Setting Cavafy to music

Piano Poetry Pantelis Politics


A new crossover disk of popular and art songs, So Many Things (2016), reminds us that Cavafy continues to be among the 20th-century poets in any language who have been most often set to music. I became fully aware of this distinction when in 2011 pianist Pantelis Polychronidis and I started our long-term collaborative project to explore systematically his settings, and we were astonished by the sheer number of composers, variety of languages, and breadth of genres. You name the style and the format, somebody has already used it to make music with the Alexandrian author.  In a Greek co-authored article we attributed his popularity among musicians to a score-like openness and availability of much Cavafian poetry.

While some disks are devoted to entire Cavafy song cycles, many others, like the most recent one, include only one or two poems by him. Leading mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter…

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