being his favourite authors and artistic idols. One of the latter’s characteristic personas, Kreisler was a haunted figure appearing in many of his novels, representing the archetypical Romantic artist: eccentric, dreamy and passionate. It is no surprise that Schumann found his literary alter ego on Kreisler and he composed this extensive musical portrait of his personality. They share the same creative power, and the everyday world drives them both “to the brink of madness”. This madness of the creative mind is probably the strongest characteristic of Schumann’s op. 16, making the essence of this music inexplicable and, thus, fascinating.

Written in 1838, ‘Kreisleriana’ is subtitled as ‘8 Fantasies’ and, although it was intended to be dedicated to Robert’s beloved Clara, it was finally dedicated to Frederic Chopin, as Clara’s father objected to their affair and dictated their separation during this period. In a way, Kreisleriana (like the Fantasy op.17) is a form of secret musical communication between the two lovers. Robert writes in a letter to her:

‘Since my last letter I’ve again finished a whole book of things. I will call it Kreisleriana, in which you and one of your ideas play the main role, and as you recognize yourself, you will smile fondly.”

All 8 movements are constructed in two contrasting sections that represent the contradictory parts of Schumann’s personality, for which his pseudonyms Florestan and Eusebius stand for. Florestan is the passionate and outgoing side and Eusebius is the dreamy and inward side of the composer. This structure can be seen as the juxtaposition of mystery and anger, of love and madness. The characters (either Schumann’s or Kreisler’s different faces) change quickly and sometimes abruptly from singing slow sections to dances or to outbursts of violence. Nothing in the work is intended to be purely beautiful; it is the mystery that underlies everything, and even the few beautiful moments are soon interrupted by rage and aggression.

A constant voyage of discovery for both the listener and the performer, the work travels through endless moods and ideas, and finishes suddenly, just as it starts. After a dancing last movement with a final passionate interlude, the music hauntingly vanishes in the dark, as if it disappears again in where it came from: the composer’s mind.


Mompou (1893-1987): Canzonas y Danzas n. 1, 6

“Never has the ideal of simplicity, of purity, of concision and clarity, been better served than by this impressionist who is forever developing a deliberate bare expression, without any ornamentation and reduced to the essence.” (E. Vuillermoz)

Born in Barcelona in 1893, Mompou studied the piano from an early age, but soon abandoned the idea of a performing career and devoted himself to composition, probably due to his shy character. This shyness almost restricted his output to intimate piano miniatures and melancholic songs. His influences include principally the French Impressionists and Erik Satie and his concentration on short forms resulted in very concise expression and lack of musical development.

The “Songs and Dances”, two of which are performed in this recital, were written as separate miniatures over the span of almost 60 years (1921-1979). They are improvisatory short pieces that obscurely use folk material. They also show how fond Mompou was of plainsong, jazz harmonies and unresolved dissonances, bell imitations (especially in n. 1) and meditative sounds (n. 6).


Poulenc (1899-1963): Les Soirees de Nazelles

Poulenc’s Suite ‘Soirees de Nazelles’ is a series of 8 pieces framed by an introduction and a finale, written between 1930 and 1936. The musical material was first improvised by the composer on the piano, in series of evenings in his summerhouse when lots of his friends gathered and stayed for musical nights and artistic discussions.

This is the introduction written by the composer for the first edition of the work:

“The variations that form the centre of this work were improvised during long country evenings when the author played musical portraits with his friends around the piano. We hope that these pieces (…) will have the power to evoke this game in the frame of a Touraine salon, with a window open to the evening.”

The whole is well structured in three major units which are defined by the tonal centres: Preambule and n. 1-3/ n.4-6/ n. 7-8 and Finale.

The Preambule is a Waltz in B-flat major, with a Spanish intrermezzo paying homage to the Spanish composer and Poulenc’s friend Manuel de Falla. The concluding cadence reminisces the style of French Baroque (Couperin and Rameau), with its elaborate figurations, fermatas and rolled chords. The “Height of Distinction” (n.1) is a multi-faceted fast piece, full of wit and sarcasm. The “Heart on Sleeve” (n.2) is a Chopinesque slow movement, and one of the rare examples of Poulenc particularly asking for rubato (while he generally disliked it). “Offhand and Discreet” (n.3) shows Poulenc’s sense of humour and love for surprise.

The “Series of Ideas” (n.4) funnily combines Baroque techniques (double dotted rhythm and polyphony), Debussian notation (3 staves) and jazzy harmony, and, in its inflexibility, it could be describing a pompous and opinionated character. “Coaxing Charm” (n.5) has wide emotional swings, starting off elegant and turning into sinister. “Contentment with one’s self” (n.6) could be an image of showgirls dancing in a Parisian Hall, but also resembles Prokofiev’s percussive use of the piano and devilish humour. “Taste for Unhappiness” (n.7) is a melancholic lyrical movement with subtle harmonies and eloquent melodies. “Sprightly Old Age” (n.8) is the only piece that we know the source of inspiration: it is Tante Lienard, an elderly woman who enjoyed music and art, and liked Stravinsky and Prokofiev, hence the style of the portrait. It shows a humorous view of the mind of the elderly, not being as slow as one would expect.

A brilliant and colourful second cadence precedes the Final, which is the self-portrait of the composer, with many faces and contrasting characters. Lots of the previous ideas come back in this movement (Spanish and Parisian characters). Towards the end, the bravura turns into a religious statement of mystical nature, but this is interrupted by the final and bright C major chord, which is Poulenc’s last laugh in the piece.


© Theodoros Iosifidis, July 2010