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Music: 4000 years of sounds

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We have made a selection of the most notable works of our famous composers. In the links you may here a whole work.

Manos Hadjidakis, An autobiographical note

I was born on 23rd October, 1925, in Xanthi, that quaint old town and not the eyesore that was later developed by migrants from rural areas. The blending, in those days, of a belle époque decorative style with Ottoman minarets gave colour and substance to a community hailing from all corners of the land, and which, incidentally, found itself living in an outlying region, dancing the Charleston in public squares. When I first saw the light of day, I was amazed to notice the number of people that awaited my arrival. (Even later on I never ceased to be amazed, as if they were waiting for me to make a late appearance.) My mother was from Adrianople, the daughter or Konstantinos Arvanitidis, and my father from Myrthio, the prefecture of Rethymnon, Crete. I am the offspring of two people who, as far as I know, never cooperated except when they decided to produce me. That is why I have in me thousands of conflicting elements and every kind of mixed blessing. However, my bourgeois conscience, along with my “European tutelage,” so to speak, yielded an impressive result.

(Photograph by Marilena Stafylidou)

Throughout the time we lived in Xanthi, I tried to get to know my parents really well and to do away with my sister! I failed in both instances. In 1932 we moved to Athens, where I could never get over my failure.

In the capital I began living and studying, while, at the same time, I became initiated into the erotic and poetic functions of the times. But I received an “Attic education,” when there was still an “Attica” and “Education” in the country. I was deeply influenced by Erotokritos, General Makriyannis, the Fix Brewery, Haralambos, the waiter at Vyzantion, the damp climate of Thessaloniki, and chance encounters with strange people who remained strangers in after years. During the period of German occupation, I decided that music lessons were useless, for they had a way of diverting me from my initial objectives, which were to communicate, to convey, and to disappear. That is why I stopped them right after the war. Thus, I never attended a conservatory, and was saved from becoming like those members of the Panhellenic Musical Society. I wrote poems and many songs, and I made every effort to carry my point democratically, something that proved highly beneficial to me when later on I became an official. I avoided at all costs whatever hurt my feeling of love and sensibility.

I travelled extensively, and this helped me realize that stupidity is not a Greek exclusivity, as local chauvinists and votaries of nationalism proudly claim and go out of their way to prove. In parallel, I found it absolutely essential that people who interested me should speak Greek, because communication in a foreign language proved onerous and ended to negate half of my personality.

In 1966 I found myself in America. I lived there for about six years (the years of dictatorship in Greece), purely for tax reasons. It was discovered that I owed the Inland Revenue something like Drs.3.5 million. Having settled my debt, I returned in 1972, and opened a café-theatre, which I named Polytropon. It functioned until the political changeover in 1974, which marked the advent of football mania and the political defusion of the masses. I kept my cool, and refrained from partaking in national and anti-dictatorial dances in gymnasiums and football grounds packed with youths. When I shut up shop, my liabilities were in the region of Drs.3.5 million – a fatal number as far as I was concerned.

In 1975 began for me a period in the limelight, which, for the purpose of distinguishing it, I shall call “clerical,” and which made me famous among a large and ignorant public – Greek, of course – as an implacable enemy of Greek music, Greek musicians, as well as Greek culture. During this time, and after an abortive heart attack, I strove once again, albeit unsuccessfully, to implement my costly café-theatre ideas on Greek Radio and through the Ministry of Culture by democratic means. Both these organizations, rotten to the core, made a successful stand against me – beat me hollow, as they say. Be that as it may, this period marked the nascence and commanding presence of the Third Programme.

The résumé of my life to date is as follows:

I shun at fame. It restricts me within its confines and not mine.

I believe in the song that reveals us and express us deeply, and not the one that humours our naive and forcibly acquired habits.

I feel contempt for those whose object is not to receive their ideas and intellectual pursuits; complacent contemporaries; dark and shady journalism; and every form of vulgarity.

Thus, I managed to put the finishing touches to my personality, one traumatized in childhood, ending up by selling “lottery tickets in the sky” and inviting the respect of younger people, since I have remained a genuine Greek and a Magnus Eroticus.

Manos Hadjidakis, November 1980 – March 1981


Hadjidakis’ personal website:


In the following links you may hear his main works:



Mikis Theodorakis

Stations of his Life

Mikis Theodorakis was born on July 29th 1925 on the Greek island of Chios. Fascinated by music already as a child, he taught himself to write his first songs without access to musical instruments. In Pyrgos and Patras he took his first music lessons, and in Tripolis, he formed a choir and gave his first concert at 17.

After having been active in the resistance against the occupation troups and terribly tortured during World War II and later on, during the Greek Civil War, he studied at the Athens Conservatory in the class of Philoktitis Economidis and at the Conservatoire of Paris, where he studied musical analysis in the class of Olivier Messiaen and conducting under Eugene Bigot. The time in Paris was for him a period of intense artistic creation.

His first symphonic works, Concerto for Piano, First Suite, First Symphony, were internationally acclaimed. In 1957 he won the Gold Medal in the Moscow Music Festival; in 1959, Darius Milhaud proposed him for the American Copley-Music Prize as the Best European Composer of the Year after the performances of his ballet “Antigone” at Covent Garden.

