ALBUM: Arcadian Murmurs
ARTIST: Nina Assimakopoulos

Sleeve Notes The notes on the individual tracks, contained in the CD book are not reporduced here.


American Record Guide hailed Nina Assimakopoulos’s first release on Euterpe Recordings, 2001’s ‘Flute Impressions,” for ‘not just perfect technique and total breath control but supremely intelligent, elegant phrasing; broad tone color; lyricism; a full range of dynamic expression; and above all STYLE.’ Now Assimakopoulos brings her supreme command of the flute to a new, intriguing programmatic idea: a survey of twentieth century and contemporary works for solo flute all inspired by the Greek god Pan.

As one might expect, the earliest piece and the anchor of the recording is Debussy’s oft-heard "Syrinx.” But beyond that most of the selections are not high-profile in the least; in order to expand the Pan concept into a full-length program, Assimakopoulos has sifted through the vaults and has brought to light some of the more esoteric gems of the solo flute literature: pieces by Cyril Scott, Ary van Leeuwen, Charles DeLaney, and Roger Bourdin, among others, in addition to six commissioned works.

“Obviously, since I constructed a program around Pan, I’m fascinated by the idea of ‘thread,”’ she says. “But this particular unifying element left room for all manner of pieces. Even the composers who wrote for the project came up with very different things.” The different faces of Pan have provided myriad inspirational paths for flute composers over the years and have been represented in many compositional styles. This cohesion in the midst of diversity allows the CD to be enjoyed on several levels. One can pick out pieces that, even when written years apart, have clearly emerged from a common vision of Pan - such as the Scott and the Zelenaia, or the DeLaney and the Pritsker. There are also rewarding musical moments - albeit more isolated and more subtle - where a sinister piece and a sanguine one share something, echoing each other in a sequence of notes, or a unique choice of interval, or an ending which trails off on a long, low fadeout.

Pan is depicted as a faun, with the head and torso of a man and the hind-quarters of a goat. He is credited as the “father” of the flute, having supposedly fashioned the first version of one out of clipped reeds. Pan appears in many contexts in the annals of folklore - as the personification of nature and chieftain of the forest, as the quintessential party animal, as the congenial guardian of the flocks, as a trickster darting among the pines looking to give someone a fright, and as a surging libido intent on an acquiescent - or not-so-acquiescent - female. All these images are thus entwined with the sounds of Pan’s flute playing.

Assimakopoulos calls her experiences working directly with several of the composers on display here “an artistic awakening.” The collaborative process fueled her confidence in her interpretive depth and insight. “I use the score as a blueprint, but I give myself permission to go with the poetry of the music, to pass through the paper and re-enter the piece differently. Because I’ve had the luxury of getting inside the heads, so to speak, of these contemporary composers, I went through the exercise with myself of trying to get inside the heads of the composers whose thought processes weren’t available to me in the same way.” So a greater sense of freedom pervaded her approach to the new pieces as well as the more time-honored pieces, such as“Syrinx,” whose prodigious performance history has understandably given rise to any number of interpretive conventions. Pan would probably approve of a flutist taking a bit of license in the name of art. It bears repeating that he’s one of the more uninhibited and mercurial fellows in mythology, and that all his colors are on display here: Pan as musician and reveler, Pan as bogeyman, Pan as thwarted seducer, Pan as patron saint of shepherds and bucolic harmony. Some of the pieces reveal specific “kinetic” or “choreographic” references to Pan the person, right down to motifs for clambering hoof beats and the dancing of his target nymphs: Others are no less rich in imagery but are more accurately described as portraits of Pan’s environment - the pastoral idyll. “The visuals conjured up by each piece were very evocative in helping me create fully realized interpretations,”Assimakopoulos says. “I even take a lot of inspiration from the way painters and visual artists explore dualities of light and dark, hard and soft, concentrated and diffused. A flutist can set the various moods within a piece by being committed to the idea of ‘palette’ with the instrument.”

Arcadian Murmurs invites the curious on a unique journey back through the decades represented by this remarkable slate of composers. But these echoes of Pan actually peel back centuries - exultant birdsong punctuating the sighs of timeless sacred pine groves, the scampering feet of the faun and his compatriots, the sun-soaked serenity of the shepherd’s meadow, the febrile tension of Pan’s after-dark games, and the hormonal pendulum of his romantic successes and failures.

The Pieces:

The notes on the individual tracks, contained in the CD book are not reporduced here.

