Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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THEODORAKIS, Mikis

(b 29 July 1925, Chios) Greek composer. He wrote music for productions of classical Greek plays; he wrote perhaps a thousand songs, plus revolutionary anthems and much else, many film scores including Z and Serpico, but he is most famous for Zorba's dance from Zorba The Greek '64. A lifelong Communist, he was jailed or confined on remote islands. Later he opposed the regime of the right-wing colonels in Greece in the 1960s, was jailed again for three years, then exiled himself to France. Meanwhile he never stopped composing and many LPs were international sellers, keeping hope alive among Greeks everywhere. Returning to Greece after the colonels lost power he was a Communist MP there 1976-86 but gave up his seat because he despaired of the political change he wanted. He had visited Israel often and was lionised there, but became an outspoken advocate of the Palestinian cause. He did a series of 20 concerts in West Germany '86. There were several CDs of his music on GVRT and a Best Of on Koch.

On 4 November 2003 he said that the Jews were 'at the root of evil.' In an interview with Ari Shavit published in the left-wing Israeli English-language newspaper Haaretz on 27 August 2004, he said that he meant that they were at the root of George Bush's fascist policies. He went on to say that the Jews as a people are masochists and have a tendency to dominate and a superiority complex, that they control 'a great deal of the world's finances' and 'most of the big symphony orchestras' (which is why he can't get his music played) and 'the mass media' in the USA. He also says there is no anti-Semitic problem in Europe. He didn't visit Israel too much anymore.

In 2005 his recordings made 1980-5 for the Eterna label in East Germany were reissued, five pieces on a 6-CD set on Edel Classics, including several oratorios and a choral symphony. Canto General was a setting of words by Pablo Nerudo; Liturgy No. 2 was for voices only; the symphony was his third. Rob Barnett at MusicWeb-International.com praised the performances highly, adding that the music might be enjoyed by anyone who listened to the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály, Carl Orff or the English choral composer John Rutter.

He had set poems such as those of Pablo Naruda in Canto General. To mark his 90th birthday, 13 of his songs (by seven Greek poets) were arranged by Sebastian Schwab and translated into German by Ina Kutulas; recorded as Echowand Lieder on Wergo by soprano Johanna Krumin and pianist Markus Zugehor (with baritone Peter Schone and Schwab playing flute on one track). Steve Arloff at MusicWeb thought they were beautiful and intriguing, tinged with melancholy, but complained that Wergo had published the CD without the original Greek and without any translations.