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MUSIC OF MODERN GREECE - FROM 1945 TO DAY

From 1945 to the present

During the civil war of 1946-9 the national radio propagated rebetiko, the urban popular song of the underprivileged, which had originated in Asia Minor. In 1948, the young composers Manos Hadjidakis, Argyris Kounadis and  Mikis Theodorakis discovered in rebetiko a counterweight to Kalomiris ’national school. Later, however, the songs of Hadjidakis, Theodorakis and their followers, based on rebetiko, came to eclipse Greek art music and, partly through the well-known film “Never on Sunday”, shaped Greece's musical image abroad. Western-influenced Greek music tended to be neglected in favor of an ‘authentic’ Greek music (i.e. rebetiko) influenced by traditional folk music with alleged roots in Byzantine chant, as exemplified by songwriters such as Hadjidakis, Theodorakis, Yannis Markopoulos, pop singers such as Marinella, Yorgos Dalaras and Nana Mouskouri, and to a lesser extent by much publicized figures such as the synthesizer composer Vangelis Papathanassiou (Vangelis).


In the early 1950s, kounadis, Hadjidakis and Theodorakis  wrote comparatively novel ballets for Rallou Manou's “Elliniko Horodrama” dance group, founded in 1951, while Skalkottas was being posthumously discovered. Although Kalomiris composed his final works at this time (“The Palamiki Symphony”, 1955, the opera “Constantinos Palaeologos”, 1961), his era had ended.


In the late 1950s Yannis Christou and the composer and teacher Yannis Andreou Papaioannou, both of whom used serial composition techniques, were well-established figures, while Dragatakis, Sicilianos and Adamis, all of whom tempered 12-note writing with a classical attitude to form, were rising to prominence. The “Manos Hadjidakis” Athens Technological Institute competition (1962) introduced to Greece avant-garde composers living or studying abroad: Xenakis, Logothetis, Mamangakis, Ioannidis, George Tsouyopoulos (b 1930) and Stephanos Gazouleas (b 1930). More avant-garde composers became known in 1962 through the “Studio für Neue Musik”, founded by the Athens Goethe Institute under the composer Günther Becker and the musicologist Yiannis G. Papaioannou (1915–2000), and in 1965 through the (private) Hellenic Association for Contemporary Music and the Greek section of the ISCM which organized five Hellenic Weeks of Contemporary Music (1966–8, 1971, 1976) and the 1979 World Music Festival. These included Aperghis, Sfetsas, Couroupos, Terzakis, Vlachopoulos,  Haliassas (b 1921) and Vassiliadis (b 1933).


The Athens Festival, founded in 1955, was held from July to September, with an emphasis on music. It tended to bring in well-known artists and ensembles from abroad rather than concentrate on Greek musicians. It reached a peak in the mid-1960s with performances by the Ballets du Vingtième Siècle (1964), David Oistrakh (1965), the Kanze Kaikan nō theatre (1965), the short-lived  Hadjidakis Athens Experimental Orchestra (1964–6) and Stravinsky (1966). After the dictatorship of the colonels (1967–74) the festival declined somewhat, and in 1998 it was reorganized to incorporate the Epidaurus Festival of Ancient Greek Drama.Between 1974 and 1982 Hadjidakis was the most influential figure in Greek musical life. He held many important posts, notably those of director general of the Athens State Orchestra and director of the Third Programme of Hellenic Radio and Television (ERT), which he extensively reformed. He also founded the “Moussikos Avgoustos” (Musical August) festival in Heraklion, Crete, to promote the music of younger Greek composers, among them Eleni Karaindrou (b 1941), a composer of popular songs and film scores, Vassilis Riziotis (b 1945), Haris Xanthoudakis, Marielli Sfakianaki (b 1945), Michalis Grigoriou (b 1947), the last two both neo-classical in orientation, Vangelis Katsoulis (b 1949), Dimitris Marangopoulos, Nikos Kypourgos (b 1952) and others. 


