‘…profundity and poignancy that linger after the players fall silent and the dreamer wakes…’ -American Record Guide, 2017
‘A prophet in his own land’ -Diverdi 2010
‘Stripping tonal music of its superficiality, José Luis Greco’s music brilliantly expands and exploits instrumental possibilities…’ -Gramophone, 2009
‘… magnificent without needing any explanation, given the directness of its language, penetrating, image-conjuring, admirably moving…’ -El Punto de la Artes, 2007
‘José Luis Greco emanates freedom from every pore.’ -Scherzo, 2003
‘This magnificent composer writes living music that moves the listener.’ -La Razón, 2003
‘The music… by José Luis Greco, is simply perfect…’ -ABC, 1996
‘In the audience was the composer José Luis Greco (1953) who was present for the [Madrid] premiere of his work Study in Stride, a commission from the CNDM (National Center for Musical Dissemination). Judith Jáuregui explained that she has performed other works of his and that in this one we can hear reminiscences of Jazz and Rock which meld with the complex sonorities of the 21st Century. A different style but which also gives us a glimpse of the same pianistic tactics used by Ligeti or Beethoven: difficult, complex, intelligent, gorgeous. Not for any pianist, but yes for the measure of Judith Jáuregui.
At last the composer and performer came on stage together, but Jáuregui did not respond to the endless applause with an encore, ensuring that the piece by José Luis Greco serve as a brilliant crowning moment and a sincere tribute to the composers [Ligeti and Beethoven] of this magnificent concert.’
-ritmo.es February 2020
‘The final work feels like an encore, if a seven-movement encore were envisioned. … His Sweet as Candy: 7 Flavors for Guitar is a delightful conclusion to the recital. The movement titles— ’Mystery, Fire, Ocean, Hillbilly, Flight, Thriller’, and ‘Home, at last’—outline the journey. The penultimate movement is intense and in a more conventional mind would be the end. But Greco adds a final movement, the longest of the lot—perpetually quiet, subtle, yet with a hidden intensity. The conclusion is far more satisfying, if less expected.’
-American Record Guide, May/June 2018, review of guitarist Adam Levin’s CD
‘Above all, José Luis Greco’s piece [Study in Stride] was a real discovery, with the virtuosity of jazz, rapturous, and and overwhelming rhythmic power; for Greco – very close to the world of dance – fills his music with a hillyboodesque atmosphere reminiscent of Gershwin, which, above all, invites one to dance. Certainly a very demanding score, whose difficulties the Basque pianist [Judith Jáuregui] resolves admirably.’
-Noticias de Navarra, December 2017
‘New York City-born José Luis Greco, now living in Madrid, enjoys the company of world-class musicians from Amsterdam, Prague and Zaragoza, Spain, in four world premiere recordings.
The highlight of the disc is Greco’s deliriously surreal Swallow, written in 1992 for pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns plus piano, and played with intoxicating style by the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, live in concert at the Concertgebouw… Inspired by the daily sunrise bursts of a ‘squadron of sparrows’ outside his rooftop studio while living in Amsterdam along a canal, Greco threw a toolkit of sounds at his musical aviary, from low bass throbbings to audaciously light-hearted woodwind triplets.
The highly entertaining Off with its Head!, one of Harpsichords Unlimited’s more then 40 commissions for Elaine Comparone and The Queen’s Chamber Band–explaining the instrumentation of woodwinds, percussion, strings and harpsichord–was recorded at its premiere by Grupo Enigma from the Chamber Orchestra of Zaragoza. With its edgy, retro urban energy–think the Sharks and the Jets–it sounds like music for cartoons yet to be made.
Geografías del silencio, the title track, is an epic yet intimate response to the long sea voyages of the illustrious Italian navigator Alessandro Malaspina in the form of an 25-minute romantic piano concerto, brilliantly virtuosic to the end. The lone studio recording on the CD is of In Passing, which posits oboe/english horn, violin, cello and piano to be an addicting chamber ensemble and proves it with writing that shows off each instrument, alone and in stunning combinations.’
-Gramophone, February 2017
‘The three works for piano and ensemble—Geografias [del silencio], In Passing, and Swallow—are dreamscapes, often nightmarish, fragmentary, and elusive, brimming with anguish, tension, and a transitory profundity and poignancy that linger after the players fall silent and the dreamer wakes—and, like dreams, it’s hard to recall details even minutes later.
Jose Luis Greco was born 1953 in New York to Spanish parents—hence he’s included in the Naxos “American Classics” series, though just the last piece, Off With Its Head!, evokes Americana. Most of this has a strong French flavor, pianism descended from Debussy and Messiaen, some fleeting jazz qualities, and use of bird song in both piano and woodwinds. Greco favors woodwind sonorities and percussion and often treats strings like winds, their lines warbling and throaty. Greco is a pianist and writes for his instrument with a scintillating flare that sometimes reminds me of Nikolai Kapustin’s knuckle-busting style. You’ll search in vain for conventional classical structures—the listener is carried aloft by a fluid stream of consciousness, taking in the hallucinatory scenes as they flow past. The last work here with the mock-grisly title Off With Its Head! is a tongue-in-cheek medley of old “Looney Tunes” cartoon and TV show themes from the black-and-white era, all set to a jazzy, bouncy, percussion-heavy backbeat…
The recordings span 1992 to 2011 and were made in a church, studio, the Concertgebouw, and the Zaragoza Auditorium in Spain—but the sound quality is remarkably homogenous… Sometimes ensemble is ragged in Geografias, but performances are otherwise faultless.
It’d be easy to overlook this, but you’d miss out on some beautiful strange sounds and viscerally thrilling pianism.’
