Marios Joannou Elia's New CD Staubzucker: A Groud-Breaking Album of Guitar Music

Staubzucker is an alluring recording of nine works by the composer Marios Joannou Elia - 55 minutes of music, composed between 1999 and 2008, which adds new dimensions to guitar repertoire.

The recording is neither typical contemporary music nor is it a mainstream classical guitar album, but it offers a manifestation of the endless possibilities of the guitar.

Elia studied the guitar with Marco Tamayo at the Salzburg Mozarteum and had masterclasses with Alvaro Pierri, Leo Brouwer and Aniello Desiderio; he studied chamber music with the violinist Rainer Schmidt of the Hagen Quartet. Up until the mid-2000s Elia was performing regularly in concerts across Europe and it is this specific musical background which has inspired his particular interest in composing music for the guitar in diverse instrumental combinations.

The compositional style of the works on this recording varies in terms of their musical substance and behaviour, expressing the composer’s distinctive musical values: his breadth of vision, technical craft, rhythmic drive, movement and gesture, and his profound expressivity and meta-theatricality, which have a spirit of restlessness and unexpectedness – often achieved through compositional techniques invented by Elia himself.

Characteristically, the instrumentation of the guitar within a mixed ensemble offers fresh perspectives and ground-breaking approaches to the presentation of his musical ideas. In With a Pair of Scissors and a Thousand Threads for violin and guitar, the guitarist simultaneously performs on two guitars. Cursed, which is for a classical and an electric guitar, develops on a single note, in stark contrast with Staubzucker for guitar quartet, where he transforms the guitar quartet into a percussion ensemble through the imitation of 23 different percussion sounds played on guitar, together with the addition of vocal elements.

The music on this recording is performed by virtuoso musicians who over many years have worked extensively with the composer: Kostas Tosidis, a specialist in Elia’s music (guitar); Ronny Wiesauer (electric guitar); Georges-Emmanuel Schneider (violin); Chih-Hui Chang (violoncello); Yorgos Nousis and Kostas Tosidis (guitar duo); and the Miscelanea Guitar Quartet, whose concert repertoire consistently includes Elia’s works.

The album, which was recorded at the ORF RadioKulturhaus in Vienna, will be released on 25 November 2015 and will be available through all the major online stores. It includes enlightening liner notes by the musicologist Dr Vera Grund of the University of Salzburg.

Elia’s international breakthrough came in 2011, with the première at Mannheim's Central Square of the one-hour multimedia symphony Autosymphonic, performed by the spectacular combined forces of the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg, the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, Stuttgart State Opera Children’s Chorus, 80 automobiles of all types and eras ‘played’ by 120 young musicians, Xavier Naidoo and Söhne Mannheims! According to a study by the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University, Autosymphonic achieved a TV/media audience of nearly two billion. Since then, Elia has been widely accepted as an innovative mastermind of contemporary culture and has attracted the attention of the mass media.

The Südwest Presse wrote: ‘Monumentalist: Elia is considered in the music world to be the man for monumental events’, while The New York Times, Deutsche Welle, Reuters and ARD – among others – have also praised his work.

Even before this, his compositions had been regularly performed throughout Europe, Asia and America – his 80-minute opera Die Jagd (2008), for example, was praised for its ‘idiosyncratic sound worlds’ (Die Welt).

Born in 1978, Elia studied composition with Adriana Hölszky at the Salzburg Mozarteum and musicology at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. In 2004, inspired by the Aristotelian polyaesthetic conception, he developed The Concept of Polymediality. He was awarded a PhD from the University of Southampton in 2010, supervised by the British composer Michael Finnissy.

Elia’s oeuvre of more than 70 pieces to date is multifaceted not only for the diversity of its stylistic musical genres but also for the variety of its intended performance venues. It includes works for opera houses and concert halls – for example, the Berlin Philharmonie and the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, and the state opera houses of Hannover, Stuttgart and Skopje, as well as unusual venues, such as Salzburg Airport and Mirabell Gardens, the Transparent Factory of Volkswagen in Dresden and the eight-storey building of the Ministry for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony.

Renowned orchestras, ensembles and soloists, such as the Sinfonietta of the Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Recherche, Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble and the Austrian Ensemble for New Music have performed his works.

Elia has been awarded prestigious international prizes, including the Lutoslawski and the Serocki Awards in Warsaw (2004 and 2008), the Edison Denisov Prize in Moscow (2007), the Luciano Berio Prize in New York (2010), the BMW Prize in Munich (2005) and the Gold Apple of FAMAB for Germany’s best innovative public event (2012).

Besides his activity as a composer, Elia has worked as the artistic director of large-scale projects and innovative polymedia events, including the European Capital of Culture initiative (2013–15), the Highlight Celebrations for the Invention of the Car (2009–12), described by The Huffington Post as ‘one of the world’s more remarkable symphony concerts’, and the Tallest Church in the World (2013–15).