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Theodorakis on his Chamber Music - NEW

Top level Works Chamber Music

Ever since the time when I decided to become a composer, I believed that I was fulfilling a mission

The destiny and character of individuals occasionally plays a decisive role in our lives, particularly in the lives of artists. It is hard to imagine that if it had not been for Mendelssohn, the forgotten and largely unknown work of Bach himself might have been relegated to obscurity for, who knows, how many more years.

By the same token, the string quartet, which I had forgotten about myself, and other works from the same period (1945-48) would have continued to be mere sheets of paper full of notes in my archives, had George Demertzis not discovered them a few years ago. And not only did he discover them, he lost no time in applying his interest and talent to them, thus bringing them to light together with his wonderful colleagues, with such great sensitivity, and, I might add, artistic perfection, that the person who was most surprised by all of this was me.

The fact that it had been such a long time since I composed these pieces - over half a century - and that I was hearing many of them for the very first time, intermittently gave me the feeling that not I, but rather someone else must have written them! In other words, George Demertzis gave me back something which I had lost and forgotten, a gift which touched me deeply and gave me great joy, so that I feel immense gratitude towards him, as well as to PhilipposTsalahouris, himself a composer, who decoded some of the music recorded so enigmatically that even I could no longer disentangle it, e. g. the String Quartett No 4 Maza, thus allowing it to surface in its ultimate form.

The mere fact that these compositions including the Helikon Piano Concerto, "discovered" only a little earlier by Tatiana Papageorgiou remained unknown for half a century shows how tragic and unjust it is for a composer of symphonic music to be born in a country like Greece.

I can't say to what extent this constitutes an injustice for my country itself, but I can speak for myself; ever since the time when I decided to become a composer (1942) and began constantly writing one piece after another, I believed that I was fulfilling a mission, and this in an area as wonderful as that of symphonic music, no less, which the Greek people have not been allowed to become familiar with to this day for purely socio-political reasons. By composing music, I sought, as do all musicians, to achieve a dialogue, which naturally meant that others would first need to become aware of what I had to offer. However, I soon realized that even the most basic prerequisites for my work to become known beyond a restricted circle of "insiders" were lacking. A low level of education and culture, a lack of means and infrastructure, indifference on the part of the state... and with respect to symphonic music, a lack of even elementary knowledge was tremendously widespread, even in intellectual and artistic circles — with very few exceptions —, where to this day one of the highest achievements of the human spirit and mind, symphonic music, is still regarded as something alien — and hostile, I would even say — to the forms of genuine domestic intellectual and artistic purity established by the Greeks themselves!

When — as an adolescent — I wondered aloud why we were required to study Mathematics at school, since most of us were hardly destined to become scientists, my teachers replied that this was a lesson that educated and exercised our minds. If only those responsible for the education of children then and now knew that symphonic music, apart from being a spiritual pleasure, exercises the center of human thought. This can be explained by the fact that the rules governing a musical composition are based on mathematical relations, the difference being that the thousands of musical rules on which a work of music is built penetrate the mind and as well as the soul indirectly, which is to say that they touch human beings where they are sensitive, their souls absorbing the magic of harmony like a thirsty tree, because without harmony humans remain incomplete and unhappy, even if they are not aware of it.

In any event, the fact is that it will require many years for my symphonic works to finally reach those I had in mind when I composed them: all of humankind, of course, but first and foremost the Greek people.

What distinguishes my efforts is perhaps the fact that most of these works, whether they be chamber music, symphonic music, oratorios, concertos etc., were composed on the crest of the waves of this fierce ocean that was our life in Greece from 1940 until just recently. I wrote them because I had an existential need to do so, regardless of my own fate or theirs. Some of them were lost in gorges, barracks, prisons and under unlawful circumstances, as was the case with many chamber music works, similar to those discovered by George Demertzis. The term "unlawful circumstances" is an elegant way of disguising in words what went on at that time, when every step I took could have meant a death of the most merciless kind imaginable. So what went on? Was I a monster? I think not. The mere fact that I continued composing, often under unspeakable circumstances, shows how strong and urgent my inner need was to express myself through music, thereby proving its life-giving force and its capacity for redemption, allowing us to rise above the powers of chaos, violence and death, and to remain free.

Mikis Theodorakis
Athens, October 2007

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