-American Record Guide, March 2017
‘Geografías del silencio reflects the longing to map or at least graze silence that composers have always felt. A quest, perhaps, in vain, in spite of the last falling leaves, the ‘Pas sure la neige,’ the sleigh ride of trills and ‘tirate.’ The desperation of Bach and Schnittke sometimes (12:24) participates in the expedition (and its undoing) greeted by sea birds (19:16) that accompany the navigator to the most worn-down labyrinths in whose latent movement lies, at last, silence. In Passing: the piano (the composer) tries to escape the asphalt of the empty streets to reach the sea, and surf, sul ponticello, with the violin and cello. Languorous waves in perpetual motion, moored music, the stationary dance of ships to the rhythm of the undertow, impassive at the docks. From the attempt at a jazzy or cabaret-like march (07:20) Ravel’s sad birds or Hopper’s Nighthawks emerge troubled (09:24). Indian summer (15:12), for everything is purified in this masterpiece, in which echoes of the Yiddish lament float (16:24), a lament that needs no memories, a lament which never ends and which erases everything. Swallow, music from the gut with a turbulent prelude before the song of separation, sweet, melancholy and already solitary song, which delays, while it lasts, the fatal denouement. A nocturne (7:55) measured by the piano-chime death knell, piano-pendulum that marks the hours for the shaken wailing become almost gay melody. It is not about sadness or happiness (13:45), but rather the faithful coming and going of migratory birds. Off with its head! shouts the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland which, together with cartoon memories (Stalling, Scott, 00:28) and so many other works, inspire(d) the composer in his pursuit of that which could be lost all too quickly, of that which finds nourishment in the stuff of dreams…’
-Scherzo Magazine (Spain), March 2017
‘You have to believe what José Luis Greco says about his music when he declares, “I should also admit that I’m never quite sure what it is that I’m exactly intending in a piece of music I compose. Usually, after starting out with a vague sound image for the beginning of a work, and once I’ve got that worked out, the music itself seems to dictate what its intentions are, what it wants to say, where it wants to go, from one bar to the next, passage to passage, harmony to harmony…” Born in New York, but evidently of Spanish descent, Greco has demonstrated what it means to have had ample training in the world of Jazz, one of his first loves, studying not only with John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, but also composition studies with such strong musical personalities as Mario Davidovsky, Jack Beeson and Chou Wen-chung. Although his music is subject to concrete approaches, it also certainly imposes its own personality. The four works that make up this recently released anthology on Naxos arrive at a moment in which his music, which makes incisions into all the traditional sectors of Classical music, is being reevaluated: the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria has put out a streaming recording of his violin concerto (soloist, Mariana Todorova) and a series of compositions bathed in a splendid and imaginative orchestral perfume, the Fatum String Trio and the Mondriaan Quartet have illustrated his chamber facet, his collaboration in dance projects have led him to cross modern patterns with the latest generation of “beat” music (Voodoo in New York).
Geografías del silencio is one of Greco’s best, and from the word go it is possible to discern that vital process with all its signposts and influences. Forget about John Cage’s silence (absolute) or Morton Feldman’s (whose luxuriousness floats without gravity), and instead think of a mere spark or inspiration which understands silence as shaded areas of a composition with a truly melodic and rhythmic impulse, a real dynamic dimension, which at the same time are preludes to creative expansion.
It is a real pleasure to find a composer who, besides looking back over the past, does this in an independent and genuine manner, revealing only traces of memories of Romantic piano inventions and those great early pianists obsessed with the novelty of Jazz scales, among later impressions of Wagner, Holst and Stravinsky’s orchestrations. An eclectic and indecipherable post-modern who sounds like no one else, because Greco is able to continually change course from rhetorical approaches, at every moment avoiding the dangerous perspectives of music of the past, and imposes his own perspective, the perspective of good music, tested ‘on the ground’, not adhering to contemporary hypothetical principles, or what is worse, to a musical futurism difficult to identify. His handling of the piano (pianist Duncan Gifford in complete symbiosis with the score) and the effective instrumental combinations (from the Czech National Symphony to the Netherlands Wind Ensemble) are the decisive arms used in the profusion of ideas discovered in the beautiful sonic adventures of Swallow, infected by the sublime migrations of birds, and In Passing, a composition possessing a marvelous equilibrium between musical suspense and narrative.’
-Ettoregarzia.blogspot, November 2016
‘A compilation of live and studio recordings made over the past twenty-four years of music by the American-born multi-media performer and composer, Jose Luis Greco. Born in New York City in 1953 to parents who were Spanish dancers, Greco first studied piano and guitar, his early career taking him into the world of dance, jazz and rock music, only moving to composition in his late twenties. It was an esoteric backdrop of styles out of which the ‘classical’ side of his life emerged following a move to Holland in the 1980’s, he eventually moved back to his roots in 1994 to live in Madrid. Since then, he has been prolific in his output, the diversity of works ranging from opera to chamber music, the present disc offering just a sample of his highly personal style. It opens with a score for piano and orchestra, Geografias del silencio (Geographies of Silence), the reason for its name being too long to enumerate, but there is nothing silent in this busy score couched in a mix of atonality and rhythmic tonality. In one long movement, its various moods picturing a Spanish explorer seeking out Spanish colonies, and his resultant trials and tribulations, the work ending in anger. In Passing has the subtitle Six Passes for Oboe/English horn, violin, cello and piano, and was written for a contemporary ballet, seemingly continuing where the previous track ended, the piano again being the main protagonist in the score’s twenty minutes. Greco has certainly forged his own style, a fact made clear as we move to Swallow—a picture of swallows he saw flying from around his Amsterdam home—the disc ending in jovial mood with Alice in Wonderland’s immortal words, Off with his head!. A patchwork of recording dates, venues, highly committed performers and sound engineers, all ending up as an unexpected unified whole.’
-David’s Review Corner November 2016
‘The concert closed with 5 Pensamientos para Patricia (2014), a piano quintet by the polyhedral and multifaceted artist José Luis Greco. Considered by the composer himself as an invention dedicated to a nonexistent Patricia, the work evolves through five movements whose titles allude directly to the power of experience. In this way, this original score by the Spaniard from Manhattan is a hedonist canto to sensual pleasures, with echoes of 70s rock music, in which the play of colors, things that aren’t always what they seem to be, and an eclectic attitude drive the construction of this suggestive musical proposal.’
‘The following day featured the JONDE (National Youth Orchestra of Spain) which premiered Forbidden Tonic. This very personal, eclectic and refreshing work by José Luis Greco includes a formidable display of percussion and passages of elegant lyricism.’
