\\               ΤΙΜΕ ΙΝ ΑΤΗΕΝS            


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Part 1: The Musical Revolution

The recent death of Mikis Theodorakis is not cause for grief. He lived a long and fulfilled life, and left behind him much wonderful music—a gift to Greece and the world. However it is sad that relatively few non-Greeks have even an inkling of how great a composer he was. Most people know him only through “Zorba’s Dance” and his music for the film Zorba the Greek.

“… the negative aspect is that now, as far as the great masses are concerned, a stamp of identification has been placed upon me. I am Zorba's music. Even Fidel Castro—the only music he has on his boat when he goes on an excursion is Zorba; and he knows me as Zorba.” (Mikis Theodorakis, translated)[1]

This limited awareness is a great shame. “Zorba’s Dance” is excellent indeed, particularly the original recording, and fully deserving of its fame, but it is not an isolated instance. Theodorakis was one of the greatest and most prolific songwriters and composers of the twentieth century, and deserves a reputation equal to that of, for example, Bob Dylan. Certainly he looms just as large in the Greek world as Dylan does in the English-speaking world.

The Beginning of the Revolution: Epitaphios

Theodorakis’ music first rose to prominence in Greece in 1960 when he started a musical revolution by creating a new sound and a new genre of song—the έντεχνο λαϊκό [artistic popular song]. This revolution was heralded by and embodied in the song cycle Epitaphios, a work which still stands, alongside so many others, at the pinnacle of Theodorakis’ achievement. Its importance as a pioneering work cannot be overstressed.

Those of us who lived through the 60s know from that experience that, in music, the coming together of particular individuals can generate the most sublime magic. Talent alone is not enough. Fortune must first bring together the specific mix of musicians which the magic requires. The greatest example of this was, of course, the Beatles, but also the Rolling Stones.

In the case of Theodorakis it was the Epitaphios project which contrived the fateful coming together of Theodorakis with Grigoris Bithikotsis, and Manolis Chiotis. That trio was the essential combination from which the musical magic of “κείνες τις γόνιμες μέρες“ [those fruitful days] stemmed.[2]

It is interesting to note that the formation of the trio was not a foregone conclusion. A series of twists of fate was required. Without them the history of Greek popular music might have been quite different.

The story begins in 1957 with the poet Yiannis Ritsos sending a copy of the second edition of his small collection of poems Epitaphios to Theodorakis in France, where he was studying classical music at the Conservatoire de Paris.[3] Theodorakis selected eight of the twenty poems in the booklet and set them to music, which he then sent to Manos Hatzidakis (in 1958), but nothing came of that initiative.[4]

In mid-1960 Theodorakis was back in Greece for the staging of The Phoenician Women at Epidauros by the National Theatre using his music. With that job done, he was getting ready to return to France with his family and continue his classical music career when a reunion with a friend from his EPON days, Dimitris Despotidis, set him on a different path.

At Despotidis’ request, the two went to see Manos Hatzidakis (also formerly of EPON) to ask him to speak to Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis about the plight of left-wing political prisoners. When they raised the subject…

Manos, at that moment, was overcome by meanness, and overreacted. “Listen up now!” He rose from his chair. “I’ve forgotten all that stuff! I have my passport and I can go wherever I want. I like it like that!” (Mikis Theodorakis, translated)[5]

After this disappointing encounter, the two friends reasoned that it was Manos Hatzidakis’ success as a songwriter which gave him access to the mighty, and if Theodorakis could achieve similar success they would not need middlemen. Theodorakis informed his friend that he had a set of songs ready to be recorded called Epitaphios, and he sang some of them to him. Despotidis was impressed by “Μέρα Μαγιού μού μίσεψες” and urged Theodorakis to approach Alekos Patsifas, the head of the Fidelity Record Company. Patsifas agreed to record Epitaphios, and when Theodorakis told him he wanted a laikos vocalist, Patsifas offered Anna Chrysafi.

Nana Mouskouri, who was with the same record company, heard Theodorakis rehearsing with Anna Chrysafi and decided that she wanted to sing Epitaphios herself. But for that to happen Hatzidakis had to give his permission. She was his singer. Hatzidakis agreed on one condition: “Θα καθορίσω εγώ την ορχήστρα.” [“I’ll decide the composition of the orchestra.”][6] And so the recording of Epitaphios began with Hatzidakis at the helm and Nana at the microphone.