Tales of the previously immortal Pan being ‘killed off’ began to surface in the fourth century AD., apparently as the Christian church gained influence and became more and more uneasy with Pan as the embodiment of wantonness. Pan began to merge with another personage in the Christian tradition who fit the horns and hooves, and who encouraged unfettered sensual indulgence, but who paid strict penalty for such ways. “One can see why Pan came to be regarded as a threat to a certain way of life,” says Assimakopoulos, “but at the same time, some of the pieces about the defeats and the death of Pan, like ‘Syrinx’ and the Bourdins, create such a sense of empathy for him.” Pan has perhaps ceased to be a central figure of worship in our culture, but it’s probably no surprise that Pan has outlasted this dark turn in his fortunes. He still has the power to capture the imagination and send shivers up the spine that are an ambivalent mix of admiration and repulsion. The archetype of Pan still inhabits the woods, romping and skulking by turns, and the complex musical portraits here weave together fibers of the malevolent and the lighthearted, the foreboding and the whimsical, the vulnerable and the indomitable - it won’t be long into this musical journey and the hoofbeats will sound again.


NINA ASSIMAKOPOULOS Internationally acclaimed flutist Nina Assimakopoulos is a visionary artist whose accomplishments include significant theme-based commissioning and multi-media performance projects realized to enhance audience connection to classical and contemporary art-music. Assimakopoulos is the recipient of two Fuibright Grants, the National Society of Arts and Letters Career Award, the Yehudi Menuhin Chamber Music Endowment, and the Munich Academy of Music “Meisterklasse” Certificate. Career highlights include performances as principal flute with the Munich City Opera and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Academy Orchestra, as well as international concerts and broadcasts all of which have won public and critical acclaim. Assimakopoulos is professor of flute at the Greatbatch School of Music, Houghton College, where she has taught since 2001. Her teachers include Peter Lloyd at the Indiana University School of Music and Paul Meisen at the Hochschule fur Musik in Munich, Germany.

CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918) was the founder and the chief representative of the Impressionist movement in music. His circle of friends did not usually include musicians but the Impressionist painters and literati of the day who regularly gathered at the home of poet Stephane Mallarme. It was a Mallarme poem, in fact, that inspired Debussy first major orchestral work: Prelude a f’apres-midi d'un faune. The influence of his compositional style has inspired many composers and survives to this day. Debussy’s music is marked by its ability to generate visual images in the listener - scenes hidden within the music, never conveyed directly, but always colored by the artists imagination. This seems especially true in his memorable works for flute.

CYRIL SCOTT (1879-1970) studied composition in Frankfurt as a young man, and eventually became known as a member of the" Frankfurt Group” of English composers that included Percy Grainger and Roger Quilter. (Scott maintained a lively correspondence with Grainger for many years, and the Grainger Museum is now home to over 400 Cyril Scott letters). During the early part of the twentieth century, Scott’s works were compared to those of Stravinsky and Schoenberg, and Scott earned a label as the “English Debussy” for his determination to avoid cadence and create a continuous flow in his music. He was also a published poet, a painter, and a furniture designer.

ARY VAN LEEUWEN (1875-1953) was born in Arnheim, Holland and became one of the foremost flute virtuosos of the first half of the twentieth century. He was hired by Gustav Mahier as first flutist of the Hof-Opera in Vienna and professor at the Academy of Music there - positions van Leeuwen filled from 1903 to 1920. van Leeuwen had similarly long tenure with an American orchestra, as principal flute with the Cincinnati Symphony under Eugene Goossens from 1924 to 1938. He was a prolific arranger and transcriber of flute music, in addition to producing several original compositions.

FRANCIS POULENC (1899-1963), a largely self-taught composer, was known as part of Les Six, an informal confederation of French composers who wanted to divorce both Impressionism and Gennanicism from French music. His landmark compositions include an organ concerto, a harpsichord concerto, songs, and numerous sacred works that emerged after the re-awakening of his Catholic faith In the 1930s (Mass in G, Gloria, Stabat Mater, Quatre Motets pour le temps de Penitence, and the opera Dialogues des Carmelites.)

CHARLES O. DELANEY (b. 1925) was professor of flute at Florida State University from 1976 to 2000, and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for 25 years before that. He is a founding member of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra and the Florida Flute Association. He received the lifetime achievement award from the National Flute Association in 1998, after serving as its president and as a member of the NFA Cultural Exchange Delegation to China.

ROGER BOURDIN (1923-1976) was a renowned flutist and flute instructor. He was a soloist with lOrchestre de ‘Association des Concerts Lamoureux for over two decades, and he taught at the Academy of Versailles from 1941 until his untimely death. He left behind a large discography, an extensive body of compositions for radio and film, and numerous indebted pupils.