-Ritmo Magazine (Spain), November 2012
‘The multifaceted personality of José Luis Greco has led him to approach the phenomenon of music from different angles and in very different ways. Not only has he frequented almost all the musical genres possible, but he has also experienced music in its most varied forms: as a pop and jazz musician, a dancer with the New York City Ballet, an actor on Broadway, and creator and director of multimedia performances combining dance, theater and music. Born in New York in 1953, son of the dancers José Greco and Nila Amparo, he has lived in Madrid since 1994, after having spent more than a decade in the Netherlands. By his own decision, his lineage and his right, José Luis Greco is a Spanish composer, but one who is continuously nourishing his sense of the contemporary with traditions and experiences far from our own musical environment.
He has composed for the most varied instrumental combinations, but the case to which we refer today is the string quartet, a formation still very much alive, and one which Greco has approached various times since writing his Scherzo in 1978 …
The Trouble with Happiness […] can be seen as a semantic continuation of the earlier quartet Trouble, which was composed for and premiered by the Mondriaan Quartet in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw in 1991. The Mondriaan also premiered The Trouble with Happiness at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. on May 13, 2010. According to the composer, “in English the word ‘trouble’ can refer to many things: bother, difficulty, hardship, dire straights, to be pregnant (!), to cause a scene, disturb, to inconvenience, to request, to implore…” From these multiple meanings we can get an idea of the original intention of the work, quite unconventional in both its language and its form. However, if we compare it to the earlier work, we see a much more solid structure which channels a vibrant and coherent discourse within its changes; in other words, it is not about relating a linear experience, but rather, in a fragmentary and variegated manner, the composer weaves together distinct sonic events that possibly respond to different turbulent states […] Fragments that clearly appear and disappear in the score as well as the listener’s ear, in turn shape a congruous whole supported by the power of its expressiveness and the lyricism of some of its rhythms. Dynamic juxtapositions, persistent meter changes and the use of seemingly unrelated motives on the other hand give the piece an unusual vitality, in which the listener can but give him or herself over to the magic of a language which invites one to dream, reflect and dance. An example is the dark Shadow Waltz section, which one hears beneath other elements that seem to intentionally obscure its rhythm; or a melancholy viola melody which, like another fragment lost in the darkness, gently rocks between memory and evocation; or in Catharsis, a sort of interior movement, where silence is fused with sudden waves of sound, mimicking our thought mechanisms, which in the final bars is abruptly interrupted, as if it would have gone further if not for the arrow wounds, in the form of glissandi, it suffered throughout the length of its turbulent journey. In the words of an anonymous critic, “It seems to have taken Greco 19 years to clarify what kind of ‘trouble’ he was referring to. Of course, maybe at the time, being younger and somewhat immature, he didn’t know himself. At any rate, the composer has yet to give us a clue as to what he feels the ‘trouble’ really is. Maybe we’ll have to wait for his third quartet…” That 3rd quartet was composed in 2009, just months after completing The Trouble with Happiness, under the ambiguous title …es que se acaba tan pronto (…is that it ends so soon).’
-Centro Virtual Cervantes, 7 June 2011
‘… The work by José Luis Greco was his second quartet, following Trouble – whose shadow appears hear and there – and before …es que se acaba tan pronto, and reveals all the traits of this very personal, original, direct and entirely free composer, whom we know from other works. There are self-references and allusions to other worlds near and far – echoes […] like the hidden flavors of a wine full of subtleties – and a full-bodied sonority as well, the sound of a string quartet full throttle, the fruits of a power that comes from maturity and experience. Especially remarkable was the authentic emotion distilled in the middle section, a slow movement of high caliber.’
-Scherzo Magazine, March 2011
‘First on the program was The Trouble with Happiness, […] the musical language is modern, exploiting the enormous richness of sonorities which can be produced by the instruments which form the string quartet. Surprising is the wealth of timbral subtleties that Greco knows how to coax from this group of instruments, which makes for an always interesting discourse: at times abrasive, at times tender, at times emotive. Noteworthy is the way the climaxes of the different episodes are prepared, using instrumental techniques of all kinds: tremolos in the upper registers in contrast to sustained low notes in the cello, or accentuated rhythms played pizzicato, or arpeggios which color restless passages. Indeed, the richness of sound production is almost infinite, resulting in the listener being continually surprised by new sensations.
Because of this enormous variety, the work is not at all easy to play, and requires long and patient preparation. The result was optimal: the Bretón Quartet exhibited total mastery of, and immersion in the work.’
-mundoclasico.com, February, 2011
‘The first work already announced a model different from those usually presented on concerts by the Enigma Group. Off with its Head!, by José Luis Greco, is set up like a game, almost a divertimento based on jazz-like swing and the interesting interplay of color like the one featuring percussion and harpsichord, strange and attractive marriage.’
-Heraldo de Aragón, 24 February 2011
‘A PROPHET IN HIS OWN LAND’
-Diverdi Magazine, September 2010
‘If there is a good reason to buy this CD, it is for the last work, Celosías, in which is achieved a mature fusion between a personal and contemporary musical language and the Andalusian melodies of some of the Canciones populares antiguas harmonized by Federico García Lorca, sung here with great emotive power by the mezzo-soprano Magdalena Llamas. Not in vain does José Luis Greco succeed in an often misguided experiment, musically weaving and articulating a group of heterogeneous melodies and themes via a string quartet which first introduces the song Anda jaleo and later prepares the transitions to Las tres hojas, Las tres morillas de Jaén, Nana de Sevilla, Los pelegrinitos and El zorongo.
Especially interesting here are the processes of introduction and transition, in whose heights are always placed a sort of sketch of the song that is to follow, so that the listener knows what is coming next, thereby culling memories from one’s most internal mental archives. Celosías is actually a homage to Greco’s parents, recalling childhood experiences and a result of years of the idea’s maturation. For this reason, its principal worth resides in the sonic materialization of a life, a personal history and a way of being. All this is effectively translated in an experience that communicates to the listener, interacting with one’s own experiences and submerging the listener in a fantasy-like musical esthetic, sometimes almost dream-like, where everything occurs without disruptions, allowing the different formal periods to fade away naturally. The recording is enhanced by the involvement of a mezzo-soprano […] whose heart-rending voice fills the air with sound in those moments of piercing emotion, rendering the verbal message more believable with the help of the discreetly supportive Mondriaan Quartet.