However Fortune had other ideas, and a series of coincidences led Theodorakis to a different record company, Columbia, and to a complete change of plan and personnel.

The coincidences began with Nikos Gatsos the poet being impressed by Myrto, Theodorakis’ wife, and writing a lyric dedicated to her. Theodorakis set it to music, and the song “Μυρτιά” was born.

A little known singer, Giovanna, happened to hear Theodorakis playing the new song to Patsifas, Hatzidakis and Gatsos, and offered her services. They auditioned her, liked what they heard, and recorded her the very next day.[7] The day after that Nana was in the studio working on Epitaphios, and Hatzidakis decided that this was a good time to break the news to her.

… says Manos: “Let's listen to what we recorded yesterday.”

“What did you record yesterday?” Mouskouri pipes up.

“You’ll hear,” Manos replies.

“What are these songs?”

“Some songs that Mikis wrote.”

“When did he write them?”


“And who’s the woman singing them?”

Suddenly Mouskouri was gripped by hysteria, she wanted to break everything around her! There were some enamel ashtrays. Patsifas was giving them to her: “Here, take it, Nana dear,” and she was breaking them one after the other! It could have been a scene from a movie, a great comedy![8]

Not content with breaking ash trays, Nana later got Patsifas to agree that she would never be asked to sing for Theodorakis again following the completion of Epitaphios. Patsifas’ docile submission to Nana’s will angered Theodorakis, and he abandoned the Hatzidakis recording of Epitaphios and took himself off to the rival record company Columbia. There Fortune granted him Manolis Chiotis on bouzouki.

For a singer, Theodorakis told Columbia that he wanted Grigoris Bithikotsis. They had met once briefly in 1948, when Theodorakis was a political prisoner, and perhaps that meeting was a factor in his desire to have Bithikotsis sing for him:

In 1948 he [Bithikotsis] met Mikis Theodorakis completely by chance in Keratea. There, a truck stopped, which was transporting political prisoners to Lavrion to be ferried to Makronisos. There was a drinking fountain there and one of the soldiers being transferred filled his water bottle and gave the prisoners water to drink. That soldier was Grigoris Bithikotsis.[9]

In 1960 Bithikotsis’ career was not going so well, and he was on the verge of emigrating to Canada to take up his former trade of plumber, but he was found in time, and the trio was complete. There followed fifteen days of rehearsals, after which the whole of Epitaphios was recorded in just two days. The result was thrilling indeed!

For these recordings Bithikotsis sang better than he had ever sung before. He adopted a pure almost classical style: laconic, no slurring, no attempt to overplay the emotion, and yet somehow highly emotive. Logically the songs call for an older female voice, but one forgets this completely listening to Bithikotsis. He becomes the voice of the mother lamenting her murdered son, but also of any person mourning a great loss.

Chiotis played like a man on fire, making the bouzouki a second main voice. The sheer freshness and virtuosity of his playing is irresistible. It is both powerful and delicate; clean, but also full of expression; rich with slides, subtle bends, and rhythmic picking variations. Surely, like Robert Johnson, he must have sold his soul to the devil. His playing is divine.

But divine also is the material he was being asked to play. Theodorakis is unquestionably the master of melody, but in addition he is also the master of memorable instrumental introductions and breaks. These are a characteristic of most of Theodorakis’ songs, but on Epitaphios they come across as an absolutely integral element, an essential part of each song’s appeal. And Chiotis plays them with much verve and, often, when appropriate, with a punchy almost rock sound.

Nowadays purists frown at the use of electromagnetic pick-ups of the kind Chiotis had on his bouzouki. They prefer a clean acoustic sound, and Chiotis has fallen out of favour somewhat. This is foolish. It is akin to wishing that Jimi Hendrix had played guitar without amplification. Chiotis is the acknowledged master of his instrument, and his instrument is the amplified bouzouki. Many of the expressive effects he exploited could not have been achieved on a purely acoustic instrument.

