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Nikos Skalkottas


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Nikos Skalkottas was born on March 8, 1904 in Halkis (island of Eubea, Greece). His great- grandfather, Alexander Skalkottas, from Pyrgos (island of Tinos) was a renowned folk singer, violinist and composer; his father, Alexander Skalkottas, was a flutist. A child prodigy himself as a violinist, Nikos pursues his studies first in his home town with his uncle Costas, later at the Athens Conservatory, graduating with the First Prize Gold Medal in 1920. In 1921, on a series of scholarships, he left for Berlin where he stayed until 1933, first taking violin master courses with Willy Hess, then in the winter of 1923-24 turning definitely to composition, for which his main teachers were Philipp Jarnach (1925-27) and Arnold Schoenberg (1927-31). Both teachers thought highly of him.

He composed prodigiously, in a personal atonal idiom, using the 12-tone system rather seldom and somewhat reluctantly at that time. When the mounting wave of Nazism made life for exponents of new music difficult, Skalkottas returned to Athens in May 1933, the same month Schoenberg left Germany. In Greece, unfortunately, Skalkottas met with a lot of incomprehension and enmity, and was obliged to accept a position as one of the last violins in the State Orchestra of Athens. He isolated himself, refusing to talk about music to all but a few people who, he thought, appreciated contemporary music, all the while composing feverishly until his death on September 19, 1949 in Athens, as a result of a neglected constricted hernia.

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