The same oneiric atmosphere is present in Mudas, despite the difference in style, and the composer’s versatility is manifest in the optimal adaptation to the different moods of three poems, among which stands out the treatment of the passage about a child who dreams of a wooden horse, by Antonio Machado. The passage is enhanced by the mezzo-soprano Elena Gragera, where she is at her best, notwithstanding her excellent technique overall. The music envelopes the listener in the child’s dream and in the moment when he catches the horse, and flows slowly from his growing up and growing old until his death, and the harmonization of the final reflection: “Are you a dream? Who knows if he ever awoke?”
In these two cases, in the last analysis, there is a development of two perspectives of a music which invites one to reflect, fruit harvested from the interior world of José Luis Greco. An interior world which is also reflected in the painting reproduced on the cover. Here a girl turned away from us contemplates a surreal landscape and allows us to comprehend a way of seeing the world and the passage of time that is in every way congruent with the music of this CD.’
-CD Compact Magazine (Spain), September 2010
‘José Luis Greco, an eclectic creator born in New York in 1953, is one of the most outstanding composers within our country’s panorama of art music. Son of Spanish dancers […] Greco was raised in a cosmopolitan and avant-garde atmosphere that would eventually define his creative evolution. Jazz and rock musician, dancer and actor in his youth, it was at the end of the 80s that José Luis Greco began harvesting his first professional successes as composer and director of Cloud Chamber, a dance company based in Amsterdam under the auspices of the Dutch Ministry of Culture. It was in that city, in 1991, that he composed the masterly string quartet Trouble, in which the influence of Schnittke is discernable, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Mondriaan Quartet. The two works which complete the contents of the CD, all of which is brilliantly interpreted, are rooted in Spanish soil and are based on texts by Lorca, Machado and Bécquer. The last work is especially remarkable, being based completely on the folk songs gathered and harmonized by García Lorca.’
-Melómano Magazine, July-August, 2010
‘I do not know if it was due to fact that it was the first CDMC concert of 2010 or because of interest in the program itself and the anticipated performances of the Iberian Cello Octet and mezzo-soprano Elena Gragera, but the fact of the matter is that I had never seen such a great amount of public at a concert of contemporary music. […] the organizers had to close access to the hall to between 150 and 200 people […]
Invisible, composed in 1994 by José Luis Greco (New York 1953), was next. This composer, who has lived and worked in Madrid for many years, subdivides his piece – which lasts about 18 minutes – into six parts which reflect his emotions during a trip he made through Andalusia. It is very expressive music which faithfully transmits those emotions, as in the lovely cello solo played by Irina Comesaña. The music is predominantly serene, contemplative, but at times it is underlined by an obstinate rhythm, and the sonorities thus produced are magical. In spite of the contemporary idiom, Greco achieves a lyrical climate, and that makes for a very pleasurable listening experience. I thought the interpretation was splendid: it sounded really very good to me. The performers and the composer were given a long ovation.’
-mundoclasico.com, January 2010
‘Son of the dancers José Greco and Nila Amparo, himself once a dancer, this composer’s ear has the dance imprinted in it. The same is true of this music which constantly incites, not only choreography, as many others do, but the dance itself, which is not the same thing. On this CD (Voodoo in New York) there are rhythms of all kinds: heartbeats, motors revving up, contemporary abstractions and popular conciseness. The sounds are warm, almost melancholy: the whistling of a new guitar drone, typewriter bells, the ebbing waves of an electric guitar, jingle bells … But his noise-making is not orthodox and his electronics are contaminated by the pleasure of pop. Greco is a refined and hedonistic composer. It is not surprising that a sweet tooth like his finds the dry sands of much musical modernity unpalatable …’
-El Cultural.es, April 2009
‘COLOURFUL, INTENSE MUSIC FROM THIS MANHATTAN-BORN MADRID-BASED COMPOSER
Stripping tonal music of its superficiality, José Luis Greco’s music brilliantly expands and exploits instrumental possibilities in a hard-edged Debussy-style impressionist haze haunted by a driven flow of sound and texture and occasionally illuminated by tuneful melodies. Born and raised in Manhattan, Greco has lived in Madrid since 1994 and enjoyed an eventful professional career.
Throughout Nila (named after Greco’s mother, the dancer Nila Amparo, and inspired by a trip he made to Danbury, Connecticut, in the fall of 1997), the cello and piano conspire to created relentlessly unexpected equivalents of such things as double-stops and cascading spirals. Despite the music’s episodic nature, the sections melt so organically into each other that the speeds change from necessity rather than external demands.’
‘Southern Comfort gives the viola an extremely powerful vehicle, sombre in either light or shade, its momentum interrupted two-thirds of the way through by a slow-moving crescendo of terrible, intense power. Wonderland stretches the string trio almost to the breaking point, combining spectral contrast, harsh textures and full-blown romantic lyricism leading to an angrily ambiguous conclusion. The Madrid-based Russian string trio and pianist Ilona Timchenko are so deeply into the music that it might have been composed with them in mind. They take a measured, full-bodied approach to each bar and create a powerful flow that looks deep inside the music. In their various configurations, the four musicians explore with relish the wide-ranging variety of intensities Greco’s music implies, complemented in the other three pieces here by Timchenko’s beautiful piano sound. […] The excellent sound, recorded in and around Madrid, is overlaid with a bold Mediterranean patina that recalls the analogue 1950s, ensuring that the superb players make the most eloquent case possible for Greco’s fascinating creations.’
-Gramophone Magazine, January 2009
‘José Luis Greco (b.1953) is a New Yorker in Madrid working with a Russian chamber group also in Madrid called the Fatum String Trio. His music is highly evocative of all kinds of people and places, from García Lorca to Danbury, Connecticut. He has a sensitive ear for sounds and balance but melody and harmony are his language as well.’