It is said that both Chiotis and Bithikotsis had doubts about what they were creating, but I find that hard to believe. These are not the performances of musicians who do not have faith in what they are doing. They must have loved what they were hearing from the studio monitors or they could not have performed as well as they did. Perhaps the knowledge that elsewhere a rival recording was being made by Hatzidakis, one of the great composers and arrangers of the time, spurred them on. They had to be good, if their version was to stand a chance. Nevertheless all three would have been concerned that the public might not appreciate something as ground-breaking as what they were doing. “Μανώλη, θα ξεφτιλιστούμε,” Bithikotsis is reported to have said. [Manolis, we’re going to be a laughing stock.][10]

We are used to the sound of early Theodorakis now, and do not realise how “confronting” it was in 1960. When Theodorakis first played the recording of Epitaphios to a gathering of his friends (Hatzidakis, Elytis, Gatsos, and Valaoritis) they burst into laughter before the first track had finished. The only one who liked what she had heard was Hatzidakis’ mother, and she told the assembled company so. Hatzidakis himself assured her that Mikis was pulling their leg. He couldn’t possibly be planning to release what they had just heard.[11] But he was.

In August 1960, Fidelity released Hatzidakis’ recording of Epitaphios, and the following month Columbia released Theodorakis’ version. Many preferred the saccharine sound of Hatzidakis, but over time the Theodorakis/Bithikotsis/Chiotis version became the acknowledged classic. For Theodorakis a great weight was lifted from his soul: the unprecedented success of Epitaphios “created in me a great well-being, an inner peace, a fullness. I would say that I have never been as happy as I was in those years. The acceptance [of my music] by the people was manifest.”[12]

It was much more than acceptance; it was infatuation, it was passionate adoption, it was love.


Part 2: Poetry for the People

 “...who do I write music for? I write for the Greek people.”[13]



One of the primary ways in which the song cycle Epitaphios embodied a musical revolution was in its use of contemporary poetry to create popular songs. With those particular poems by Ritsos that was relatively easy to do because the poems themselves mimic folk song. They use the language and regular metre of folk songs, as well as a traditional and ancient genre of lament, the moirologi (μοιρολόγι), which is still improvised at Greek funerals by female mourners.

The real test was to bring erudite poetry like that of Seferis and Elytis into popular culture through song—poetry which was for the most part obscure in meaning, and which used the irregular forms of free verse.

The opportunity to attempt this presented itself when Theodorakis met the poet George Seferis. In his account of the genesis of the Epiphania [Epiphany] song-cycle, Theodorakis describes how he first met Seferis at the Royal Opera House, London. This was, according to Theodorakis, in the autumn of 1960,[14] when the latter came to the rehearsals for the ballet Antigone for which Theodorakis had written the music. Afterwards they went back to the Greek Embassy near Hyde Park on foot at Seferis’ request:[15]

“The way your music has affected me, I’ll need hours to recover... I’d rather walk.”[16]

In Theodorakis conversations with Seferis it transpired that the poet was thinking along the lines of collaborating in creating a new ballet, but Theodorakis had other ideas:

“How about if I write songs based on your poetry in the meantime?”
“Songs?” [….]    
“Next week I will bring from Paris some examples of my work for you to listen to. I’d like to believe that [as a composer] I am not betraying poetry…”

Theodorakis departed from that encounter with a pile of Seferis’ publications to take back with him to Paris, and when he returned to London he brought four new songs and, surprisingly, Hatzidakis’ version of Epitaphios. He was afraid that his own recording might not be well received.

According to Theodorakis, Seferis liked the recording of Epitaphios, but when they were listening to the new songs, which Theodorakis performed at the piano, Seferis’ wife laughed “nervously” [νευρικά]. Theodorakis stopped playing.

“What’s going on, Maro?” Seferis asked sternly.
“Forgive me... But I have heard this poem [Arnisi] recited so many times by George, that it seems really strange to me to hear it with music... I like it very much.”

