George Hadjinikos (Greek: Γιώργος Χατζηνίκος; born May 3, 1923, in Volos, Greece) is a Greek piano soloist, conductor, teacher, and author with an international career. He is placed by many amongst the most exceptional "philosophers of Music"), having been given kudos from some of the greatest musical personalities in 20th-century music such as Dimitris Mitropoulos, Edwin Fischer, Carl Orff, Jean Françaix, Heinrich Neuhaus, Sir John Barbirolli, Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt and many others. Among his teachers were Edwin Fischer, Johann Nepomuk David, Carl Orff, Alice Pashkus, Eduard Erdmann, George Chavchavadze, in a quite exceptional way Heinrich Neuhaus, and others. Since 1961, he is a UK resident and following that a British citizen. He shares, since 1990, his time between England and Greece.
He began his musical education as a child at the Volos Conservatoire in Greece. After moving to Athens in 1934, he continued at the Athens Conservatoire, graduating in 1943 with a piano diploma and a degree in harmony. During this period he decided to abandon his studies at the Faculty of Law at the University of Athens (where he had passed as 5th in 1940) and devote himself exclusively to music.
After the war, he continued his studies at the Mozarteum in Salzburg from where he graduated with piano and conducting diplomas in 1948–49, while being awarded the Lilly Lehmann Medal of the Mozarteum International Foundation. While studying in Salzburg he met great musicians, such as Johann Nepomuk David who introduced him to the spirit of Johann Sebastian Bach, of polyphony and of choral music. In 1950 he attended a composition seminar given by Paul Hindemith (whose 2nd version of his magnificent work 'Marienleben', he had given the European premiere a few months earlier in Salzburg with tremendous success). He also had the opportunity to play to the composer his Piano Sonata No.3 during this period, making the composer say to him "I have heard it many times in the past by American and German pianists, but for the first time I heard the structure of the Fugue." When Hadjinikos had performed this Sonata with the cycle Marienleben, due to the success he was accused that he had beautified the Sonata in a sort of 'Mediterranean-Ravel like' way and didn't capture the Hindemith-style. When he told this to Hindemith, the otherwise extremely severe composer smiled gently and answered "If we suppose that there is such a thing as a 'Hindemith-style', then this is exactly what I just heard."
He began giving public recitals and performing as a soloist with orchestras playing Johannes Brahms's both Concertos, Robert Schumann's, Aram Khachaturian's, Ludwig van Beethoven's 4th and 5th, Sergei Rachmaninoff's 2nd and his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. He was called to give 80 recitals in Germany (in co-operation with the American Information Center) due to his European premiere of Aaron Copland's Piano Sonata.
In 1951 he moved from Salzburg to Munich where he studied with Carl Orff and with whom he had a great friendship until the end of the composer's life. In 1952, he came across one of Nikos Skalkottas's works for the first time, becoming an authority on the works of this great Greek composer, of whom he has been an energetic and committed exponent since.
From 1952 till 1957 he lived in Hamburg, where he took lessons on contemporary interpretation with Eduard Erdmann at the Hochschule für Musik. In October 1953 he gave the world premiere of Skalkottas's Piano Concerto No.2 with the NWDR (today NDR) Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Hermann Scherchen. For this performance, Hadjinikos was sent a microfilm with the extremely illegible full score and had to copy the piano part with a magnifying glass in order to learn his part. This was the performance which caused the BBC to take an interest in the work, leading to its subsequent broadcast and the publication of Hans Keller's historic article in The Listener entitled 'Nikos Skalkottas: An Original Genius'. In December 1954, he discovered several lost Skalkottas manuscripts in a second-hand bookshop in Berlin: the works unearthed were the Octet, two String Quartets, and the Piano Concerto No.1.
He continued to give recitals and appear as a soloist with orchestras performing Béla Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 2 in Hamburg, Salzburg and Prague, Skalkottas's Piano Concerto No. 2 in Stockholm and Vienna, Arnold Schoenberg's Piano Concerto in Stockholm (Swedish premiere). The performance of Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the NWDR Symphony Orchestra under Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt on the occasion of the 10 years since Bartók's death, established him as the "ideal interpreter" of the great Hungarian composer.
In 1957 he moved to France where he stayed until 1960. There, he met and studied with Prince and Princess Chavchavadze at Châtel-Censoir being initiated to Russian and French music. In 1959, while on a tour in the Soviet Union, when he reached Moscow he received an invitation by Heinrich Neuhaus whom he met and had been given by him the first "seeds" of teaching. During the same year, Hadjinikos moved to Paris.