‘Dark Love is a six-movement suite for violin and piano; and we also have sonatas for viola, for cello, and a string trio, each in one varied movement. The composer names all of these pieces, but he seems reluctant to explain the titles – preferring to leave our imaginations as much leeway as possible, I suspect. With music as expressive and colorful as his, that’s great. There is a bit of every style here, from Bach to jazz, but he pulls his work together so that we have a considerable adventure before us. The players are clearly enjoying themselves as well. It’s a good thing; they have a lot to play and a variety of technical demands are made on them.’ […]
-American Record Review, January 2009
‘Queen of Hearts… takes us to the world of Alice in Wonderland. The entire piece breathes youthfulness and joy, even in the most lyrical passages. And although he does not resort to esoteric techniques for the instruments, Greco achieves an instrumentation full of colors. … Although it is a work in one movement, for this listener there were three sections of varying character: the first capricious, the second tranquil and the third, influenced to a certain extent by the blues, leading to final fugato and a very effective closing coda. The interpretation was excellent. Each of the musicians had their moment in the spotlight, and they did so with superb sound and quality. … The work was enthusiastically received with prolonged applause… ‘
-Mundoclásico.com, January 2009
‘A COMPOSER IN WONDERLAND
Aynor, my angel, slightly unbutton your blouse,
so that I may see your bare shoulders,
then put your arm gently about Ethel’s neck…
Just so, perfect!
(G)Aynor Simpson, Imaginary Correspondence with the Reverend Do(g)son
José Luis Greco lives in a rainbow or in Wonderland or Neverland… Perhaps many composers live there, but José Luis Greco has drawn the map of those imagined lands, he has analyzed its rainbow, even deconstructed and reconstructed it… and he still believes in it… Both operations of analysis and (re)composition are executed with the maximum precision of dreams, of sleepwalkers, with that Ravel-like precision, maniacal, of L’enfant et les sortileges or The Enchanted Garden of Beauty and the Beast, the mathematic precision of Lewis Carrol sending two and three quarters kisses to be shared equally between Gaynor and Amy… complex operations that permit the composer of Wonderland to combine and balance, in the indolent amity of the night, notes and moods both gloomy and despondent, vague and disquieting, turbulent and radiant “I drew near to murmur a ’till soon’ in your ear… but I forgot exactly where your ear was and I sought it near the nape of your neck…” wrote Lewis Carrol in a real letter (Ah yes, and happiness?… happiness will be lying in wait, as always, at the hour that the milkmen bring a bit of dawn in their milk jugs, or is it perhaps dreams which distribute the charm of desires fulfilled?).
…and she tells you that she loves that pallor: “in our land, most of the men are white, we’ve kept the sun within us…”
Folk tale from Moorea
The same “tonality”, since his first works, underscores the entire poetic creation of this composer; exploring all the frontiers without allying himself with any of them, the same “modulation” seems to lead from the first bar to the last of his canto; one “harmony”, one “cadence”, a fragment of melody from a work of today, yesterday or the day before yesterday, are enough to make contact and the composer seems to want to dissolve in the errant memories that surrender the past of some unknown musician. Outside of any “school”, of any “sect”, the composer knows or intuits that the center of gravity of traditions and the avant-garde is always moving, as are the centers of cities and those of the pleasures. The composer’s head is full of science, his heart full of extravagance, and he dances in shantung slippers, naked, amidst his mirrors, to the rhythm of his suitcase keys and the orchestras on the banks of all the rivers… What lovely Antillean, what sumptuous daughter of Zambia does he recall this evening?
…first, the grand melody, with which cooperate things and perfumes, sensations and pasts, twilights and nostalgias; then, the unique voices which complete and crown that choir.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Notes on the Melodies of Things
A southern comfort, a dolce vita (a dolce vita which is nothing but a sort of perverse nostalgia for the low life) that revels in his past, in his music, in his joy… Southern Comfort is light become the sweetness of an inconsolable afternoon, when irrevocable childhood still seems to fill the adult heart. The décor (the rocking chair on the veranda, the shadow of the fig tree in summer, or whatever you wish to imagine…) remains more or less intact, and a lingering aura of well-being which nothing could erase… And nonetheless the days when the girls danced at the Belvedere (or wherever you chose to remember) are gone. Some old photographs, somewhat faded, provoke a similar sensation. Perhaps the music of this composer without a country, or with two countries, is not contemporary, but rather a book he opened as a child, a book he writes and reads again, surprised, as if it were another’s story; he turns the pages like his mother caressed his head… and the lost yesterdays appear or reappear, those of the golden age of arms outstretched, of the beautiful indelible smile… before the house, fields like the sea, the surly smell of the trees, a breeze which stirs the chimes on the porch (six notes) like the budding composer did with his baby’s rattle (the same six notes) listening to the clear voices of Nila and her daughter after the downpour, playing in the grass, blue from the rain… all of this floats on the languor of that afternoon, those that love him are here…’
And who knows if it wasn’t for that same Nila that the poet whispered from afar the marvelous phrase:
…to give you all the stars of the heavens in a kiss on your eyes, all the kisses of the world in a star on your lips.’
-Scherzo Magazine (Spain), November 2008
‘Greco’s work [Manhattan in the Mist] was magnificent without needing any explanation, given the directness of its language, penetrating, image-conjuring, admirably moving …
-El Punto de las Artes, Madrid, November 5, 2007
… Manhattan in the Mist by José Luis Greco shows great compositional command and is marked by an enormous expressivity which cannot but leave the listener moved.
… with a viola part whose melodic evolution is striking throughout…’
-Información, Alicante (Spain), September 29, 2007
‘Greco’s compositions, a work for cello solo [Symbolica], six Essences for violin and piano [Dark Love] and the evening’s principal work, 3 Recipes for a Prodigal Life for violin, cello and piano, held the audience under their spell.’
-Trierischer Volksfreund, Ausgabe Konz, 14 September 2007
‘… But the real challenge for the three musicians of the Summer Academy was the interpretation of the contemporary compositions of Greco who was present at the concert, having come to Konz from Madrid. The son of Spanish flamenco dancers, he is celebrated worldwide for his multiple talents. The symbiosis of different art forms is not unfamiliar to him having, for example, performed in Documenta 8 with a Dutch dance-theater company he co-founded. His music is emotion-laden, in turns vivacious and melancholy. And yet, Greco does not make it easy for his audience. Atonal sound-images often engulf the lyrically harmonic passages. The youngest of the compositions, 3 Recipes for a Prodigal Life, will be taken on a world tour after its premiere here at the Mosel.’