When he had finished singing the four new songs of Epiphania, Theodorakis thought he could discern in Seferis’ eyes “the glow of a creator rejoicing in the new form his poetry was suddenly taking.”[17] However, we have testimony from Seferis himself which indicates that he was not entirely happy with the fruits of Theodorakis’ labours:

I didn’t much like it; maybe that’s the fault of freezing London. ‘Denial’ [Arnisi] seems better than the rest which seem to me a bit garbled, missing the meaning. But even in ‘Denial’, the lack of a pause before the word ‘wrong’ makes nonsense of the last verse. Unfortunately, Th[eodorakis] thinks he knows everything . . . forgive me, my dear George [Savvidis], but I’ve a different idea of the craftsman.[18]

It is possible that Seferis changed his mind when he saw how popular Arnisi [Denial] became. Theodorakis describes with satisfaction how one night he and Seferis, along with George Savvidis and the younger George Papandreou, wandered around Plaka from taverna to taverna because Seferis wanted to see and hear the musicians and patrons in all the restaurants singing “By the Secret Seashore” [i.e., Arnisi].

Never perhaps had Seferis become so like a small child. He was laughing, beaming all over with happiness, and I think that that night he allowed his so stern heart to love me. To the extent, of course, permissible for a diplomat...[19]

For the song-cycle Epiphania Theodorakis had picked only four poems: three from “Notes for a Summer”, the final section of the publication Tetradion Gymnasmaton [Book of Exercises], and one from Seferis’ first published collection Strophe [Turn]. The latter, Arnisi, was relatively easy to set to music. It was comprised of three 4-line verses with a more or less regular metrical pattern and an ABBA rhyme scheme. Seferis abandoned such traditional structures in his subsequent poetry where free verse is the norm.

It was the other three poems which presented the challenge Theodorakis was looking for:

I wanted—precisely because the verse was so intellectualistic—to bring Epiphania to as wide an audience as possible in popular music attire. After all, this was the first time that free verse was aspiring to become simple popular song. That is, to accompany ordinary people everywhere: the building sites, the tavernas, on excursions, at the gathering of friends...[20]

There is no doubt that Theodorakis achieved that kind of popularity with the song Arnisi, which quickly became an extremely popular song and, in time, a widely acknowledged classic, but it is the only song of the four which is not in free verse. Whether the other three songs would have become popular in the same way—the way which Theodorakis wanted—without Arnisi by their side is open to question. The lesson one takes away from the reception of Epiphania is that traditional poetic forms make for more popular songs.


By a strange coincidence it was the Epiphany ceremonies of 1966 which would lead Theodorakis to realise fully his aim of popularising free verse through song. This was achieved with the song cycle Romiosyni.[21]

On 6 January 1966 Theodorakis, now an M.P., found himself at a celebration of the Epiphany in Piraeus. Two rival ceremonies were scheduled but massive crowds had gathered to support George Papandreou, the P.M. who had been dismissed by King Constantine, whereas the King’s ceremony was poorly attended. Furious the police and their thugs attacked the Papandreou crowd. Being very tall, Theodorakis stood out, and he was grabbed, thrown to the ground, and beaten. In one interview he remembers how he was dragged by the feet over the asphalt.[22]

Returning home, he avoided his family because he didn’t want them to see him covered in blood and dirt. He went into the room with the piano to clean himself up, and noticed that somebody had propped Ritsos’ poems for Romiosyni up on the piano. He had had these since 1962 but they had not “spoken” to him. Today, after his experience of police brutality, they did speak to him, and the music poured out of him, by his own account, effortlessly. In a few hours the task was almost completed. He had created eight songs from the free verse of his friend Yiannis Ritsos. The ninth was added later.

In an interview Theodorakis describes how the free structure of the music and the symbolism and imagery posed problems in the performance of the songs. Grigoris Bithikotsis found that the songs did not speak to him, and he felt he couldn’t sing them. Theodorakis recorded himself performing the songs so that Bithikotsis could take the recording home and listen to it there.

I start to listen. Nothing! I listen to it all, go and shave, wash, turn the tape recorder up loud, listen again… Nothing! I couldn’t get into it at any point... One evening, after I had finished at the shop and come home, alone in my room I said to myself, “You have to sing it, Grigori! It’s like the ones before: Epitaphios, Axion Esti and these here. It can’t be—Where’d he get it from? Mars?” … So I lock myself in. “One song!” I say, “Mother of God! One song! If I can learn just one song, I’ll get the sense.” And so I began to sing: “Beneath the soil, in their folded arms they hold the rope of the bell [that will signal the resurrection]…”[23]

