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Biography

The works of Greek New Zealand composer John Psathas emerge from a truly dazzling 21st century backdrop, where dynamic collaboration with creative masters from all corners of the physical and artistic globe result in outcomes that are visionary, moving, and inspired.

 

From genre-crossing projects with jazz legends Michael Brecker and Joshua Redman, to an innovative e-book scoring collaboration with Salman Rushdie, from an unforgettable recording session with the Grand Mufti in Paris's Grand Mosque, to a Billboard classical-chart-topping album with System of a Down front man Serj Tankian, John's musical journey weaves through a myriad of genres, and has moved concert audiences in more than 50 countries on all 7 continents (yes, even Antarctica).

 

Early career collaborations included working with such luminaries as Sir Mark Elder, Kristjan Jarvi, the Takacs Quartet, Lara St. John, the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Edo de Wart, Joanna MacGregor, Pedro Carneiro, the Halle Orchestra, The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of Emilia Romagna "Arturo Toscanini", the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and many more. Then followed a period of intense creative exploration in the worlds of electronica and jazz, and a series of mega-projects (such as scoring much of the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games). All of which has led to an explosion of first-hand collaborations with artists from dozens of musical traditions spanning Asia, Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Australasia.

 

John is now developing projects that integrate the many strands of this creative journey. Much of his recent work has social and historical commentary at its core. The film White Lies (original film score) depicts a headon clash of beliefs and the nature of identity in early NZ European settler society. Between Zero and One is inspired by ancient and modern rhythms, and brings musicians from around the world into the concert space via interactive projection, transforming and challenging the traditional experience of fixed-location, temporallycontained performance. 100 Years (in collaboration with Serj Tankian) is an unflinching exploration and remembrance of the Armenian Genocide begun in 1915. Most recently, the epic and experimental No Man’s Land project overtly challenges the accepted handling of WWI commemoration. No Man's Land involved filming and integrating 150 musicians from more than 25 different countries, including Oum El Ghait (Morocco), Meeta Pandit (India), Bijan Chemirani (Iran/France), Marta Sebestyen (Hungary), Vagelis Karipis (Greece), Refugees of Rap (Syria), and Derya Turkan and Saddredin Ozcimi (Turkey).

 

John's music has achieved a level of international success unprecedented in New Zealand history, and he is also now considered one of the three most important living composers of the Greek Diaspora.

 

Milestones

1990

MMus (Victoria University)

Double Edge premiere Piano Duo at Alice Tully Hall, New York.

1992

Evelyn Glennie and Philip Smith perform Matre’s Dance at NZ Festival

1994

Quadruple Percussion Concerto premiered by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with Evelyn Glennie, Robert Gmachl, Gunar Fras, and Norbert Rabanser

Rhythm Spike premiered by Peter Jablonski at the New Zealand Festival

1995

Island Songs premiered by the Kandinsky Ensemble in Wellington, New Zealand.

1996

Abhisheka premiered by the New Zealand String Quartet

1997

Stream 3 premiered by the New Juilliard Ensemble directed by Joel Sachs, at the Lincoln Centre, New York.

1998

Seikilos premiered by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Young, at Greyfriar’s Kirk, Edinburgh.

Te Papa Fanfare performed as first visitors enter the Museum of New Zealand. Ceremonial music for the official opening of Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand (Fanfare)

1999

Susan Achilles premieres Jettatura at the MM::99 Festival, Ludenscheid

Rhythm Spike album released by Rattle Records

Classical CD of the Year - Rhythm Spike

2000

Omnifenix premiered by Michael Brecker and Masimilliano Guono (drumset) with the Orchestra Sinfonica dell’Emilia Romagna ‘Toscanini’ conducted by Marcello Rota, Bologna.

2001

Quadruple Percussion Concerto performed at the Klangspuren Schwaz Festival in Austria, by Evelyn Glennie, Robert Gmachl, Gunar Fras, and Norbert Rabanser

Psyzygysm premiered by Pedro Carneiro and Stroma at the NZ Festival, Wellington.

2002

View From Olympus premiered by the Halle Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder, with Evelyn Glennie and Philip Smith, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.

SOUNZ Contemporary Award for View From Olympus double concerto

Orpheus in Rarohenga premiered by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Orpheus Choir, Jenny Wollerman, Richard Greager, and David Hamilton. 

2003

Fragments album released by Trtust Records

Classical CD of the Year Fragments

Three Psalms premiered by Stephen Gosling and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Judd

Awarded Arts Laureate of NZ

2004

Zeibekiko concert premiered in Amsterdam by the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble with Mano Achalinotopoulos and Vagelis Karipis.

Zeibekiko Album released by NBE Live

Composer for the Athens 2004 Opening and Closing Ceremonies

SOUNZ Contemporary Award for Three Psalms piano concerto

2005

Awarded Officer of the Order of New Zealand Merit

One Study One Summary premiered by Pedro Carneiro at the Rhythm Sticks Festival, London

Zahara premiered by Federico Mondelci, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Atherton.

2006

View From Olympus CD and DVD released by Rattle Records

Helix premiered by the New Zealand Piano Trio

2007

Classical CD of the Year - View From Olympus

A Cool Wind premiered by the Takacs Quartet

Planet Damnation premiered by Laurence Reese and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edo de Waart 

2008

Olympiad XXVIII premiered by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in the Forbidden City, Beijing.

Premiere of Little Bushman with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

2009

Djinn premiered by Pedro Carneiro and Orchestra Wellington conducted by Marc Taddei

Serj Tankian’s Elect the Dead Symphony premiered by the Auckland Philharmonia conducted by Hamish McKeich

2010

Ukiyo album released by Rattle Records

Super-City Fanfare performed as part of the Inaugural Ceremony of Auckland’s Super City.

Good For Nothing feature film released

Elect the Dead Symphony album released 

Little Bushman Live in Concert with the NZSO album released

The New Zeibekiko premiered with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Petros Kourtis, and Manos Achalinotopoulos

2011

In the South, eBook score collaboration with Salman Rushdie, launched.

View From Olympus feature documentary

Helix album released on Rattle Records

Flight on Light album released on Rattle Records

Kyoto premiered by the Ju Percussion Group, Taiwan.

Harvest Suite, with Adam Page, premiered in Wellington

Pounamu, with Warren Maxwell, premiered with the Auckland Philharmonia

2012

Good For Nothing (OST) album released

My Love Awakes and The Pain Will Find Us, premiered by Lara St John.

Mantis: The Music of Drew Menzies album released on Rattle Records

2013

White Lies (OST) album released on Rattle Records

White Lies feature film released

Between Zero and One premiered by Strike 

2014

Awarded Higer Doctorate from Victoria University in Wellington

Penelope Waiting, collaboration with Tarek Assam, premiered in Germany

Dialogos featuring the Chris Mason-Batley Group, premiered at Auckland Arts Festival

Calls Me collaboration with The Nudge

100 Years with Serj Tankian, released online.

2015

Dialogos, album released on Rattle Records

2016

No Man’s Land feature film and live show premiere

2017

No Man's Land album released online

Cloud Folk premiered by Eastman Percussion Group at PASIC 2017

2018

Voices at the End, partial premiere at Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh.

2019?