-Saarbrücker Zeitung, 10 September 2007
‘… The next piece was Wonderland by José Luis Greco, an American composer who has been living in Madrid for many years. Three sections – Allegro/Andante/Moderato – follow each other without interruption. Greco uses all the “normal” string instrument techniques – harmonics, pizzicato, sul ponticello, tremolos, glissandi, etc. – without having to resort to anything more revolutionary, simply because his music has a lot to say and express. He uses clusters to create an atmosphere of tension, which he resolves with a lyrical passage. He is not afraid to use a tonal sequence as a contrast to an atonal one. He plays effectively with emotions and the unexpected to lead us by the hand to Wonderland, Alice’s Wonderland. His music is indeed “contemporary”, but without being heavy-handedly so – thankfully. Wonderland is music with a strong emotional charge, but always within a sober and measured aesthetic. The Fatum String Trio recently took this work, along with others [also by Greco], to New York, where they were very well received. Indeed, theirs is an exceptionally good rendition and one listens to the work with great interest. …’
-mundoclasico.com, June 2007
‘The New York composer of Spanish origin José Luis Greco – his parents were the dancers Nila Amparo and José Greco – is neither maniacal nor can he be stereotyped. He simply writes music out of that imperious artistic need to communicate, and he does so with the absolute liberty of someone who has been through it all. What is the style of Greco’s works? It depends on which work we are referring to. Thus in his hands composing becomes an exercise in craftsmanship and efficaciousness. Efficaciousness, that is, in achieving the desired goals. In this way the undeniable neoimpressionist atmosphere of the movement from Triptych entitled Perfume (a neoimpressionism of which many artists today partake, and which has been labeled, erroneously, neoromanticism) combines with the expressionist power of Ardor (another of the work’s movements), while the evocation of paradise lost in Pastel turns humoristic and playful in I’m Superman! All the works possess the two prerequisites of triumph: public appeal and technical mastery. Both of these factors make listening to Greco’s works a delight, sometimes surprising, always arresting. Greco has dedicated much of his time to music for ballet – not surprising given his roots – and it seems to me that his work in this area is akin to the orchestral brilliance and talent of Delibes. The music of one has nothing to do with that of the other, granted, but the two composers share an impeccable technique as well as the creative imagination and ability to exquisitely resolve matters pertaining to ballet. Of this CD, which I have enjoyed so much, I find the liner notes, if not altogether adulating, certainly too laudatory. Who cares if he has received commissions from prestigious orchestras or that some of his works have been considered masterpieces? The words are superfluous because the music speaks for itself and because the same sensation of beauty is transmitted by merely listening to these works. When tonality is called for, it is utilized. When atonality seems necessary, it is not shunned either. When new and speculative parameters demand the foreground, there they are. This is the philosophy of José Luis Greco. An open and hedonistic philosophy. The world of comic-strips and fairy tales also plays a role in his work. A role which seamlessly weaves together Superman and Alice in Wonderland with Hollywood and psychedelia.
Once again, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria has lived up to expectations. Adrian Leaper has endowed the interpretations with the delicacy and power, according to the moment, that these works demand. We would also like to call attention to the participation of the violinist Mariana Todorova on Ardor.’
-CD Compact magazine (Spain), February 2004 – Recommended CD
(Review of the ASV CD)
‘FREEDOM FOR MUSIC
José Luis Greco … has probably done a thousand things more, which wouldn’t fit here. His most recent premiere in Spain, as far as I know, was Symbolica for cello solo, in the last Festival of Sacred Music of Cuenca, performed by Pieter Wispelwey – not a bad endorsement. With such a curriculum vitae, it’s not surprising that José Luis Greco emanates freedom from every pore. He seems to do what he damn well pleases with absolute bravado, but without trickery. Civil music, you might say, to be listened to, to be enjoyed effortlessly. But careful now. We’ve been educated to accept the norm, even the revolutionary norm, and freedom is uncomfortable even from that perspective. Freedom in the sense of an Arnold or a Killmayer, a Kagel or a Turnage, uninhibited by the rules and open to those two indispensable poles: tradition and the present. I have the feeling that this music is little concerned with the future – I mean posterity; after all, life is short and you only live once – it takes it for granted. Destiny, after all, will take its own course.
This disc is a magnificent sampling of José Luis Greco’s music, of consummate craftsmanship and finest grade inspiration. The CD opens with an ambitious work, Triptych (1997-2001), structured in three parts: Perfume, Ardor and Forbidden Tonic. The first is what its title describes, a sum of sensations, fragrances and almost flavors which takes Ravel’s Daphnis and Debussy’s Iberia as its point of departure, and from there seems to ride a wave of open-air music, full of light and sky. Ardor is actually a formidable concerto for violin and orchestra – Mariana Todorova is the splendid soloist – in which the percussion – whose use is one of the specialities of the house – reminds one of stylized heel-work, introducing another of the unorthodox elements in this amalgam of tightly woven affinities and contrasts which constitute the music of José Luis Greco. Forbidden Tonic is a delightful escapade, with its hint of formal irony and its explicit, transparent and luminous tribute to Edgar Varèse. Pastel (1996) begins blithesome and direct but turns evocative in calm, rather than dramatic, introspection, expectant but untroubled. And of course, a touch of homage: this time one gets a glimpse of Joaquín Turina. In I’m Superman! (1994) everything comes together in a work that is airtight, plenary, seamless. Sensational are the dissection of the Funeral March from the Sonata no. 2 by Chopin, the quote from Mozart’s Don Giovanni – needless to say, the Commendatore – the references to Prokofiev, to Spanish and salon music and even to a Sousa-gone-Broadway; and all the while remaining unique. The interpretations of the Philharmonic of Gran Canaria under the direction of Adrian Leaper do justice to this music, which although uncommonly fresh, nonetheless requires a powerful orchestra. To wit, something should be done with composers like José Luis Greco. Their works should be featured on the programs of our orchestras – among other reasons because the audience will enjoy them – and not just once. And those responsible should make sure they’re heard abroad, so that the good health of Spanish music can cross borders, so that we may at last take our rightful place in the music world. And hats off to ASV: it took a while, but finally the notes of their Spanish music CDs – in this case written by Pedro Elías, who does a of fine job of putting Greco’s work in perspective – are in perfect Spanish [and English, French and German]. All in all, something not to be missed.’