Similarly getting the bouzouki players to learn their parts was also a struggle. They didn’t read music so they had to memorize the “irregular” parts for all nine songs. Theodorakis describes in the interview how it took over a month of rehearsals at his place to get the bouzouki and guitar players ready.[24]

When they were ready Romiosyni was presented to enthusiastic audiences all over the country. Given the political nature of the lyrics and the rousing martial character of the songs and music its popularity was assured. These were troubled stormy times, and the songs touched the hearts of their intended audience with messages of resistance and hope. The two most popular (and rousing) songs of the song cycle, both very similar, were/are “When They Squeeze Their Hands [into a fist]” and “The Bells Will Toll”. Both are anthems confidently anticipating a “resurrection”.

Here is how one reviewer, Tasos Vournas, described the massive concert held at the football stadium in New Philadelphia, Athens, on 4 July 1966:

The word “μυσταγωγία”[25] is too cheap and trite to express the public’s deep satisfaction yesterday. It was a national liturgy reminiscent of the great musical outbursts of our People…. Twenty thousand of us drank with our hearts wide open—we drank sound and poetry and couldn’t get enough. And when at the end the verses of Ritsos’ Romiosyni began to fall, one after the other, like hammer blows, brought to us as if they were prayers on the wings of Theodorakis’ music, then we felt in all its intensity the pride of being a Greek fighter devoted to our country, our people and their future. Twenty thousand people, mostly young, the enraged offspring of the Resistance, upright, and with tears in their eyes, cheered and applauded the poet’s verses as they gushed forth with the music like a waterfall…[26]

The reference to liturgy brings me to my last section a brief discussion of…

The Axion Esti

This work preceded Romiosyni but it does not represent the successful utilisation of free verse in popular song in the way that Romiosyni does. Rather it strives for something new, a combining, or at least a juxtaposing, of classical, popular, and religious musical elements.

Elytis’ text is, in its form and intent, a liturgy, and Theodorakis understood this well, for he clearly regarded his task as being to realise the work as a liturgy, complete with songs, chants, and readings. These were to be performed by a classical orchestra and choir, bouzoukis, a reader, a male soloist, and Bithikotsis.

Despite the classical colour of much of the work, Theodorakis wanted the result to be popular—to be familiar enough to the people so as to speak to them.

I had to find a balance so that this work would not be beyond the sensibility of the people. [Έπρεπε να βρω μια ισορροπία, ώστε το έργο αυτό να μην είναι μακριά από την ευαισθησία του κόσμου.][27]

The first public performance of the work took place on 19 October 1964 at the Rex theatre. Theodorakis and Elytis had wanted the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus but the presence of Bithikotsis among the singers was considered by the authorities demeaning to the theatre!

This first performance did not seem to Theodorakis and Elytis to inspire the enthusiastic reactions they had hoped for, and it received mixed reviews, some of them downright petty. However the playwright Dimitris Psathas wrote that the performance was an “excellent musical μυσταγωγία” [that word again] which “captivated and awed the audience”. The response to the recorded version was equally encouraging. It was from the very beginning a massive best seller.

I have to disclose that the Axion Esti is one of my favourite Theodorakis works. Two things in particular stand out for me. The first is the superb readings. Elytis’ prose is exceptional but so too is the voice and diction of Manos Katrakis. Listening to the readings one cannot help but think “What a wonderful and noble language is Greek!” That’s how good the readings are. The second thing which stands out for me is Bithikotsis’ singing. How could anybody regard his singing voice as in any way inferior to classical singing? Think, for example, of those glorious moments in “Με το λύχνο του άστρου” [With the Light of a Star] where his voice cuts in with that wonderful line “πού να βρω την ψυχή μου…” [where will I find my soul]. Amplified in expression and feeling by the contrast with the choral voices which precede it, Bithikotsis’ voice soars! Without him Axion Esti would be a much lesser realisation of Theodorakis’ crowning achievement.