Circumstances led him to Switzerland, where he settled for less than a year. In 1961, after a tour in South Africa, he accepted to join the piano faculty of the Royal Manchester College of Music (today Royal Northern College of Music), thus moving to Manchester. Besides his Piano classes at the College, he branched out into Conducting, History of music, Chamber music, Harmonization of Praxis and Theory, Relation between Art and Science a.o., realizing that the problems of musical education are infinitely deeper than he first believed. This made him stay at the College 27 years instead of 3 as he had planned, retiring in 1988. During these years, he had been discovering answers which concern music in the whole and thus established a personal foundational approach to music, which he named Logic and Foundations (today Essence and Origins) of Musical Interpretation and has presented it in various articles and essays, while also applies it to all of his musical activities.
Parallelly, he multiplied his appearances as a soloist and a conductor. With the College's Choir he premiered the there unknown Carmina Burana by Orff and established the "New Manchester Ensemble", premiering in North England Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and Ode to Napoleon (conducting both from the piano). First performances of Arnold Schoenberg's Serenade, op.24, Wind Quintet, op. 26, and complete Piano Pieces, Anton Webern's 5 Pieces for orchestra, op.10 and Concerto, op.24, Igor Stravinsky's Octet, Les Noces and Histoire du Soldat, Nikos Skalkottas' Andante sostenuto, Octet and Classic Symphony followed, as well as works by Robert Gerhard, Tōru Takemitsu, György Ligeti, Jani Christou, Iannis Xenakis a.o. In cooperation with the UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) he established the North Campus Choir with which he presented Brahms's A German Requiem, Bach's Mass in B Minor, Stravinsky's Mass and Elizabethan madrigals. He founded special classes in "initiating" in the deeper meaning of music (not only for musicians).
Always appearing in recitals and concerts, he performed Bartók's Piano Concerto No.1 in Germany and his Piano Concerto No.3 in England and Greece, Schoenberg's Piano Concerto in Paris with the Orchestre National de France under Dimitris Chorafas and in Geneva with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Samuel Baud-Bovy, Ravel's Concerto in G major with The Hallé Orchestra under Jussi Jalas and the Concerto for left hand with the same orchestra (conducting himself from the piano), Skalkottas's Piano Concerto No.2 in Zürich, London with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Antal Doráti and Berlin with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Ernest Bour).
In 1968 he gave his first recital and lecture at New Delhi in India and had the opportunity at their Music Academy to experience ancient and unprecedented dimensions of musical perception, which he worked out during his next two visits to India and built into his following musical activities. In 1969 he conducted the world premiere of Skalkottas's Piano Concerto No.3, played the world premiere of the 'Five Works for Winds and Piano' and the London premiere of the Bassoon Sonata, while also preparing and editing the orchestral parts.
After conducting for a few years the Orchestras of Hoylake and South Manchester, he took over the Bury Symphony Orchestra, with which he presented 40 different programs of the main symphonic repertoire, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 5 greatest operas and Beethoven's Fidelio. For years he conducted the 'Cleveland Easter Orchestral Courses' and the 'Canford Choral Weekends'.
In 1978 he gave the World Premiere of Skalkottas's Piano Concerto No.1 under Michel Tabachnik in Greece and the next year he conducted Skalkottas's Overture 'Ulysses's Return' in Copenhagen at the E.B.U. (European Broadcasting Union) and gave the World Premier of the Double Bass Concerto. In 1984, he was invited at the instigation of Prof. Josef Rufer, formerly Schoenberg's assistant in Berlin, to present Skalkottas in a special recital at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (at that time the location of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute). During the same year, he takes over the annual summer seminars and festival organized by the Cultural Foundation "G. Angelinis-Pia Hadjinikos" at Horto, a beautiful village in Pelion, Greece. During these seminars orchestras are being made up by Greek and foreign musicians, having presented works by Beethoven, Brahms, Jean Sibelius, Carl Orff, Christou, Charles Ives, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Bartók, Dmitri Shostakovich and many others.
In 1990, the University of Pavia awarded him the 'Ugo Foscolo' Medal for his offerings in European Music. During the years 1993 and 1995 he conducted 7 classic programs with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra (now Konzerthausorchester Berlin).
During his multifarious career he never stopped visiting Greece, collaborating (either as a pianist or conductor) with Greek and foreign orchestras. He has appeared at the Athens Festival both as a soloist and conductor, having performed Skalkottas with Miltiadis Karydis and having conducted works by Jani Christou with the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Milan and by Skalkottas with the Košice State Philharmonic Orchestra.
He never stops his manifold musical activities, as well as travelling and teaching extensively, always aiming to awaken each student's subconscious. He teaches every summer at Horto, Greece. He is often invited to give seminars abroad under the title 'Essence and Origins of Musical Interpretation', which allow any instrumentalist, singer, ensemble, orchestra and even the audience to take part since they aim in discovering Music itself rather than simply giving advice concerning technique. He is president of the jury at the Ibiza International Piano Competition which takes place every two years.