-Scherzo magazine (Spain), December 2003, Exceptional CD of the Month
(Review of the ASV CD)
‘The unique voice of José Luis Greco
The solo emerges from the mists at the opening of this concerto. … This disc gives a good flavour of a distinctive compositional voice… It is not surprising that his music has absorbed many influences, but it is essentially ‘classical’, and the rhythmic influences stretch from Iberian dance and jazz to classical ballet. Moreover, he shows a Mediterranean ear for orchestral colours. They are predominant in the Iberian nocturnal fragrances of Perfume, the opening movement of Triptych, and provide a glittering backcloth for the second, Ardor, where the solo violinist (the excellent Mariana Todorova), takes a fantasy-like concertante role. To quote Pedro Mamou (the writer of the booklet notes), she soars above the percussionists, who are involved in a kind of jubilant heel-clicking, in a sea of ‘Turkish Delight’.
Written especially for this recording, Forbidden Tonic completes the triptych, and brings more vehement, often thunderous rhythmic pulsing, with its percussive effects (including bizarre glissandi, a police whistle and wind machine), but an atmospheric central section recalls the exotic bouquet of Perfume.
Pastel, although still innovatively scored, has a more direct appeal: a serene idea builds up emotionally on the strings, is taken up more fragmentally by the woodwind, then reaches an exultant orchestral apotheosis. Last comes the unashamedly populist, lilting, I’m Superman!, full of witty surprises (rather like the sardonic light music of Shostakovich), and including a famous parodied funeral march. Essentially a miniature set of variations, the work would make a splendid closing item in concert.
‘The performances demonstrate the excellence of the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra, who play with fine ensemble and relish under Adrian Leaper. Good recording, too.’
-Gramophone magazine (Great Britain), October 2003, Editor’s Choice
(Review of the ASV CD)
‘… engrossing readings which conjure up the wide-ranging atmosphere of each work [Perfume, Ardor, Forbidden Tonic, Pastel, I’m Superman!] with pin-point precision. A fascinatingly eclectic collection …’
-International Record Review magazine (Great Britain), October 2003
(Review of the ASV CD)
‘José Luis Greco is a wonder of versatility: actor, dancer and composer capable of cultivating the most diverse genres (from ballet to opera, from children’s music to abstract forms). The brilliance and precision of his orchestration owes a lot to his North American musical training. His eclecticism, his skill with collage-technique, his gifts when it comes to creating any kind of music, are his strong points… his music has vitality, sincerity and shows no trace of pedantry, as is the case in the whimsical I’m Superman!‘
-Blanco y Negro Cultural (Spain), October 2003
(Review of the ASV CD)
‘An “Editor’s Choice” in Gramophone Magazine (09/03), this release has all, world premiere recordings of some fascinating, highly individual, orchestral works by the son of the world famous, flamenco dancer, José Greco … Both the performances and sound are first-rate making this a most imaginative release. High-enders take note!’
-Tower Washington DC (Internet), November 2003
(Review of the ASV CD)
‘In José Luis Greco’s Vanishing Time, … the harpsichord sounding bright and brash and engaging in some vigorous dialogue with the strings. …the work was full of vitality and shapely melodies…’
-The New York Times, June 2003
‘Greco’s work, entitled Symbolica, is a composition both sincere and passionate, inspired (undoubtedly unconsciously) by Bach and with an emphasis on communicating rather than ostentatious virtuosity; it has the appeal of the ingenuous (although not facile) and the expressive.’
-Scherzo magazine, June 2003 (Spain)
‘This magnificent composer writes living music that moves the audience. Symbolica seems to inhale and exhale and, rather than merely play, the interpreter must breathe with the work from its dark opening C minor chord through to its C major ending.’
-La Razón, April 2003 (Spain)
‘The Millares Hall of the Antonio Pérez Foundation (the Old Convent of the Carmelites) is perfect for this kind of concert: in this case a solo cello recital by the great Dutch instrumentalist Pieter Wispelwey, consummate and communicative artist in all respects[…] It was he that premiered the commissioned work, a staple of the Cuenca festival, Symbolica by José Luis Greco. Lasting twelve minutes, it goes from reminiscences of Bach and the frequent use of glissandi to impassioned moments skillfully scored for the cello. The work’s vast range of intensity includes a five-note motive, brief cantabile phrases, development in the form of etudes, without ever neglecting the role of virtuosity in the best sense…, and seems somehow to exude the magnetism of tonal polarity.’
-ABC, April 2003 (Spain)
‘José Luis Greco Premiere
… Included on the program was a world premiere by one of our composers. The work in question, Mudas, for mezzo-soprano and string quartet, by the multifaceted José Luis Greco, is a setting of three poems by Adolfo Gustavo Bécquer, Antonio Machado and Federico García Lorca. With the title Mudas, the composer has wanted, precisely, to underscore the idea of transit, within a score in which the three sections are played without a break, between the distinct versifying idiosyncrasies. Nonetheless, the similar dreamlike qualities in the thematic substratum of the poetic fragments – the second of the “Rimas” by Bécquer, the first of the “Parábolas” by Machado and “Paisaje” by García Lorca -, have allowed the sound/expressive climate conceived and articulated by Greco with profound sensitivity and without any intellectual pretensions, to breathe expressive homogeneity throughout.’
-ABC, April 2002 (Spain)
‘If all the concerts of this series are highly recommendable, they are even more so when they serve as a showcase for the world premiere of a work by one of our composers. Although born abroad, José Luis Greco is indeed one of our composers, and it was with the first hearing of his Dark Love – six essences for violin and piano that the program, attractive enough thanks to the presence of Mariana Todorova, concertmaster of the Orchestra of the Spanish Radio and Television, and the Greek pianist Irini Gaitani, was further highlighted. … As to the composer, he more than satisfied our expectations. José Luis Greco, without transcendental pretensions but with firm hand, achieves a well articulated linking – with equal care in the writing for both instruments – in which he mingles, with subtle contrast and uncomplicated idiom, sections – “essences” – delicately elegiac with others furiously brilliant, as is the ending.’