There is much else one could say about Mikis Theodorakis. He was a remarkably energetic and prolific composer and activist. However space is limited. I will use what little is left to reveal that, as a composer myself, I intentionally incorporated an allusion to Theodorakis in the introduction to my setting to music of the poem by Michael Pais “With the Lips of Heartache”.[28] It was intended as an acknowledgment of my own debt to him. I have been listening to his songs since I was a child, and they have become a very significant part of my cultural world. I will let him have the last word:

“I lived my life well. What I wanted to do I did. From here on, I am handing the baton over to you...”[29]



Part 3: Postscript


The articles to which this is a postscript were both written for Antipodes magazine. When planning the second article/part, I intended to include a section on the Romancero Gitano song cycle, but space did not permit. This Postscript is my unorthodox solution.

Romancero Gitano

This too is one of my favourite works by Theodorakis, particularly the version recorded by Maria Farandouri and John Williams for the album Songs and Guitar Pieces by Theodorakis.[30] By a happy coincidence, it was released at a time when I was learning to play classical guitar. I never got beyond the novice stage, but I did learn to appreciate virtuoso playing like that of John Williams and Julian Bream.

In those years my beloved wife was studying in Southampton and sharing a house with two other students. Every Friday evening I would jump on my motorbike and head off down the A3 from London to spend the weekend with her. I must have kept a copy of the LP at her place because I recall vividly that I would drive everyone to distraction weekend upon weekend by playing it on the record player in the shared living room over and over—I just couldn’t get enough of it.[31]

The excellence of the “Seven Songs by Lorca” [Romancero Gitano]—the main feature on the album—is not solely down to Theodorakis. Yes, he did compose superb melodies for Elytis’ selection and translation of poems by Federico García Lorca, but his own recording of these songs is by comparison disappointing.[32] It was created in Paris during the junta years when Theodorakis’ performances were often dominated by forceful drumming and a matching epic style from the vocalists.[33] To my mind Maria Farandouri is at her best when her singing is subtle, rather than stridently militant, and I don’t think she has ever sung better than on the John Williams recordings—as well as, yes, but not better.

In a way the album is a collaboration with a second composer, Stephen Dodgson, for it was he who created the classical guitar accompaniment for Theodorakis’ songs. As a composer Dodgson devoted particular attention to the guitar, and he had worked with John Williams before, on the album John Williams Plays Two Guitar Concertos (1968), which included Dodgson’s “Concerto For Guitar and Chamber Orchestra”. In short he was an experienced composer for the guitar.

Unusually, John Williams also made a compositional contribution to the guitar part, for at some points he simplified it, even though, as a rule, he never changed a score, and regarded Dodgson as a composer who was very particular.

… when I worked with Maria, we had to change certain bits of it because some of it was a bit notey and fussy. In the end, we simplified certain aspects of the arrangements. Sometimes you just need to strum a chord![34]

Theodorakis set the poems from Romancero Gitano to music at the request of the Lyra record company, which wanted them for the singer and guitarist Arletta, so the songs were probably intended for voice and guitar from the outset.[35] They were completed by April 1967, but the junta years intervened, and a recording by Arletta was not released until 1978.

It is noteworthy that Theodorakis was willing to collaborate with a record company and a singer who were identified with the neo kyma [new wave]—a movement in Greek music which has always seemed to me a reaction and a rejection—though that may be too strong a word—of the bouzouki-dominated popular music championed by Theodorakis. (“Hey, there are other instruments and other styles too!”)[36] Clearly, by 1967, Theodorakis was open to other ways of presenting his music to the Greek public.

With the genesis of the Lorca songs in mind, the Theodorakis-Dodgson album could itself be seen as “new wave”, except that, outside of Greece, it could hardly be considered popular music. In England there was no attempt that I am aware of to market the album to a popular music audience. This was an album intended for the many who listened to classical music, and the few who were interested in the music of other cultures. (World music did not really become an established sales and marketing category until the 1980s.) From a communist perspective, it was not an album for “the working class” or “the people” as such, but it might have been of interest to those who were sympathetic to Theodorakis the activist and his campaign to encourage opposition to the junta outside of Greece.

Ironically it seems that, thanks to the junta, Theodorakis had come full circle. This album represents Theodorakis (and friends) creating recordings of έντεχνο λαϊκό [artistic popular] Greek songs for the international classical audience—the audience Theodorakis wrote for before Epitaphios! To add to the irony four pieces from Epitaphios, arranged for solo classical guitar, are included on the album.

