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Mikis Theodorakis: The Composer of Epitafios and His Legacy
Mikis Theodorakis, who died on September 2, 2021, at the age of 96, was a Greek composer and lyricist who created over 1,000 works, including film scores, symphonies, operas, ballets, and songs. He was also a political activist and a national hero who fought against fascism, dictatorship, and oppression in his homeland and abroad. He is best known outside Greece for his music for the films Zorba the Greek (1964), Z (1969), and Serpico (1973), but he also composed many works that reflected his passion for poetry, culture, and social justice.
One of his most acclaimed works is Epitafios, a song cycle based on the poems of Yannis Ritsos, a Greek poet who was also persecuted by the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. Theodorakis composed Epitafios in 1958, after reading Ritsos' poems that were inspired by the death of a young man during a workers' strike. The songs express grief, anger, love, and hope in the face of tragedy and injustice. Theodorakis used elements of Greek folk music, Byzantine liturgy, and modern harmony to create a powerful and moving musical expression of Ritsos' words.
Epitafios was first performed in 1960 by the singer Grigoris Bithikotsis, who became one of Theodorakis' closest collaborators. The songs were banned by the junta in 1967, but they continued to be sung by the people as a symbol of resistance and solidarity. Theodorakis later arranged three of the songs for guitar and orchestra, and they were performed by many famous musicians around the world, such as John Williams, Paco de Lucia, and Milva. The song cycle was also recorded by various singers in different languages, including Spanish, French, German, Italian, and English.
The original score of Epitafios is available online as a PDF file for free download from the official website of Mikis Theodorakis. The website also offers other information and resources about his life and work, such as biographies, discographies, interviews, photos, videos, and news. The website is a tribute to the legacy of one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, who enriched the world with his music and his spirit.
Mikis Theodorakis was born on July 29, 1925, on the island of Chios, and grew up in various cities in Greece. He was exposed to music and politics from a young age, and he began writing music and poetry in his teens, just as Greece entered World War II. He joined the resistance against the Nazi occupation, and he was captured and tortured by the Gestapo. He survived the war, but he faced more persecution and imprisonment by the Greek government for his involvement in the left-wing movement. He studied music at the Athens and Paris conservatories, and he developed his own style of combining classical and folk elements.
Theodorakis became a prominent figure in the Greek cultural scene in the 1950s and 1960s, composing music for theater, cinema, and radio. He also founded the Little Orchestra of Athens and the Popular Orchestra, which performed his songs and introduced new singers to the public. He collaborated with many poets, such as Odysseas Elytis, Nikos Gatsos, and Nazim Hikmet, and he set their poems to music. He also wrote his own lyrics, expressing his views on social and political issues. His music was widely popular among the Greek people, who saw him as a voice of their struggles and aspirations.
Theodorakis was also active in politics, and he was elected as a member of parliament for the Communist Party of Greece in 1964. However, his political career was interrupted by the coup d'etat of 1967, which established a military dictatorship in Greece. Theodorakis was arrested and placed in solitary confinement, where he suffered from torture and ill health. His music was banned by the junta, but it was smuggled out of the country and played by international artists who supported his cause. He was released in 1970 under international pressure, and he went into exile in France. He continued to compose music and to campaign for democracy and human rights in Greece and other countries. aa16f39245