He is an author of two books. One about Skalkottas accompanied with two CDs, and one about Mozart's recitatives in his Operas. Currently he is preparing his third book which is about 'Essence and Origins of Musical Interpretation'.
Essence and Origins of Musical Interpretation
The "Essence and Origins" workshops differ radically from conventional master classes that usually offer advice and directives within the framework of a particular instrument or voice. These workshops aim at a wider, more general approach, departing from the principle that music is formally learned from ‘without’, e.g. via technical and theoretical notions. Instead, the aim is to recover the instinctual and deeper foundations of both musical theory and practical techniques in order to capture the essence of music from within. In place of mere technical advice, the musical elements and meanings are explored from within, and the performer is guided and encouraged first to discover for himself so as to acquire gradually the ability to identify with the ideas that sparked the composers’ creative impulses.
Only with such an approach can an interpretation be achieved which makes the music genuinely accessible to the layman, bestowing upon the performer the most satisfying rewards and upon music the fulfilment of its true goal. After all, Beethoven himself wrote at the beginning of his greatest work, his Missa Solemnis, "from the heart… may it to hearts go again"; while Haydn in his old age, despite being exhausted by a life of unceasing labour was, as he himself states, "forcing himself to continue composing, in order to bring joy to some unhappy and desperate soul".
It is imperative for this purpose to confront immediately and in depth each error in order to discover its roots and thus be able to eliminate it. At the same time, the participants are encouraged to bring forward free and unhampered any query whatever, so that through a process of clarification, one might arrive at essential questions and clear answers. In this way one circumvents the curse of present day education, which, because of perceived lack of time for such ‘luxuries’, promotes hasty and unchecked copying of prefabricated answers. Given the basis on which grades and degrees are currently awarded, such attitudes may help students to achieve them more easily, but they also admit mechanical performances and soulless music making.
The knowledge that results from such a process withers like cut flowers, whilst knowledge that is sown by an alert mind in an awakened instinct fertilizes and enriches, bearing blossoms and fruits like living plants and trees. Education that neglects the awakening and cultivation of the instinct leads to superficial and sterile knowledge. Genuine and fertile learning emerges only from an education in which the probing mind awakens and cultivates the instinct, replacing the self-indulgent inertia of incomplete knowledge with humility, understanding and constantly developing through growing assimilation of nature's perennial wisdom.
George Hadjinikos, Oct. 1997
As seen by others
"George Hadjinikos has a unique ability, arrived at through a deep understanding coupled with a natural intuition, to identify the true character of musical works. My own experience of this has been in the London series of workshops "Logic and Foundations of Interpretation" in which Professor Hadjinikos looks into the roots of understanding of a work in such a way that the performance is a logical extension of these and so a natural communication. The transformation achieved during the sessions is astonishing. His communicative ability extends equally to his description of the works in which he transforms the gamut of specialist knowledge into a form understood by everyone without the condition of previous knowledge. In my opinion, George Hadjinikos is one of the very finest musicians and teachers we have today." Michael Bochmann (Organiser of the London Seminars)
"George Hadjinikos belongs absolutely to the first rank of his generation. Thanks to a quite exceptional talent and a most thorough musical knowledge, he excels equally as a pianist, an educator, and in particular both an orchestral and choral conductor." Carl Orff
"For many years I have known and held in esteem George Hadjinikos, an outstanding musician, who has an intimate knowledge not only of established repertoire but also of all branches of modern music especially the work of Arnold Schoenberg and his Viennese School. To this must be added his theoretical knowledge and a remarkable flair for education. In this way he is predisposed to follow an extraordinary path in music." Prof. Josef Rufer (Schoenberg's Assistant in Berlin)
"We, the Maggini Quartet, have been coached by Professor George Hadjinikos over a period of many years in quartets ranging from Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven through to Ravel, Prokofiev and Schoenberg and his help has always been inspirational. He approaches music from its roots, his knowledge of which is enormous and ever-growing and often achieves results by 'taking away', allowing the music to be revealed, as opposed to adding musicality on the top, which is so common today. His workshops should not be missed. David Angel (2nd violin, Maggini Quartet)