BENJAMIN BOONE (b. 1963) has a Masters from Boston University and a doctorate from the University of South Carolina. In his eclectic musical life he has played saxophone in a number of jazz ensembles across the United States and Europe, has served as a music business manager, and has conducted extensive research on musical perspectives of the fundamental frequency of human speech. Boone’s diverse compositions have captured many awards and are represented on several CDs. He taught for many years at the University of Tennessee, where in 1999 he was one of six faculty campus-wide to receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Since 2000, Boone has been Assistant Professor of Music Califomia State University in Fresno.

MARK HIJLEH (b. 1963) holds a Masters in conducting and composition from Ithaca College and a doctoral degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory. Hijleh has garnered several awards for his compositions, including the 2002 National Association of Teachers of Singing Vocal Competition Award, for his “O Ignis Spiritus.” In 1994, he founded the Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers, a national non-profit ministry whose honorary membership includes James MacMillan, George Tsontakis, John Nelson, and Jeremy Begbie. Hijleh is currently associate professor of composition and conducting at the Greatbatch School of Music (Houghton College), and the director of the Houghton College Philharmonia Orchestra.

BINNETTE LIPPER (b. 1939) received her music education at Hunter College and the Juillard School. She has also studied composition privately with Louise Talma and Meyer Kupferman, among others. For many years, she was on the faculty of the Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale, NY, and she now serves on their board of trustees. She is an active member of the New York Woman Composers and the Intemational Alliance for Women in Music. Lipper is the recipient of multiple ASCAP grants and American Music Center grants. Most recently, two piano works were “finalist” pieces In the Renee B. Fischer Piano Composition Competition.

MARGARITA ZELENAIA (b. 1954) began pianostudies in her native Russia at the age of four, and by adolescence she was hosting her own television program. She studied composition at the Moscow State Conservatory and at the Gnessin State Music Institute. She became one of the youngest composers ever inducted into the Russian Union of Composers. Her children’s opera, “Winnie the Pooh Once Again,” commissioned in 1983 by the Moscow State Academic Children’s Musical Theatre, has since been performed in over 400 venues. Now a permanent resident of New York City, Zelenaia has recently made compositional debuts at Lincoln Center (1997) and Carnegie Hall (2001).

GENE PRITSKER (b. 1971) has amassed a resume of over 150 compositions, ranging from chamber operas to orchestral works to pieces for hip-hop ensemble. For example, his "Cancer Ward,” (based on the Solzhenitsyn novel) was performed by the Talujon percussion quartet at New York’s prestigious Merkin Hall. Pritsker is the founder of the eclectic quintet Sound Liberation, whose philosophy is to end the segregation of music styles by performing a wide gamut of music in informal settings. He is also the driving force behind Noizepunk, an experimental electronic music project that gathers inspiration from composers like Debussy, Mozart, and Cage. Pritsker has served as a board member of the New York chapter of the American Composers Forum since 1996.

DAVID GOLIGHTLY (b. 1948) works out of Cheshire, England. He combines his career as a classical composer and conductor with prolific freelance endeavors scoring for the stage and for film. His First Symphony had its world premiere at Russia’s White Nights Festival in 2002, and through 2004 other Golightly works will also be unveiled by the renowned Kirov orchestra with various soloists (recorder concerto, song cycle on Pushkin, piano concerto, and another symphony). (David's other compositions and recordings on this site)

PIERRE THILLOY (b. 1970) is the national laureate of the Concours General in music of the FFEM. Since 1999, at the invitation of the cultural association "Pour que ‘Esprit Viva,” Thilloy had lived at and worked out of the Abbaye de Ia Pree in Segry, France. He has been a finalist and semifinalist in numerous international compositions, and took the second International Olivier Messiaen Prize from the Guardini Foundation, Berlin. Thilloy has studied composition at many institutions, including the Luxembourg Conservatory and the International Academy of the Mozarteum, Salzburg.

—Bradley Wilbar


Producer/Artistic Director: Nina Assimakopoulos
Recording Engineers: Anton Machleder, Carl Pultz
Post Production Editing and Mastering: Carl Pultz
CD Liner Notes: Bradley Wilber
CD Layout/Design: Valerie Smith
Photography ot Nina Assimakopoulos: Steve Johnson
Nature Photography: Nina Assimakopoulos

Recorded at EMA Studios, Recital Hall
Houghton College Houghton NY July 2003

This page was last updated on 24 July, 2005