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Brian Elias

Publisher: Chester Music

Geranos (1985)
Commissioned by the Fires of London
Chester Music Ltd
Small Ensemble (2-6 players)
Year Composed
21 Minutes
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Programme Note
Brian Elias Geranos (1985)
GERANOS- an ancient Greek word meaning ‘crane’- was the term for two kinds of chain dance. Firstly, it was a dance invented, according to legend, by Theseus, who danced it for the first time in Delos after the rescue of seven youths and seven maidens form the Labyrinth. The intricate movements of the dance were supposed to represent the mazes leading out of the Labyrinth. GERANOS was also a dance imitating the flight of cranes.

The names of many other dances -sacred and secular- survive to tantalise us with their potent imagery. I became intrigued by these dances and with the connections between the dance, lyric poetry and music. In particular I was interested by rhythm as expressed in both dance and music and their use and juxtaposition of different types of basic metre. It is interesting that these basic rhythms are still just as prevalent in much of today’s popular dance music.

GERANOS is on three movements of nearly equal length (fast-slow-fast) played without a break and preceded by a quiet introduction which is repeated in slightly modified form at the very end of the work. The chord used in the introduction dictates the material throughout the piece. The third movement ‘shadows’ the first. The slow movement is sub-tilted ‘ADONIDIA’, the name of a lament for Adonis who was also known as ‘Gingras’. Women bearing images of Adonis and expressing the utmost grief proceeded through the streets, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of the aulos gingras.

GERANOS was commissioned by the Fires of London with funds made available by the Arts Council of Great Britain. It was completed in September 1985 and lasts approximately 18 minutes. It is dedicated to Susan Bradshaw. The first performance was given by the commissioners, conducted by Günther Bauer Schenk on 5 November 1985 in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

Brian Elias

Preview the score

  • Ensemble
    Psappha / Britten Sinfonia
    Susan Bickley, mezzo soprano; Roderick Williams, baritone; Iain Burnside, piano
    Nicholas Kok / Clark Rundell
    NMC Recordings:
Following a slow introduction - a labyrinthine thread - which led us into an almost impressionistic haze of instrumental response, the rhythmically driven character of the first movement fully revealed itself. Flights of fantasy from piccolo and percussion proved orientally suggestive. The transition to the final movement seemed especially well handled, resulting in the alternation of various 'feet' in a generative, almost Dionysian frenzy. There were more phantasmagorical sections too, in which the players created a sense of slowed, but not quite suspended animation. Throughout the ritual, twists and turns clearly unfolded, until the concluding near-stasis.
Mark Berry,,05/11/2010
'Towering over everything was Geranos for instrumental septet conducted by Quentin Poole, a ground breaking composition which surely deserves regular concert exposure…'
Peter Grahame Woolf, Musical Pointers,30/01/2004
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