"Dear George, I am sure that what I told you about my joy at your Carmina Burana last night was quite inadequate, but even as I write I know I cannot express in words the experience you and all your talented company gave me. This is what art is about – joy which cannot be defined but is felt in one's bones and substance. And clearly this was in all your singers and players last night as well as in the audience. In life we know that vibrations radiate from everything, but so often we are not aware of them; last night the vibrations were audible and visible, and they added up to meaning and therefore affirmation and therefore joy in life. The faces of those children is something I shall never forget. You made us feel what a mockery most "music" is, with as much life as a bowler hat; Orff's music grows from the roots. What pleasure!! Idris Parry (Professor of German Literature, University of Manchester)
"Dear Mr. Hadjinikos, Everyone concerned with the Cleveland Easter Orchestral Courses has been full of praise for the splendid music, which has been created during those very pleasant and interesting weeks. The course members in particular have been full of admiration for the enthusiasm and the brilliance of your teaching. In keeping with your own expressed philosophy of Music and Music-making, great things were achieved in the lives of the people fortunate enough to attend these courses. New friendships and the happiness that these created have all been part of this great project. Truly it has been for everyone a great personal experience. L. Robinson, Principal Cleveland Technical College
"My dear friend, I honestly have no way of telling you the extent of our gratitude for your Canford Choral Weekends. They have been the most worthwhile and successful ventures in the musical life of the school since I came 10 years ago." B. Manning (Director of Music, Canford School)
"How delighted we are to express today our affection and gratitude after 13 years of making music together. None of this would have been possible without your guiding hand which moulded and developed our musical sensibilities and abilities giving us the confidence to play music of unsurpassed beauty. Who will ever forget your mastery of each subject and your ability to make the philosophy behind the music comprehensible to us?" Arthur Price (Chairman of the Bury Symphony Orchestra)
"The concert with works by Skalkottas that was given in the Herodes Atticus Theatre proved a surprise. For the first time the 'composer of the intellectuals' reached and captured the whole audience who, astounded, realized the richness of sonorities in his orchestration, as well as the endless colourful variety of his harmonies. Above all however, they realized how Skalkottas captures and expresses the soul of Hellenism. His outrageously difficult scores found ideal interpreters in George Hadjinikos with the Košice Orchestra. The continuous vitality together with the unfailing observation to each detail kept us spellbound and surprised to the end." Kathimerini (leading Athens newspaper)
"Dear George, Thank you for a quite exceptionally impressive concert, which included outstanding stretches in what is, texturally, one of the two most difficult works to play in our entire literature (the other is Schoenberg's 3rd Quartet). The Mozart, likewise, evinced deeply understanding tempo characters and phrasings—though here, there are also one or two things that could be further developed not contradicting your marvellous, highly characteristic tempo definition. But let these tiny points not overshadow my enthusiastic reaction to one of the few musical concerts one has been allowed to hear!! Yours, Hans" Hans Keller (the outstanding musicologist and musician, concerning the London performance of Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No.1 and Mozart's Gran Partita for 13 Winds)
"Dear Sir, I listened to your rendering of my "Six Preludes for Strings" with the most total delight. With your marvellous comprehension of my Preludes you know how to change the atmosphere with the most perfect authenticity six times, passing with subtlety from a common joke to poetry. (With Ulysses among your ancestors, this goes without saying, but it goes even better by pointing it out). Believe me your grateful admirer, Jean Françaix Jean Françaix (the eminent French composer)
- Skalkottas, Nikos: Concerto No.2 for Piano and Orchestra; George Hadjinikos (piano), Hamburg Radio Symphony Orchestra cond. Hermann Scherchen (1953). Arkadia CDGI 768.1 (CD 1993)
- N. Skalkottas: Concertino for 2 Pianos and Orchestra, Universal Edition, Dec. 1968
- N. Skalkottas: 10 Piano Pieces from '32 Piano Pieces', Universal Edition
- Hadjinikos, George: 'W. A. Mozart - European Musician', published by the Cultural Foundation "G. Angelinis - Pia Hadjinikos", 1991 (in Greek Language)
- Hadjinikos, George: 'Nikos Skalkottas - A renewed approach to musical thought and interpretation', Nefeli Publishing, 2006 (in Greek language, contains two gratis CDs with own interpretations conducting or playing)
- Hadjinikos, George: 'The Recitativo in Mozart's Operas', Nefeli Publishing, 2007 (in Greek language)
- Hadjinikos, George: 'Nikos Skalkottas, Hellas and Dodecaphony' [Ellas kai Dodekaphonia], contribution to 'A Little Dedication to Nikos Skalkottas's [Mikro Aphieroma ston Niko Skalkota], in Bulletin of Critical Discography [Deltio Kritikis Discographias], 10/13, Athens, 1974, p. 212.
- Keller, Hans: 'Nikos Skalkottas: An Original Genius', in The Listener, No. 52/134, 9 December 1954, p. 1041
- Cultural Foundation "G. Angelinis - Pia Hadjinikos"
- A conversation with George Hadjinikos with Graham Wade at egtaguitarforum.org