Having firmly established the έντεχνο λαϊκό genre, and seen it being taken up by other Greek composers and dominating the popular-music market in Greece, the later Theodorakis was keen and willing to explore additional areas. This included a return to classical music—in his later years he even wrote classical operas, including one where he took up again the story of Antigone. He also revisited the Romancero Gitano twice. In 1981 he created a symphonic setting for six of the songs with the overall title Lorca, and in the mid-90s he used the same melodies to compose a fine work for guitar and symphony orchestra—no vocals—with the title Rhapsodies for Guitar and Orchestra (Lorca). However the Theodorakis-Dodgson setting is still for me the definitive one. When such divine music has been imprinted on one’s brain by enthusiastic repeated listening, it is very difficult for it to be dislodged. I still listen to that album with awe. However, the new versions are growing on me...

Pavlos Andronikos


[1] Μίκης Θεοδωράκης – Αυτοβιογραφία, Β' Μερος, Γιώργος & Ηρώ Σγουράκη. https://youtu.be/kx_4syzj1Fk?t=3380. All translations of quotations are by me unless otherwise stated. Parts 1 and 2 of this study were first published in Antipodes 67 and 68 (Melbourne: G.A.C.L., 2021-2022).         

[3] Γιάννης Ρίτσος, Επιτάφιος, 2nd edition (Athens: Kedros, 1956).

[5] “Τετ α τετ ιστορίες με τον Μίκη Θεοδωράκη: Πώς έγινε ο—κατά Μάνο Χατζιδάκι—Επιτάφιος του με τη Νάνα Μούσχουρη!” (http://bosko-hippydippy.blogspot.com/2017/05/blog-post.html)

[6] Apparently Patsifas was a bit of a scrooge and was constantly trying to save money by limiting the number of musicians used. See Πέπη Ραγκούση, “Αλέκος Πατσιφάς” (25 August 2017) at https://www.tanea.gr/2017/08/25/opinions/alekos-patsifas/

[7] Giovanna’s recordings were Theodorakis first big hit. A single was released with “Μυρτιά” on one side and “Aν θυμηθείς το όνειρο μου” on the other side. See http://www.45cat.com/record/14008

[8] Αντώνης Μποσκοΐτης, “Ο Μίκης, ο Επιτάφιος, ο Χατζιδάκις, η Μούσχουρη και ο Μπιθικώτσης” (8 Sept. 2021) at https://www.documentonews.gr/article/o-mikis-o-epitafios-o-xatzidakis-i-moysxoyri-kai-o-mpithikotsis/

[9] “Γρηγόρης Μπιθικώτσης” at https://www.sansimera.gr/biographies/103

[10] Φώτης Απέργης, “Ο Επιτάφιος που ανέστησε το ελληνικό τραγούδι,” (3 September 2021) at https://www.efsyn.gr/tehnes/moysiki-horos/308738_o-epitafios-poy-anestise-elliniko-tragoydi

[11] “Μίκης Θεοδωράκης - Επιτάφιος - Η ιστορία των Επιτάφιων - Μούσχουρη εναντίον Μπιθικώτση” at https://youtu.be/S8heJCO72Y8?t=1002

[12] Μίκης Θεοδωράκης, Πού να βρω την ψυχή μου, τ. 1ος (Εκδόσεις Νέα Σύνορα – Λιβάνης, 2002), σελ. 89.

[13] Mikis Theodorakis in the ERT documentary Τραγούδια που έγραψαν ιστορία: Ρωμιοσύνη. Directed by George Zervas. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fARYsW-S1qM)

[14] 2.         See Mikis Theodorakis, Μελοποιημένη ποίηση, vol. 1 (Ύψιλον, 1997) p. 54. No performance is listed for Autumn 1960 on the Royal Opera House Performance Database, but there was a performance on 11 October 1961 with the conductor John Lanchbery. (See https://www.rohcollections.org.uk/Production.aspx?production=4322. ) Either the Database has not listed all performances or Theodorakis is mistaken as to the year.

