Stelios Petrakis began learning the art of the Cretan lyra at the age of eight in his hometown of Sitia. It was not long before he extended his interests to include the Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian repertoires, as well as that of Crete. Stelios Petrakis’s interests have brought him to work with a impressive list of international artists representing the Mediterranean musical traditions. He also has a lutherie workshop in Heraklion, where he makes his own instruments.
His love and admiration for Cretan music led him to form the Cretan Quartet, with which he focuses on the great musical traditions of Crete, with a repertoire consisting of traditional pieces and also his own tradition-inspired compositions. The outstanding musicians of the Cretan Quartet were selected by Stelios Petrakis for their mastery of the island’s music and for their very open outlook onto the world.
Crete was home to the Minoan civilisation, one of the oldest in the world, and ever since has been a crossroads for many different great civilisations, hence influences – Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Venetian and, in the seventeenth century, Ottoman. Cretan music, which has been shaped by these many influences, belongs to the Eastern Mediterranean family of modal musical traditions. Differing in many ways from the Greek music of the continent, it is characterised by the predominant use of the three-stringed bowed instrument, known as the lyra, accompanied by the Cretan lute, or laouto.
Stelios Petrakis respects tradition in his music, but the introspection that is a feature of Eastern or Ottoman modes is here replaced by a very clear sound, produced by the deep voices and the subtle interlacing of the strings, supporting the spirit of the dance.