5 Dec 2021

PSATHAS: View from Olympus

From Music Alive, 8:00 pm on 5 December 2021


Jeremy Fitzsimons performing in View from Olympus

Jeremy Fitzsimons performing in View from Olympus Photo: SOUNZ

Michael Houstoun performing in View from Olympus

Michael Houstoun performing in View from Olympus Photo: SOUNZ


Performed by Michael Houstoun (piano) and Jeremy Fitzsimons (percussion) with Orchestra Wellington conducted by Marc Taddei.

View from Olympus was commissioned by percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and has become one of John Psathas' landmark works. His description of the work shows how he drew on his Greek heritage for inspiration: 

1. The Furies - The Furies represent the avenging spirits of retributive justice who were charged with punishing crimes outside the reach of human justice. This movement contains an adapted transcription of a fragment of improvised playing by one of my favourite Greek violinists, Stathis Koukoularis (it appears as a solo for violin about 2 minutes into the movement)

2. To Yelasto Paithi (The Smiling Child) – This is the closest I’ve come to expressing – in a way not possible with the spoken or written word – the feelings inspired by my precious children. This movement also captures the summer I spent working on the concerto at my parents’ house just outside the village of Nea Michaniona - a house perched on a cliff which looks down on the Aegean and up to Mount Olympus.

3. Dance of the Mænads – Draped in the skins of fawns, crowned with wreaths of ivy and carrying the thyros - a staff wound round with ivy leaves and topped with a pine cone - the Mænads roamed the mountains and woods. When possessed by Dionysos, the Mænads plunged into a frenzied dance, obtaining an intoxicating high and a mystical ecstasy giving them unknown powers, making them the match of the bravest hero.

Recorded on 5 December 2020 in Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington by RNZ Concert

Producer: David McCaw

Engineer: Darryl Stack