-ABC, December 2001 (Spain)
‘I will refer first of all to the premiere of the work by José Luis Greco, … whose name we have lately heard quite frequently. … The work is called Dark Love and is made up of six parts, each one about 3 minutes in length, responding to a sequence of slow/fast, respectively, but each of a different atmosphere. The composer chose not to reveal the feelings or states of mind that each part reflects, so I will try to relate what I felt: The first piece, … all tranquility … The second, … a search for a multiplicity of colors by way of violin virtuosity. The third, beginning with tenebrous harmonics and heading for the light in a slow crescendo, enshrouding itself once more in darkness. The fourth, a flight alternating between episodes of bariolage and other technical acrobatics. The fifth, … begins in a Classical style ( I was reminded of the middle movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto), but evolves towards a language ever more daring until extinguishing itself in nothingness. And the sixth, … begins with violent flashes and leads to a moment of calm, of gentle lyricism, but to provide the work with a staggering finale, it ends with a bold and brilliant coda.’
–mundoclasico.com, December 2001 (Internet)
‘… in his violin concerto, Ardor, composer José Luis Greco demonstrates his great expressive capacity … a tremendous success with the public …’
-Canarias7, November 2000 (Spain)
‘Greco once again (Perfume) demonstrates his polished musicianship. In his hands the orchestra not only “sounds” very good, but also gives the unequivocal impression that the composer has exercised control over each and every link of the sonoral texture. His inspiration is markedly sensuous: in the music of José Luis Greco movement occurs as if in layers, or in colors, or in “perfumes” … it is “plastic” and suggestive.’
-ABC, February 1998 (Spain)
‘… the new work (Perfume) demonstrates the composer’s great technical control in obtaining rich multi-colored orchestral sonorities …’
-Scherzo, April 1998 (Spain)
‘Greco … is a musician of solid craft and ideas. Trouble … has the freshness of originality. The quartet writing is impeccable and the work advances steadily towards a finale of admirable sonoral and expressive tension …’
-ABC, November 1997 (Spain)
‘Trouble … is a work … that is complex, descriptive, aggressive, with stunning moments and brilliant effects, all of which make its audition a fantastic experience.’
-El Norte De Castilla, November 1997 (Spain)
‘The major attraction of this year’s concert was the world premiere of a work (I’m Superman!) by José Luis Greco , a multi-faceted composer of solid achievements both in the world of abstract creations and in that of applied music, be it ballet – area in which he has harvested recent successes – or in the present genre of “story with music”. Greco presented the score to the principal conductor and board of directors of the Orchestra of the Spanish Radio and Television who programmed it immediately, confident of the success it would, and did in fact, attain.’
-ABC, January 1996 (Spain)
‘Invisible … is extremely attractive, full of contrasts and with room for a lyricism of the purest kind.’
-ABC, April 1996 (Spain)
‘The truth is that we went to the theater … without the slightest intention of writing a single line … but we could not resist putting on record the work of José Luis Greco in providing music for Movimiento Perpetuo … Greco’s music, which we have heard on other occasions … held our attention constantly, first by its eclectic character – wisely varied – and also by the power and sensitivity it demonstrated at every moment … We do not know how much Greco knows about Flamenco … the impression was that he dominates its rhythmic structures perfectly, fitting like a glove to the choreography of Granero, but with very broad perspectives … it produced in us an irresistible attraction.’
-El Correo De Andalucía, November 1995 (Spain)
‘THE MUSIC, FABULOUS (Mujeres) The music and costumes deserve special mention. The former, by José Luis Greco, is simply perfect …’
-ABC, May 1996 (Spain)
‘LOVE ALCHEMY FROM THE ALHAMBRA WORKS (Cuentos de la Alhambra) …with stunning music … he creates the illusion that there is more than just violence or sex suspended in the atmosphere … Pure alchemy.’
-Haarlems Dagblad, February 1996 (Netherlands)
‘… the unpredictable music of José Luis Greco (Azul) …’
-Haagse Courant, December 1995 (Netherlands)
‘The most remarkable thing about Azul is the music by José Luis Greco …’
-NRC Handelsblad, December 1995 (Netherlands)
‘… the whimsical and unpredictable music of José Luis Greco (Azul) …’
-De Telegraaf, December 1995 (Netherlands)
‘… much more inclined towards the emotions and the achieving of a series of distinct expressive climates which Greco reveals in Invisible, without at all neglecting to take advantage of the technical-instrumental possibilities of this singular ensemble.’
-Scherzo, April 1995 (Spain)
‘The exciting music is by José Luis Greco (Line Up).’
-Seville Expo 92 press (Spain)
‘… Greco conjures up delicious jazz music (Line Up) …’
-Trouw, January 1992 (Netherlands)
‘… the attractive musical composition by José Luis Greco (Line Up) …’
-Het Financieele Dagblad, February 1992 (Netherlands)
‘… stirring music by José Luis Greco (Line Up) …’
-De Telegraaf, February 1992 (Netherlands)
‘The title Breathless is pretty literally worked out by Greco … the musicians and the audience must surrender themselves totally.’
-Trouw, November 1990 (Netherlands)
‘For years I have been a fan of the composer José Luis Greco … but his music for Mise-en-Cadre surpasses the boldest expectations; listen for yourself.’
-Leeuwarder Courant, October 1989 (Netherlands)
‘… the power and intensity of the musical compositions by José Luis Greco, the “Orpheus” of the company (Private and Public Acts Trilogy).’
-NRC Handelsblad, January 1989 (Netherlands)
‘… the music of José Luis Greco … is as always, first-rate (Mise-en-Cadre).’
-de Volkskrant, September, 1988 (Netherlands)
‘… above all, the magnificent musical compositions of José Luis Greco are very effective (Mise-en-Cadre).’
-Leidse Dagblad, September 1988 (Netherlands)
‘José Luis Greco … a master of creating atmospheres, eclectic and playful (Mise-en-Cadre).’
-Haagse Post, September 1988 (Netherlands)
‘… the accompanying musical composition of José Luis Greco sometimes has the character of film music for a real thriller (Circumstantial Evidence) …’
-de Volkskrant, November 1986 (Netherlands)
‘His sound decor, which from the beginning is strongly a part of the movement, is truly phenomenal (Rapid Eye Movement).’
-Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, June 1985 (Netherlands)
‘The musical contribution of José Luis Greco is essential to the piece (Rapid Eye Movement).’
-Utrechts Nieuwsblad, March 1985 (Netherlands)