This cannot have been Theodorakis’ first meeting with Seferis. The latter mentions attending a concert in Athens on 25 August 1960 to hear the Firebird by Stravinsky and a suite by Theodorakis. Afterwards he had dinner at a taverna with a group which included Theodorakis and Theodorakis’ father. There is no mention here by Seferis of a meeting with Theodorakis in London in the autumn of that year. (Μέρες Ζ’, 1 Οκτώβρη 1956—27 Δεκέμβρη 1960, edited by Theano Michaelidou [Athens: Ίκαρος, 1991] p. 241.) I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the advice and suggestions of Theano Michaelidou. We were students together at Birmingham University, and she has been my dear friend and sounding board in Greece for many years.

[15] George Seferis was the Ambassador of Greece to the UK at the time.

[16] Quoted in “Μίκης - Σεφέρης: «Προσοχή στην άνω τελεία»” by Angela Kotti (Πολιτισμός 2 Sept. 2021). This reference also applies to the two quotes below.

[17] Ibidem.

[18] From a letter to George Savvidis, 19 January 1962, quoted in translation by Roderick Beaton in George Seferis: Waiting for the Angel: A Biography (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2003) p. 362.

[19] Quoted in “Μίκης - Σεφέρης: «Προσοχή στην άνω τελεία»” by Angela Kotti (Πολιτισμός 2 Sept. 2021).

[20] From https://www.mikistheodorakis.gr/el/music/ergography/beforedictatorship/?nid=4689.

Note the word Theodorakis uses here: “διανοουμενίστικος” which I have rendered “intellectualistic”.

[21] The term Romiosyni is untranslatable. Its root is the name “Rome” and it refers to the Eastern Roman Empire [mistakenly called Byzantine in English] and its world. In modern Greek it refers to Greece and the Greek world.

[22] The ERT documentary Τραγούδια που έγραψαν ιστορία: Ρωμιοσύνη. Directed by George Zervas. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fARYsW-S1qM)

[23] Ibidem.

[24] Ibidem.

[25] The word “μυσταγωγία” could mean an initiation into sacred mysteries, the mysteries themselves; or the ecstasy experienced by the spectator/listener of an exceptional musical or theatrical work. It could also refer to a work which has the power to evoke such an experience.

[26] «Ακούγοντας τη μουσική του Μίκη Θεοδωράκη», Tasos Vournas, Avgi 6 July 1966, p. 2. See https://anazitisinews.gr/2021/09/03/cc/

[27] Quoted in “Άξιον Εστί: Η μνημειώδης συνεργασία Μίκη Θεοδωράκη και Οδυσσέα Ελύτη” by Yiannis Diamantis in Ta Nea (Greece) 2 Sept. 2021.

[28] “With the Lips of Heartache” can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSlSaSW5fNE.

[29] «Εγώ έζησα ωραία την ζωή μου. Εκείνο που ήθελα να κάνω το έκανα. Από εδώ και πέρα σας παραδίδω τη σκυτάλη…» From the ERT documentary Τραγούδια που έγραψαν ιστορία: Ρωμιοσύνη. Directed by George Zervas. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fARYsW-S1qM ).

[30] Songs and Guitar Pieces by Theodorakis, UK, 1971 (CBS – S 72947).

[31] Bear in mind that I was the only Greek speaker in the house. I was subjecting the other residents and visitors to songs in a language alien to them. They took it remarkably well.

[32] In Theodorakis Conducts Theodorakis vol. 2 (1970, Polydor – 2489 054). Theodorakis was released by the Junta in April 1970 and allowed to leave the country. The recording sounds like a live performance but there are no audience sounds. Its sound quality is poor.

[33] Theodorakis’ music immediately after his release was markedly rough-sounding. It is possible that following his experience of intimidation, torture, and helplessness at the hands of the Junta’s fascist thugs Theodorakis found forceful drumming and a martial style of singing particularly appealing–hence the arrangements and performances of those years. Let’s not forget that it was the experience of violence against his person that put him in the right frame of mind to compose Romiosyni. His suffering definitely affected his music

[34] Quoted in O'Toole, Michael, John Williams: An Evaluation of His Impact Upon the Culture of the Classical Guitar (Doctoral thesis), Technological University Dublin, 2018, pp. 171-2.

[35] Manuscripts in the archive dated 1967 simply show lyrics and melody plus the chords which a guitarist would play. See https://digital.mmb.org.gr/digma/handle/123456789/15152

[36] See “Νέο Κύμα του ελληνικού τραγουδιού” in the Greek Wikipedia.


















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