Music of Ancient Greece

Musiques de l'Antiquité Grecque
Ensemble Kérilos - Annie Bélis
K617 069


  1. Fanfare d'appel aux armes (Peintre de Sappho: epinétron nº 907, Museum of Eleusis: early 5th century BCE; trumpet) 10"
  2. Euripides: Oreste (strophe & antistrophe, v.322-328 & 339-344, Vienna Papyrus: 408 BCE; voices, aulos, cithare, kroupeza) 6'19"
  3. Euripides: Iphigénie á Aulis (Papyrus nº 510, v. 783-796, University of Leyde: 405 BCE; female voices, lyres) 2'34"
  4. Athènaios, fis d'Athènaios, péan et hyporchème (inscriptions on the south trésor of Athenians at Delphi, Museum of Delphi: 128 BCE; choir, tympanon) 3'56"
  5. Limènios, fils de Thoinos, péan et prosodion (inscriptions on the south trésor of Athenians at Delphi, Museum of Delphi: 128 BCE; choir, cithares, tympanon) 8'19"
  6. Anononymous of Bellermann (excerpts of instrumental exercises, anonymous tract: 4th century CE; solo cithare) 4'21"
  7. Aeschylus: Ajax (Plainte de Tecmessa, Berlin Papyrus nº 6870, 16-23: c.160 CE; solo voice) 1'24"
  8. Instrumental Fragments of Contrapollinopolis (Berlin Papyrus nº 6870, 13-15: c.160 CE; cithare, kroupeza, tympanon) 50"
  9. Fragment of Orestia (Michigan Papyrus nº 2958: 170/175 CE; voice, cithares) 3'00"
  10. Seikilos Song (inscription on funeral stèle, National Museum of Copenhagen, inv. nº 14 897: first century CE; voices, cithare) 2'58"

  11. Mesomède de Crète (composer to Emperor Hadrian: 117-138 CE)
  12. Prélude à une muse (voice, lyre) 2'02"
  13. Prélude à Calliope et à Apollon (voice, lyre) 1'30"
  14. Hymne au Soleil (voices, cithares) 2'55"
  15. Hymne à Némésis (voices, cithares) 1'40"
  16. Christian Hymn of Oxyrhynchus (Oxyrhynchus Papyrus nº 15, Ashmolean Museum of Oxford: end of 3rd century CE; choir, cithares) 2'07"

Instruments constructed by Jean-Claude Condi, to specifications of Annie Bélis

Performers: Geneviève Bousquet (mezzosoprano), Brigitte Tessé-Robustelli (soprano), Mireille Bélis (cithare, lyre, kroupeza), Marie-Hélène Thuillier (cithare), Benoît Tessé (cithare, tympanon, kroupeza), Jérôme Corréas (bass baritone), Sylvie Tournon (aulos), David Bastianelli (trumpet); Olivier Bard, Jean-Luc Baud, Léo Cohen, Cédric Cook, Didier Derson, Dominique Dubost, Marc Pierson, Sébastien Paci, Patrick Rachula, Patrice Radde (choir)

Playing time: 44'

Recording date: July 1996

The present recording is one of the major attempts to seriously recreate this repertory in depth. All of the "classic" surviving musical sources from Ancient Greece are included here, presented (mostly) chronologically. The scores were studied for years to determine their pitches and rhythms, all other available evidence was considered and the instruments were eventually made to authentic specifications. As such, this is a very serious and scholastic effort which took several years.

Nonetheless, it is fascinating music. I personally find it hard to believe that the techniques of singing are authentic, as they sound distinctly modern to me. Nonetheless, the diction is engaging. It should also be noted that the "sound" of this singing will not seem relaxing to those used to medieval (i.e. French) sonorities. The instrumental sonorites are very nice. Finally, I should add that perhaps the only drawback to this release is its pretentious insistence that it is authentic, as other than that it is quite stimulating.

The instruments include the lyre, the cithare (zither), as well as the transverse aulos and two percussions the tympanon (large tambourine) and kroupeza (a foot-activated device). Unfortunately, while the liner notes describe the care taken to construct them, they do not really describe the results. I also do not understand where the trumpet is supposed to fit in (appearing only in the opening seconds of the program).

Regarding the volume of sources, this recording contains all of the 14 items typically listed in older references, plus a newer discovery (track #3). Recent pushes for completeness have turned up some more fragments, primarily from the Roman period, bringing the total number to 48. In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Egert Poehlmann lists 48 fragments of ancient Greek music, as follows: Classical Era - 3, Early Hellenistic - 8, Late Hellenistic - 4, Early Roman Emperors - 33. This seems to be the most recent number, although it is unclear to me if this includes multiple "fragments" (i.e. track #8, etc.) as one or more items.

A more recent high-profile program:

Musique de la Grèce antique
Conrad Steinmann et al.
Harmonia Mundi "Documenta" 905263

A classic recording, featuring a similar program in a different articulatory style:

Musique de la Grèce Antique
Atrium Musicæ de Madrid - Gregorio Paniagua
Harmonia Mundi musique d'abord 1901015

Another idea on this repertory, incorporating more of what are now Middle-Eastern sonorities along with some improvisatory ideas:

Music of the Greek Antiquity
Petros Tabouris
F.M. Records 653

An American ensemble:

Music of the Ancient Greeks
De Organographia
Pandourion 1001

Perhaps the earliest citation:

Hymn to Apollo / Veni creator / Te Deum
Palestrina Choir - Nicola Aloysius Montani
Victor 20896 [78rpm]

And the first volume in another series which attempts to reconstruct some of the surprisingly large medieval (& ancient) Greek repertory:

Greek medieval songs
Christodoulos Halaris
Orata ORMS 1

The latter series has little to no scholarly documentation.

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Todd M. McComb