Musika Chronika

(Athens, 1925, 1928-1934)

Prepared by Ioannis Fulias
Online only (2010)

Musika Chronika (Μουσικά Χρονικά / Musical Chronicles) [MCH] is the longest running (though appearing irregularly) Greek music periodical published during the interwar period. It circulated in Athens and surrounding areas during three distinct time periods: one issue published on 19 April 1925; monthly issues published from April 1928 to April 1929; and a mixture of single and double issues published regularly from January 1930 to an issue with only an indication of the year of publication, 1934. This last almost uninterrupted publication of Musical Chronicles for several consecutive years constitutes a unique phenomenon for Greek music periodicals of that time. The endurance demonstrated by MCH under particularly harsh economic circumstances is admirable, particularly when one considers that throughout its publication it remained a purely private initiative of one man, Ioseph Papadopulos-Grekas, who covered its cost from subscriptions and advertisements, and from the income generated by his other publications. MCH was for many years the only available Greek platform for expression about music and a source of continuous information for all music matters, both art music (European and Greek) and traditional Greek music (with an emphasis on Byzantine music).

An important share of the success and the quality of the issues of the first volume of MCH (nos. 1-12) must be attributed to Georgios Lambelet (1875-1945), a scholar, composer and theorist who worked as the periodical’s director in 1928 and 1929, before resigning owing to his increased workload. Composer, founder, publisher of MCH Ioseph Papadopulos-Grekas (1897-1981) was from 1930 director of MCH. Following music studies in Athens (under Georgios Lambelet and Armand Marsick) and in Leipzig, Papadopulos-Grekas worked as a conductor, a teacher, a concert organizer, a music critic and a music journalist.

All MCH issues were printed on paper with dimensions roughly 18 by 25 centimeters. The single issue published in 1925 has sixteen pages. From 1928, the total number of pages (with consecutive page numbering within each volume) changes frequently: single issues usually have 32 pages, although in some cases the number of pages extends up to 48, 56 or even 96 pages; double issues have 48 pages; however occasionally they shrink to 40, 32 or 24 pages. In the first volume there are a number of “music appendices” (occasionally under the title “Greek Art”), that are always integrated into the content of the issue to which they are attached. The remaining volumes also include a few music scores, two “theatrical appendices” and a “literature appendix”.

The layout of each issue usually follows the same pattern: a few principal articles and essays in the first part of each issue, followed by many short articles on various subjects. Topics cover a variety of artistic matters, with clear priority, however, given to European (and, to a lesser extent, Greek) art music. There are also some interesting remarks on contemporary composition, while occasionally there are some articles or news reports regarding “lighter” types of music (like operetta or jazz). As time goes on, the number of articles on Byzantine music and, to a lesser extent, ancient Greek music and Greek traditional music increases. Additionally, within the pages of MCH one finds various music reviews, news and also comments on Greek musical life, on music education and on general matters of cultural policy. Standard features include review columns written by specific contributors to MCH, such as Michael Kunelakes, Yannis Sideres, and Sophia Kentaurou-Oeconomidou. There are also signed and unsigned columns with news from Greece and abroad or lists of recently circulated music publications, books and periodicals with a broad spectrum of subjects.

Among the most important articles are “Aesthetics of Music” by Constantinos D. Oeconomou, an original musical treatise examining the ontology of the work of art, the meaning of the musical terms of content and form, the connection between word and music, the question of music creation as well as issues of musical perception. Shorter studies by Oeconomou testify to his impressive erudition and often introduce completely new concepts to Greek music literature: an analytic “diptych” that highlights the comic and tragic elements in music works of the European and Greek repertory, as well as articles discussing issues concerning music education and psychology. Oeconomou also addresses topics about music history and aesthetics, and discusses his views on the distinct nature and the function of Byzantine church music.

An important series article is Fanes Michalopulos’ treatise “Musical Sentiment in its Primitive Form”, which presents a systematic investigation into the role of music in rituals in antiquity, in the birth and evolution of ancient Greek tragedy, as well as in the main characteristics of poetry, music and dance in ancient drama. Ancient music occasionally occupies the interest of other writers as well: the presentation of literary and archaeological testimony about music from Minoan Crete by Georgios Zografakes, as well as the analytical observations on an extract from the extant “First Delphic Hymn to Apollo” written by Constantinos A. Psachos.

One of the thorniest issues that occupy the interest of MCH columnists for a number of years is that of micro-intervals in Byzantine music. Theodoros I. Thoides publishes a number of independent articles on this subject with analytical mathematical calculations and many references to ancient theoretical treatises, while an intense juxtaposition of opinion on this topic takes place between C. Psachos and the academic Constantinos Maltezos. At the same time, G. Lambelet, Elisaios Gianides and Petros I. Petrides unite their opinions in challenging the sustainability and the significance of intervals smaller than a semitone in modern (church and secular) music practice. This is not the only controversial issue related to the Byzantine music tradition that is discussed among writers of the time: a multi-page tribute of Musical Chronicles to both the music and the culture of Byzantium inevitably included some of the most conflicting views on issues of repertoire codification, of the most appropriate notation, of the harmonization of Byzantine chants and the use of musical instruments in church. However, contributors show a much more limited interest in Greek folk songs, as is evident from the sporadic and normally relatively short statements on the subject.

Articles referring to European art music contain biographical sketches and overviews of principal compositions, and often attempt to show a general appreciation of the creative contribution of major composers: Alex Thurneyssen on Hugo Wolf and Arnold Schönberg, and a team of contributors on Franz Schubert. Other articles (by Felix Petyrek, Stavros Prokopiou, Gregorios I. Burlos, Stephanos D. Valtetsiotes, among many others) feature discussion on topics about general music history, specific music works, excellent artists, musical performance, modern music, Greek art music and also theatrical scene etc. Of special interest is also an extensive historical and critical study by Y. Sideres on the “comeidyllio”, a short-lived music-theatrical genre, popular in Athens during the last decade of the 19th century.

Several issues from 1925 to 1934 contain important music scores (mainly for piano and for voice and piano) by Manolis Kalomiris, G. Lambelet, F. Petyrek, Alekos Kontes, Dionysios Lavrangas, Marios Varvogles, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Napoleon Lambelet, S. Prokopiou, and C. Psachos. There are also some lengthy “theatrical” or “literary appendices” with works not only by Alfred Tennyson, Aeschylus, and Euripides (in modern Greek translations), but also by Yannis Oeconomides, Gerasimos Spatalas, and Y. Sideres.

The present publication is based on copies of all the six volumes of the periodical borrowed from the Greek Parliament Library, and on a copy of the isolated 1925 issue found at the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive.

[Translated into English by Katerina Karantzi]