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The Great Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis

mikis theodorakis Mikis Theodorakis was a great Greek composer, politician and writer, one of the most important and most discussed personalities of modern Greece. He was born in Chios on July 29, 1925, to a Cretan father and an Asia Minor mother. Due to his father’s professional status who was a senior civil servant, he spent his childhood moving to various cities in Greece.

Before the Second World War he had discovered his love for music and wrote his first compositions, while in 1942 he published his first poems, under the pseudonym Dinos Mais.

In 1943, he permanently settled in Athens and continued his musical studies, with Philoktitis Oikonomidis as his teacher. At the same time, he develops resistance action, through the ranks of the left resistance group EPON and the Communist party of Greece. He was arrested by the Italians and while in prison he will learn about Marx and his works.

During the Civil War (1946-1949) he was exiled first to Ikaria island and then to Makronissos. His political persecutions do not stop his creative work. He composes works of classical music and on March 5, 1950, his first work, “Fest of Asi-Gonia” (1946), was presented at the Orpheus theater in Athens, by the State Orchestra of Athens, conducted by his teacher Philoktitis Economides.

In 1953, he married the doctor Myrto Altinoglou (the couple had two children, George and Margarita) and continued his musical studies in Paris, with teachers Olivier Messiaen and Essen Bigot. He continues to compose and in 1959 he is awarded the “Copley” prize for the best European composer of the year.
One evening in 1958, while waiting for his wife in the car, he reads the “Epitaph” by Yannis Ritsos and sets the first eight poems to music on the spot. In 1960 they will be recorded for the first time with the voice of Grigoris Bithikotsis. It is the time when Theodorakis moves into the field of song and “marries” folk rhythms, folk instruments, folk singers and the poetry of the leading representatives of the 30’s generation (Seferis, Elytis, Ritsos etc.).

From his works of that period, the following stand out: “Archipelagos”, “Epifaneia”, “Mauthausen”, “Axion Esti”. He will also write music for Michalis Kakogianni’s film “Zorbas” (1964) and for two theatrical performances that marked the 60s, “Magic City” and “The Neighborhood of Angels”. In 1963, after the assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis, the political youth group “Lambrakis” was founded, of which he was elected President. At the same time, he was elected a member of the the greek political party EDA ( United Greek Left).

With the imposition of the dictatorship on April 21, 1967, a new cycle of persecution and exile will begin for the composer, which will end in 1970 with the amnesty granted to him, following an international outcry and the efforts of personalities such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein , Harry Belafonte, Arthur Miller and Hans Eisler. He will go abroad and give dozens of concerts against the colonels, which will make him known everywhere as a symbol of the anti-dictatorship struggle.

After the dictatorsip (1974), his music will also be widely accepted, and will be heard freely again. Theodorakis will become a reference point of a new period for Greece and at the same time it will remain a symbol for the fighters of many countries against totalitarian regimes.

Many of the works he wrote during the seven-year period of dictatorship would be published in the first years after 1974 , while the recording and publication of his symphonic works will gradually begin.

Mikis Theodorakis was actively involved in politics during the Postcolonial period. He posed the famous dilemma “Karamanlis or tanks”, was elected a member of parliament (twice with the Communist party and twice with Nea Dimokratia) and became a minister in the Mitsotakis government. At the same time, he started with the Turkish musician Zulfi Livaneli an effort to reach a rapprochement between the peoples of Greece and Turkey.