Great musicians deserve more than twenty-four hours of fame
We live in a Snapchat culture where the medium is the message, and the message deletes after twenty-four hours. This Snapchat culture has permeated through classical music. A great symphonic composer of the stature of Malcolm Arnold receives his twenty-four hours of fame with a BBC Proms performance of his Fifth Symphony. But with that anniversary box neatly ticked will we have to wait another twenty-seven years to hear one of his symphonies at the Proms?
Snapchat culture also means dead composers are only click bait for twenty-four hours after their passing, So the death of the great multi-faceted Mikis Theodorakis was marked by clips from Zorba the Greek and quickly forgotten. But that sentence should read "not quite forgotten". Because reader David had added this thoughtful comment to one of my tributes to Mikis Theodorakis:
'I have always been attracted to composers and musicians who declare a strong Left Wing political adherence such as Hans Werner Henze or Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. Mikis Theodorakis intimidates me for a number of reasons. He falls into the category of "cross over" (like Malcolm Arnold but more prolific) artist and his output and range is consequently quite large. What is available on CD of his "serious" side tends to be on small select labels with quite high prices.
Every now and again a door opens and a ray of tantalising light creeps in: some years ago BBC Radio 3 (when it did some things right) had a "Greek Day" celebrating all things Greek of which a concert of Greek songs from the Barbican formed part. Nena Venetsanou was the female singer in songs by Theodorakis, Manos Hadjidakis and Paul Eluard. Sung in Greek each song was introduced with an English transliteration and the programme interspersed with discussions and interviews.
As a lover of German Lieder and French melodies I found these Greek songs in the same romantic/dramatic mould depicting human situations and feelings. Some of this singer's work can be found on CDs on the MBI label based in Athens, but beware the booklets and all is in Greek with no translations, save the track listing given in French as well. Tracking these rare discs down might take a lifetime!'
In my tribute post I described the 1974 LP of Maria Farantouri singing Mikis Theodorakis' Songs of Freedom accompanied by John Williams (guitar not Star Wars) as a classic of the gramophone. My header photo shows Maria Farantouri with saxophonist Charles Lloyd performing in Athens in 2010. This concert was recorded and released by ECM as the Athens Concert and opens with Theodorakis' Kratissa Ti Zoi Mou [Dream Weavers] and includes several of his other compositions. Arguments as to whether or not the Athens Concert is classical music do not interest me. This is great music with tracks by a great composer who deserves to be remembered for more than Zorba the Greek. Thank you reader David for reminding us of that.