His most important works up to 1960:

Trio for piano, violin, violoncello; “The Feast of Assi-Gonia” (symphonic); Symphony No.1 (“Proti Simfonia”); “Greek Carnival” (ballet); Sonatine for Piano; Suites No.1, 2 and 3 for Orchestra; Sonatines No.1 et 2 for violin and piano; “Antigone” (ballet); Life and Death (for voice and strings); “Les Amants de Téruel” (ballet); “Oedipus Tyrannos” (for strings), Concerto for Piano.

Theodorakis went back to Greece and to his roots, to genuine Greek music, and with his song cycle “Epitaphios”, he started a cultural revolution in his country. With his marvellous works based on the greatest Greek and world poetry: “Epiphania”, “Little Kyklades”, “Axion Esti”, “Mauthausen”, “Romiossini”, “Romancero Gitan”… he gave Greek music back its dignity and, while developing his concept of metasymphonic music, he was soon recognized internationally as a musician of genius, and, indeed, Mikis Theodorakis is undoubtedly Greece’s greatest living composer.

He founded the Little Orchestra of Athens and the Musical Society of Piraeus and gave many concerts, while in 1963, he founded the Lambrakis Democratic Youth and was elected its president. In 1964, he became a member of the Greek Parliament.

Main works of this period:

  1. Song Cycles: “Archipelagos”, “Politia A & B”, “Epiphania” (Yorgos Seferis, Nobel Prize 1963), “Mauthausen” (Yakovos Kabanellis), “Romiossini” (Yannis Ritsos).
  2. Music for the Stage: “The Hostage” (Brendan Behan); “Ballad of the Dead Brother” (Theodorakis); “Maghiki Poli”; “I Gitonia ton Angelon” (The Angels’ Quarter, Kabanellis).
  3. Film scores: “Zorba the Greek” (Michalis Cacoyannis)
  4. Oratorio: “Axion Esti” (Odysseas Elytis, Nobel Prize 1979).

In 1967, a fascist Junta pushed its way to power. Theodorakis went underground and founded the Patriotic Front. The Colonels published Army decree No.13, which banned playing, and even listening to his music. Theodorakis himself was arrested, jailed, banished to Zatouna with his wife Myrto and their two children Margarita and Yorgos. Later he was interned in the concentration camp of Oropos. An international solidarity movement, headed by such figures as Dmitri Shostakovitch, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller and Harry Belafonte managed to get Theodorakis freed and his sentence converted to exile in 1970.

Main works under the dictatorship:

  1. Song Cycles: “O Ilios ke o Chronos” (Sunb and Time, Theodorakis); “Ta Laïka”; Arcadies I-X; Songs for Andreas (Theodorakis); “Nichta Thanatou” (Nights of Death, M. Elefteriou).
  2. Oratorios: “Ephiphania Averoff” (Seferis), “State of Siege” (Marina=Rena Hadjidakis), “March of the Spirit” (Angelos Sikelianos), “Raven” (Seferis, d’après E.A.Poe).
  3. Film score: “Z” (Costa Gavras).

In exile, Theodorakis fought for the overthrow of the colonels and the unity of resistance forces. World-wide, he gave some thousand concerts as part of his struggle for the restoration of democracy in Greece. He became an universal symbol of resistance against dictatorship.

Main works written in exile:

  1. Song Cycles: “Lianotragouda” (18 Songs for the Bitter Fatherland, Yannis Ritsos); “Ballades” (M. Anagnostakis).
  2. Oratorio: “Canto General” (Pablo Neruda).
  3. Film scores: “The Trojan Women” (M. Cacoyannis); “State of Siege” (Costa-Gavras) “Serpico” (S. Lumet).

After the fall of the Colonels, Theodorakis triumphantly returned to Greece, continued his work and his concert tours both in Greece and abroad. At the same time he participated in public affairs. He was later elected several times to the Greek Parliament (1981-1986 and 1989-1993) and for two years, from 1990 to 1992, he was Minister in the Government of Konstantin Mitsotakis. After that, he was appointed for another two years General Musical Director of the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Hellenic Radio and Television.

Mikis Theodorakis has always combined an exceptional artistic talent with an intensely deep love of his country. He is also committed to heightening international awareness of human rights, of environmental issues and of the need for peace. It was for this reason that he initiated the Greek-Turkish Friendship Society together with the renowned Turkish musician and singer Zülfü Livaneli.

Main works after 1974:

  1. Song Cycles: “Ta Lyrika”, “Dionysos”, “Phaedra”, “Beatrice in Zero Street”, “Mia Thalasssa” (A Sea full of Music), “Os archeos Anemos” (Like an Ancient Wind).
  2. Music for the Stage: “Orestia” (dir.: Spyros Evangelatos); “Antigone” (dir.: M. Volanakis); “Midea” (dir.: Spyros Evangelatos).
  3. Film scores: “Iphigenia” (M. Cacoyannis), “The Man with the Carnation” (N. Tzimas).
  4. Oratorios: “Missa Greca”, “Liturgia 2”, “Requiem”.
  5. Symphonic Music and Cantatas: Symphonies No.2, 3, 4, 7, “According to the Sadducees”, “Canto Olympico”, Cello Concerto (1997).
  6. Operas: “Kostas Karyotakis”, “Medea”, “Elektra”, “Antigone”, “Lysistrati”.

© Guy Wagner. List of works based on the researches of Asteris Kutulas


Theodorakis’ personal website:



 In the following links you may hear his main works:


And a few  traditional Greek songs

Posted in Music.

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