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Mikis THEODORAKIS (b. 1925)
Theodorakis sings Theodorakis
Mikis Theodorakis (singer)
Christian Boissel (oboe); Christian Georgi (flute); Charis Papadopoulos (bouzouki); Rainer Rohloff (guitar); Jannis Zotos (guitar); Thomas Marquard (violin, viola); Jens Naumilkat (cello); Henning Schmiedt (piano); Rainer Kirchmann (piano); Wolfgang Loos (piano); Wolfgang Musick (double bass); Hermann Naehring (percussion, drums); Thanassis Zotos (backing vocals)
rec. 1990/1991, Funkhaus Berlin; Traumton Digital Studio, Berlin
WERGO INT30592 [34:08]

Left-sympathetic Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis has been an ambivalent but very vigorously active figure in the music world. His popular and his concert work has been prolific. In the former there are some thousand songs and three film scores: Zorba the Greek (1964), Z (1969 - review), and Serpico (1973) of world prominence. His numerous concert works have been recorded extensively, many on his own label, Intuition. Other serious works on disc include a boxed set from Edel, works for cello and guitar and orchestra, Passion of the Sadducees and symphonies. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall he was much praised and supported in the GDR; in that sense rather like Alan Bush who held a similar world view. The East German label Berlin Classics (later absorbed into Edel) recorded several of his most ambitious works. He received a Lenin Peace Prize from the USSR.

This rather short-playing collection of songs with large ensemble was first issued in the early 1990s by Intuition and is now reissued by Wergo. The composer is the vocalist and all the songs are sung in Greek and are from the troubled and tormented 1960s and 1970s. The sung words are given in Greek and English in the insert booklet. I say 'vocalist' because Theodorakis is not a professional singer so in return for authentic delivery you must accept the fallibilities of a non-trained voice. The compensation is that the composer knows his own stuff and delivers it with some passion in breathy, quavery, tobacco-fragrant tones. The songs, often with a protest underlay or overlay, are in Greek and sometimes just a shade away from spoken rather than sung. The effect is rather like some French chansonniers or Jake Thackray with a sore throat.

A sad or melancholic curve hangs over Omorfi Poli. A deliciously lugubrious oboe compensates for Theodorakis's voice which from time to time disappears under the weaknesses of breath control. Tragic loss speaks through the pages of 18 Novembri while In Chathika, after a doleful introduction, the song continues only a mite less sad - or is it nostalgic? Sto Perigali with its "Little Donkey" (Eric Boswell) resemblance seems to speak again of tears: semper dolens semper Theodorakis. There's at least one other facet to these songs and that is dance and vitality. Often this is with a core of regret. The pitter-patter jollity of Dioti Den Sinemorfoti registers with the listener as also does the multi-voice layer and the grace lines added by solo woodwind. All in all this reminded me of Jewish music-hall songs once recorded in two volumes by Naxos (Volume 1 ~ Volume 2). Gelasto Paidi cannot disguise the strain in Theodorakis's voice but there is a blessing in the dancing woodwind. There's more oompah-oompah in Imaste Dio and a sense of village life and its bustle and dance radiates from Margarita Margaro with its bouzouki activity. Mirtia adopts a fast patter but ends with writing that could lull a baby. The slowly intoned Tin Porta Anigho prepares the ground for a lump in the throat in Anigho to Stoma. The span ends with Afti Pou Tharthoun in the form of a pensive march.

Rob Barnett

Omorfi Poli (Lovely city) [3:10
Dioti Den Sinemorfoti (Because he refused to submit to the law) [2:49]
18. Novembri (18th November) [1:59]
Gelasto Paidi (The laughing boy) [2:27]
Tin Porta Anigho (As evening comes, I open the door) [2:56]
Chathika (I lost my way) [3:01]
Anigho to Stoma (I open my mouth) [3:08]
Imaste Dio (We are two) [2:25]
Margarita Margaro [2:32]
Sto Perigali (Repudiation) [4:12]
Mirtia (Myrtle) [3:11]
Afti Pou Tharthoun (Those who are to come) [2:38]

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