Until 1991 concert life in winter was less active, largely due to the lack of concert halls and full-time chamber ensembles. Most winter concerts in Athens and other cities were promoted by foreign cultural organizations, such as the French Institute (1908), the British Council (1938), the Italian Institute (reopened 1951), the Goethe Institute (1952) and the Hellenic-American Union (1957). Recitals and concerts were also organized by the Ligue Francohellénique (1912) and the House of Arts and Letters (1938), neither of which survives today.


On March 21st, 1991, the Megaro Moussikis Athinon (Athens Concert Hall) was opened. It contains a larger and a smaller hall, both with excellent acoustics, and hosts most of the concerts given by the Athens State Orchestra. Opera productions, often imported, are also regularly given at the Athens Concert Hall: within seven years it had mounted all the major Mozart operas, together with many Greek premieres.

The Athens Concert Hall specializes in music by living composers and has commissioned many new works, including Kouroupos' chamber opera “Pyladis” (1992) and ballet “Odyssey” (1995), Kounadis' “Epilogos II” (1992) and “Bacchae” (1997), Mikroutsikos’ “I epistrofi tis Elenis” (Helen's Homecoming, 1993), Grigoriou's cantata “Skotini praxi” (Dark Act, 1994), Marangopoulos' “To tango ton skoupidion” (The Tango of Trash, 1996), Mamangakis' “I opera ton skion” (The Opera of Shadows, 1997), Alkis Baltas’ “Momo” (1997), Antoniou’s “Oedipus at Colonus” (1998) and Thodoris Abazis’ “I apologhia tou Sokratous” (Socrates’ Plea, 2000).


The Athens Concert Hall has come to dominate Greek musical life, eclipsing other institutions. Foreign cultural organizations now tend to promote their artists through the concert hall, while the press gives little coverage to classical concerts elsewhere in the country. In the 1990s Hellenic Radio and Television discontinued its 15-year series of concerts at the National Gallery of Athens; the “Kentro Synchronis Moussikis Erevnas” (Centre for Contemporary Music Research), founded in 1986, also suspended its activities. The country's only major institute for contemporary music at the start of the 21st century is the “Institouto Erevnas Moussikis ke Akoustikis” (Institute of Research in Music and Acoustics, or IEMA), founded in 1989 by the composers Haris Xanthoudakis and Kostas Moschos and the ethnomusicologist Marios Mavroidis, which is primarily orientated towards technological developments and cataloguing the works of contemporary Greek composers.

In the latter part of the 20th century such composers as Dragatakis, Sicilianos, Kounadis, Adamis, Ioannidis, Mikroutsikos, Zervos, Travlos and Xanthoudakis, all distinguished by their technical skill, formal cohesion and clarity of musical thought, have created a solid modern tradition in Greece, paving the way for Christos Zerbinos (b 1950), Yannis Metallinos (b 1959) and Koumendakis. Other composers of the younger generation include Nikos Fylaktos (b 1951), educated in Poland, Haris Vrondos (b 1951), Savvas Zannas (b 1952), Babis Kanas (b 1952), Nikos Christodoulou (b 1959), Iossif Papadatos (b 1960), Minas Alexiadis (b 1960), Periklis Koukos (b 1960), Alexandros Kalogeras (b 1960) and Alexandros Mouzas (b1962). In recent years the number of composers graduating from Greek conservatories and subsequently teaching there has increased markedly. Composers who have settled abroad and are well known in Greece include Dinos Constantinidis and Sophia Serghi (USA), Christos Hatzis (Canada), Stelios Koukounaras, Nikos Athinaeos and Constantia Gourzi (Germany), Petros Corelis (France), Dimitris Nicolau (Italy) and Thodoris Abazis (Netherlands). Thessaloniki is the second most important musical centre of Greece. Music there is largely independent from Athens, and its composers are rarely performed in the capital. The earliest Thessaloniki composer of note was Dimitrios Lalas (1844–1911), a friend and disciple of Wagner. More recent composers active in the city have included Lalas's pupil Emilios Riadis (1880–1935), Solon Michaelides (1905–79), Nikolaos Astrinidis (b 1921) and, more recently, Kostas Nikitas (1940–89), Ilias Papadopoulos (b 1951) and Christos Samaras (b 1956).


[Based on a text written by G. Leotsakos.  Editing by Kostas Moschos. Translation-Editing: Natalia Tsakmakidou]